Saturday, February 25th, 2012
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List
Equal parts classic country singer and brilliant comedian, Ferlin Husky was one of the consummate all-around entertainers.
Born and raised in Missouri, he learned guitar from his uncle. The music bug led him to drop out of high school, and he played honky-tonks at night while working blue collar jobs by day. During World War II, he entertained troops for five years. It was during this time that he created the character Simon Crum, a hayseed hillbilly singer. He would go on to play that character on record and on stage for many years.
He gained prominence in the burgeoning southern California country music scene as a musician, performer, and disc jockey. His searing guitar work, featured on the studio recordings of Tommy Collins, helped shape the Bakersfield sound that would later expand the boundaries of country music.
In addition to the Crum moniker, he also performed under the stage name Terry Preston from 1948-1953, but he went back to his birth name by the time he started having major hits for Capitol records in the early fifties. His breakthrough hit was a duet with fellow honky-tonker Jean Shepard. Their first collaboration, “A Dear John Letter”, topped the charts in 1953.
During the fifties, Husky was remarkably prolific. He had two separate contracts with Capitol Records, scoring hits as both Ferlin Husky and his now-classic character, Simon Crum. He appeared on radio and television, and even had bit parts in more than a dozen films. He scored a huge crossover pop hit with “Gone” in 1957.
The string of hits continued in the sixties, the most notable being “Wings of a Dove”, which went on to become a country gospel standard covered by countless artists. He earned great marks as a live performer, and the comedic talents he honed as Simon Crum were also put to use through mimicking the big country stars of the day.
He was also a mentor to several important country music figures, including Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Dallas Frazier. His struggling as a young artist was something he always remembered, so he made a point to give a helping hand to young talent.
His health required him to cut back on performances from the seventies onward, but when he did perform on the Opry or on the road, he remained a popular draw. A year before his passing, he was able to see his legacy secured, as he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
- A Dear John Letter (with Jean Shepard), 1953
- Gone, 1957
- Country Music is Here to Stay (Simon Crum), 1958
- Wings of a Dove, 1960
- Once, 1967
- Just For You, 1968
- Songs of Home and Heart, 1956
- Boulevard of Broken Dreams, 1957
- Born to Lose, 1959
- The Heart and Soul of Ferlin Husky, 1963
Next: #69. Travis Tritt
Previous: #71. Johnny Paycheck
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List
Thursday, December 29th, 2011
The country music umbrella stretched wider than ever this year, regardless of the fact that radio playlists seem shorter than ever.
Of course, it’s not just the Americana acts that can’t get radio play these days. Even top-selling albums by Scotty McCreery and Alison Krauss & Union Station weren’t embraced.
Country Universe editors and contributors each submitted a list of their ten favorite albums of 2011. 31 different albums were included on our lists, and over the next two days, we’ll share with you our collective top twenty.
Top Twenty Albums of 2011, Part One: #20-#11
Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail
His tenure with the Punch Brothers and his winning of the first annual “Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass” in 2010 both earned Noam Pikelny the clout to release Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail, his second solo album and first since 2004. Joined by an all-star roster of fellow pickers, Pikelny’s mostly instrumental set is a showcase both for its lead artist’s extraordinary technical skills and for the banjo’s wide-ranging potential. – Jonathan Keefe
Individual Rankings: Jonathan – #4
Recommended Tracks: “Fish and Bird” featuring Aoife O’Donovan, “Boathouse on the Lullwater,” “My Mother Thinks I’m a Lawyer”
The King is Dead
The indie favorites take their hyper-literate brand of folk-rock for a rustic spin, achieving new concision in the process. Colin Meloy’s wild narratives and wilder lexical choices sound right at home in these short-and-sweet song designs, and the Americana field is richer for having them. – Dan Milliken
Individual Rankings: Dan – #4
Recommended Tracks: “Don’t Carry It All,” “June Hymn”
That solo women disappeared from country radio was one of 2011′s major talking points within the genre, but Sunny Sweeney’s Concrete provided some of the most compelling evidence that it wasn’t a lack of strong material that kept female artists off radio playlists. Balancing a keen traditionalist bent with a thoroughly modern point-of-view, Sweeney’s fully-drawn characters and clever spins on familiar country tropes proved that an album that sounds “radio friendly” doesn’t have to be light on actual substance or craft. – Jonathan Keefe
