There Stands the Glass
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.