100 Greatest Men: #19. Webb Pierce

Webb Pierce100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Rocketing to stardom in the aftermath of Hank Williams’ death, Webb Pierce became country music’s biggest superstar in the 1950’s, dominating the charts and establishing a flamboyant style that would become forever associated with traditional, honky-tonk country music.

Pierce grew up in Louisiana, cutting his teeth on Jimmie Rodgers records and already developing his own sound by his teenage years.  At age fifteen, he already had a weekly radio show, performing his combination of the Cajun sounds of his home state and the Western Swing that was dominating country music at the time.

After a brief stint in the army, Pierce became a star on a Shrevport radio show with his first wife, and soon signed two contracts with 4 Star Records: one for their duets and one for his solo material.   It was the solo material that took off, and by the dawn of the fifties, their marriage was over, and Pierce was starring in the original cast of Louisiana Hayride, a hugely popular radio show that also dominated the television airwaves.

Pierce’s piercing honky-tonk style was rivaled only by Hank Williams at the time, and when Williams was fired from the Grand Ole Opry, Pierce got his job.  Williams’ untimely death left Pierce the genre’s biggest star, and he dominated the country singles chart in a way that no artist had before or has since.  He charted 48 hits in the fifties alone, with 44 of them reaching the top ten and thirteen of them reaching #1.  Those thirteen chart-toppers spent a combined 111 weeks at #1, and included classics like “In the Jailhouse Now” (21 weeks at #1), “Slowly” (17 weeks), and “There Stands the Glass” (12 weeks.)

His signature wail remained a stark counterpoint the softening style of the Nashville Sound that reached its apex in the sixties, but Pierce remained popular and relevant, continuing to score big hits throughout the next decade.   His wild Nudie suits brought a new look to country music, one that would later be embraced by everyone from Porter Wagoner and Gram Parsons to Dwight Yoakam and Marty Stuart.   His opulent guitar-shaped swimming pool became a popular tourist attraction in Nashville, and his appearances in movies kept his public profile high.

Pierce died at the age of 65, after fighting a battle with pancreatic cancer, but his legacy remains strong.  He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, and the hall proudly displays his Cadillac lined with silver dollars, a fitting example of his trademark opulence.

Essential Singles:

  • Wondering, 1952
  • Back Street Affair, 1952
  • There Stands the Glass, 1953
  • Slowly, 1954
  • More and More, 1954
  • In the Jailhouse Now, 1955
  • I Don’t Care, 1955
  • I Ain’t Never, 1959

Essential Albums:

  • Webb Pierce, 1955
  • That Wondering Boy, 1956
  • Just Imagination, 1957
  • Webb with a Beat!, 1960
  • Cross Country, 1962
  • Memory No. 1, 1965

Next: #18. Ernest Tubb

Previous: #20. Garth Brooks

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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2 Comments

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2 Responses to 100 Greatest Men: #19. Webb Pierce

  1. bllNo Gravatar

    Colleen Carroll, aka Garth’s mother, was hired by Web Pierce and played on the Hayride until she married Ray Brooks and settled in to have two children with him and raise their 6 kids.

  2. paul w dennisNo Gravatar

    Webb is my personal favorite, and I would have had him a little higher probably about five slots higher than you have him. His influence today is strongest in bluegrass music as his high nasal tenor is out of vogue in mainstream country.

    Like many artists of his time, he shaved five years off his age – he was born in 1921.

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