Individual Rankings: Ben – #3
Recommended Tracks: “Amy,” “From a Table Away,” “Fall for Me”
It’s Already Tomorrow
Foster and Lloyd
Their first time around, Foster and Lloyd were one of the coolest country acts going, blending in a love of traditional country music with some ’60s post-British Invasion rock vibes. It’s Already Tomorrow, their first album in 20 years, shows an impressive return to form. Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd have released some terrific solo albums, but there is a definite magic that happens when they record as a duo. – Sam Gazdziak
Individual Rankings: Sam – #2
Recommended Tracks: “Picasso’s Mandolin,” “That’s What She Said,” “Can’t Make Love Make Sense”
This is My Blood
The Dirt Drifters
As mainstream country music becomes increasingly slick and polished, it’s a refreshing change to hear something gritty and rough around the edges. The Dirt Drifters’ debut on Warner Bros. certainly qualifies. If you’re looking for country-rock that takes its cue from run-down country roadhouses instead of ’80s arena rock, this album is for you. – Sam Gazdziak
Individual Rankings: Sam – #3; Dan – #10
Recommended Tracks: “Always a Reason,” “Married Men and Motel Rooms,” “Hurt Somebody”
Ghost to a Ghost/Gutter Town
Hank III’s entire artistic persona is built on indulging in every type of excess he can think of, so it was hardly a shock when, for his first recordings after a less-than-amicable departure from Curb Records, he dropped four full-length albums of new material on the same day. While not all of his ideas are good ones– the less said about Cattle Callin’, the better– the double-album Ghost to a Ghost / Gutter Town proves that Hank III is driven to his spectacular highs not just by the various recreational drugs circulating through his bloodstream but also by a real fearlessness and creativity and a sense of respect for his bloodline. – Jonathan Keefe
Individual Rankings: Jonathan – #1
Recommended Tracks: “Don’t Ya Wanna,” “Musha’s,” “Dyin’ Day”
Ghost on the Canvas
A late-in-life swan song by an icon acutely aware of their own mortality. That’s a fitting description of so many of the best country albums in recent years. This is the best of that subgenre since Porter Wagoner’s Wagonmaster. – Kevin John Coyne
Individual Rankings: Kevin – #5; Dan – #6
Recommended Tracks: “There’s No Me…Without You”, “Ghost on the Canvas”
On the heels of an album that was largely a hit or miss affair, Church delivers a surprisingly electric third album, marked by its edgy sonic splash. But while its spin on country rock is undeniably enticing –a funky mix of swampy, trippy and punchy—the album’s soul is Church himself, a more believable artist this time around than most of his contemporaries. Because for all its hard ass sentiment, Chief actually walks the walk, as authentic as it is audacious. Outlaw in the making? Probably, but don’t tell Church I said so. – Tara Seetharam
Individual Rankings: Tara – #4; Sam – #6; Leeann – #10; Jonathan – #10
Recommended Tracks: “Hungover & Hard Up,” “Keep On,” “Creepin’”
Long Line of Heartaches
What more can you ask for? Purely straightforward and unadulterated country songs delivered by the finest vocalist the genre has ever been privileged to call its own. Smith’s own co-writes with husband and producer Marty Stuart (The title track, “I’m Not Blue,” “Pain of a Broken Heart”) sit comfortably alongside top-notch cover material penned by Harlan Howard, Johnny Russell, and Dallas Frazier, all backed by the sweet sounds of fiddle and steel aplenty. Long Line of Heartaches is a beautiful reminder of what country music once was, and could be again. – Ben Foster
Individual Rankings: Ben – #2; Jonathan – #5
Recommended Tracks: “Long Line of Heartaches,” “I’m Not Blue,” “Ain’t You Even Gonna Cry”
Your Money and My Good Looks
Gene Watson and Rhonda Vincent
There was no chance that this collaboration of straight up country songs between Gene Watson and Rhonda Vincent was going to garner any attention from mainstream country music outlets. However, thanks to memorable songs, pure country production and Watson and Vincent reverently following the spirit of classic country duet albums of the past, this project was surely one of the stand out albums of the year. – Leeann Ward
Individual Rankings: Leeann – #2; Ben – #5
Recommended Tracks: “You Could Know as Much from a Stranger,” “My Sweet Love Ain’t Around”
Category Best of 2011
Tags: Alison Krauss & Union Station, Connie Smith, Dallas Frazier, Eric Church, Foster and Lloyd, Gene Watson, Glen Campbell, Hank III, Harlan Howard, Johnny Russell, Marty Stuart, Noam Pikelny, Porter Wagoner, Punch Brothers, Rhonda Vincent, Scotty McCreery, Sunny Sweeney, The Decemberists, The Dirt Drifters
Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Dallas Frazier, born in 1939, in Spiro, Oklahoma, is one of the defining songwriters of his or any other generation, penning classic songs that remain popular with core country music artists to this day. His lasting impression on the genre will be one of superb perception and purpose that led to a significant number of career-defining hits.
