Webb Pierce, “There Stands the Glass”

There Stands the Glass
Webb Pierce
1953

Writt

en by Audrey Grisham, Russ Hull & Mary Shurtz

He was the top country artist of the 1950s, spending 113 weeks at No. 1 that decade. As a cast member of the Louisiana Hayride and the Grand Ole Opry, he was heard on radio stations coast to coast. Throw in his larger-than-life persona and appearances in Hollywood films, and you’ll reach an inescapable conclusion: Webb Pierce was country music, its most visible and successful performer for the better part of a decade.

Which makes his current obscurity all the more tragic. While his contemporaries like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins and Eddy Arnold have been lionized by history, Pierce has been nearly forgotten, despite the fact that his talent and contributions to the development of country music as a popular art form were immeasurable. Fans dedicated to discovering country music’s roots cannot do so without discovering Webb Pierce. When they’re ready to do so, they should start with “There Stands the Glass.”

The record opens with a pure hillbilly wail that contemporary country fans will instantly recognize as an influence on the vocal styles of Dwight Yoakam and Patty Loveless. Pierce is staring at the drink that he’s ready to down, the one “that will ease all my pain, that will settle my brain.” It’s a stunningly vulnerable admission of how he’ll be using alcohol tonight to “hide all my tears” and “drown all my fears.”

But the listener learns quickly that Pierce’s confidence is not quite what it seems, as that opening wail foreshadowed at the beginning of the song. He’s wondering where the woman who left him is, and if she’s thinking of him in his misery. As he repeats the line “it’s my first one today” – not even tonight, mind you – it’s clear that there will be many more, and that this routine is nothing new.

The song was banned by some radio stations for promoting the consumption of liquor, but it’s a half-hearted endorsement at best. There’s a sense in Pierce’s performance that he’s doing this because he has to, not because he wants to, and that perhaps his taste for the drink is the greater obstacle between him and happiness. As Homer Simpson famously said, “To alcohol: The cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems.” Webb’s desperate barfly would certainly agree.

“There Stands the Glass” is the the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.

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7 Comments

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7 Responses to Webb Pierce, “There Stands the Glass”

  1. pselbyNo Gravatar

    I read once that he made an album with Carol Channing. I would love to hear a track.

    I’ve noticed when I am listening to Bill Anderson Visits With The Legends on XM that when Webb’s name comes up with other artists, they seem to indicate that he was not the nicest person in the world.

  2. There have been a lot of interesting versions of this over the years – Conway, Carl Smith, Loretta, Wanda Jackson – and I’m really looking forward to Patty’s version on her new album.

    Some songs just stand the test of time and this is one that I always enjoy hearing on classic country stations.

  3. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar

    I’m glad that Webb Pierce is getting some recognition here. Kevin, you are all too correct in stating that his impact, at least beyond the country music industry, is not as noted as those of many contemporaries. Webb Pierce is a true legend.

  4. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    This is the greatest drinking song of all time, bar none and Pierce absolutely nails the song. I first heard the song in its 1960s stereo remake version and even in that version it is the best drinking song ever. The original version simply raises the bar.

    There have been other good versions of the song but the only one comparable to Pierce’s version is that of Ted Hawkins, a blues singer who went a completely different direction with the song.

    I think Pierce largely has been forgotten, if not his songs, because he had the sort of high nasal tenor that has never come back into vogue except among bluegrass singers. Pierce had his eyes on the target (maximizing his income) at all times and made enemies along the way, particluarly among the Opry faithful because he didn’t think he should lose a few hundred thousand a year coming back to play for scale on Saturdays. Had the Opry operated under its current rules, Pierce (and Carl Smith and others) would have been a long-time Opry member.

    The album with Carol Channing is terrible – Webb sings okay (he is past his prime) but Channing is simply horrible. A really misguided notion by Shelby Singleton to put Channing together with ANYONE. Channing is an even worse singer than Bob Dylan or Taylor Swift !

  5. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    I find it a bit funny that this country classic was banned by some radio stations because of its supposed promotion of alcohol, but then again times were a lot different in 1953.

    Still, it’s hard to imagine that happening because of drinking being a staple of many a great country song, this one included.

  6. Craig R.No Gravatar

    Once Webb starts with” There Stands The Glass” you are hooked. It is a pure and open song and it is matched with an equally pure and open singer. It is interesting to hear a song which allows the singer and the song to merger so well. The one thing I miss most often todya is that real mixture without marketing, or macho or pop.

    I also agree that Carol Channing has a bad voice.

  7. PeterNo Gravatar

    Van Morrison did a great version of it last year on his excellent “Pay The Devil” CD

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