Raised in Bakersfield, CA, Frazier learned to play a variety of musical instruments as taught by his parents. This early start saw him achieve tremendous success in his teenage years. He served as featured member of Ferlin Husky’s band, cutting his first solo single, “Space Command,” in 1954. In 1957, Frazier scored a hit when the Hollywood Argyles covered his “Alley Oop,” a novelty song that nonetheless set his career into a higher gear.
When Hometown Jamboree, a popular TV show in which Frazier starred, was canceled in the late 1950s, Frazier and his wife lived in a number of western towns and eventually settled down in Portland. But feeling the desire to attempt a songwriting career (and prompted by a conversation with Husky), he moved to Nashville in 1963. His first success was writing Husky’s hit “Timber I’m Falling” in 1964. In the next two years, he became one of the most sought-after writers in town, with cuts such as Connie Smith’s “Ain’t Had No Lovin’,” and George Jones’ “I’m a People.”
In 1967, Frazier released his first record, Tell It Like It Is, but it was a song he had written a few years earlier that would become his signature tune. Elvis Presley, Roger Whittaker and Engelbert Humperdinck all recorded the song “There Goes My Everything”, but it was country singer Jack Greene that galvanized the sad story of separation. At the first CMA Awards in 1967, Frazier won Song of the Year for the pensive ballad, and Jack Greene earned the Single of the Year honors as well.
Frazier’s songs soon became staples for artists such as Jones, Greene and Connie Smith. Artists as diverse as Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard also mined Frazier’s song catalog for unique, traditional music, and Charley Pride reached the top of the charts with his “All I Have to Offer You is Me” in 1969. Frazier’s star continued to rise in the 1970s, as he recorded two solo records, Singing My Songs and My Baby Packed Up My Mind and Left Me. In 1972, Smith released an entire album of his songs called If It Ain’t Love (& Other Great Dallas Frazier Songs). Child stars of the past (Brenda Lee) and the present (Tanya Tucker, with the haunting “What’s Your Mama’s Name, Child?) continued to develop their career with the works from his terrific pen.
Frazier’s songs continued to hit the charts well into the next decade, with the Emmylou Harris version of his “Beneath Still Waters” becoming a chart-topping smash and helping Harris to her only win as CMA Female Vocalist of the Year. Also, Frazier’s “Elvira”, a song that Frazier had previously recorded, was revived by the Oak Ridge Boys and named the CMA Single of the Year in 1981. Gene Watson cut his “Fourteen Carat Mind” that same year.
With the tremendous talent of Frazier and his ability to seize the moment and give reason to a rhyme was a singular gift, his songs were able to translate to a variety of audiences, and he flourished well into the next decade. Neo-traditional artists such as George Strait, Randy Travis, and Patty Loveless found success with his compositions. Loveless’ version of the George Jones hit “If My Heart Had Windows” became her first Top Ten single in 1988, but later that year Frazier retired from songwriting and left Nashville after bouts with alcohol use and the frustrations of being a key player in the music business. But he has recently planned a return to the craft after many years as a minister, and fans surely anticipate the next traditional tune from the eloquent, understated Dallas Frazier.
The Dallas Frazier Catalog:
- “Ain’t Had No Lovin’”, Connie Smith
- “All I Have to Offer You Is Me”, Charley Pride
- “Beneath Still Waters”, Emmylou Harris
- “Elvira”, Oak Ridge Boys/Kenny Rogers
- “Fourteen Carat Mind”, Gene Watson
- “If My Heart Had Windows”, George Jones/Patty Loveless
- “If This Is Our Last Time”, Brenda Lee
- “I’m a People”, George Jones
- “(I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again”, Charley Pride
- “Mohair Sam”, Charlie Rich/Peggy Lee/Dallas Frazier
- “There Goes My Everything”, Jack Greene/Ferlin Husky/Elvis Presley/Englebert Humperdinck
- “Until My Dreams Come True”, Jack Greene
- “What’s Your Mama’s Name, Child?”, Tanya Tucker