Posts Tagged ‘Red Foley’

100 Greatest Men: #42. Porter Wagoner

Monday, July 30th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Known affectionately as the Thin Man from the West Plains, Porter Wagoner was a steadfast champion for the traditions of country music, even as he used forward-looking methods of delivering it to the masses.

Wagoner was  a self-taught singer and musician, and first gained notoriety as a singing grocer.  The store manager thought his young worker had great potential, and arranged for him to perform on the radio in West Plains, Missouri.   This led to his own radio show in 1951, and then a high-profile stint onOzark Jamboree, a television show spearheaded by Red Foley.

His success on radio and television landed him a contract with RCA records, a label he would stay with for more than two decades.  At his time with the label, he would be a pioneer for the genre in many ways.  While recording popular country hits like “A Satisfied Mind” and “Misery Loves Company”, he also produced powerful spiritual numbers, including the evocative “What Would You Do? (If Jesus Came to Your House)”, helping to mainstream a southern Baptist perspective to the masses.

He also was an innovator both in album concepts and album artwork, creating bold designs for his LPs that explored themes like adultery, poverty, and alcoholism.    His arresting visual style made him an ideal fit for television, and his wildly popular syndicatedThe Porter Wagoner Show made him a household name.  It also led to his most high-profile musical partnership when he invited Dolly Parton to join the cast.

Wagoner’s show peaked in popularity with Parton as a cast member, and their memorable duet singles and albums kept him on the upper echelon on the country charts throughout the mid-seventies.  While his solo career was cooling off at the same time, he remained a major presence in the Southern gospel market, the area which earned him multiple Grammy awards.

He left RCA in the early eighties, following a successful final duet album with Parton.   By then, his show was also off the air, but as cable television began filtering into homes, Wagoner’s hosting duties on the Grand Ole Opry made him a familiar figure to a new generation of country music fans.   He recorded sporadically for the next two decades, but received overwhelming critical accolades when he released Wagonmaster. Produced by Marty Stuart, his final album was a powerful swan song in 2007, and gave him one more moment in the spotlight, the same year that he passed away at the age of eighty.

Essential Singles:

  • Company’s Comin’, 1954
  • A Satisfied Mind, 1955
  • What Would You Do? (If Jesus Came to Your House), 1956
  • Misery Loves Company, 1962
  • Green, Green Grass of Home, 1965
  • The Cold Hard Facts of Life, 1967
  • The Last Thing on My Mind (with Dolly Parton), 1967
  • The Carroll County Accident, 1968

Essential Albums:

  • Satisfied Mind, 1956
  • Confessions of a Broken Man, 1966
  • The Cold Hard Facts of Life, 1967
  • The Bottom of the Bottle, 1968
  • What Ain’t to Be, Just Might Happen, 1972
  • Wagonmaster, 2007

Next: #41. Ronnie Milsap

Previous: #43. Roger Miller

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

100 Greatest Men: #62. Red Foley

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

One of the great crooners of the post-war era, Red Foley helped build a crucial bridge between the country music of the mountains and the Nashville Sound of the sixties.

Born Clyde Foley in 1910, his hair color earned him the nickname Red.  His professional career was launched by a talent show win at age 17.  As a freshman in college, he was discovered by a talent scout and invited to join the house band of the National Barn Dance. He released his first recordings in the mid-thirties, and by the end of that decade, he was the first country artist to host a nationally broadcast radio show, which he co-hosted with Red Skelton. During this period, Foley wrote “Ol’ Shep”, which would be recorded by many major artists, including Elvis Presley and Hank Snow.

Following World War II, he entered a period of stunning success in many media formats, earning himself the title Mr. Country Music.  Throughout the forties and fifties, his recording career was incredibly successful, highlighted by collaborations with his band, the Cumberland Valley Boys, and fellow artists like Lawrence Welk, Ernest Tubb, and Kitty Wells.  Several of his songs are now country classics, most notably “Smoke on the Water,” “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy,” and “(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me).”

Beginning in 1946, he emceed the Prince Albert Show, which broadcast a portion of the Grand Ole Opry’s show every week.  His profile was raised even more significantly by the Ozark Jubilee, the fifties network television show that Foley hosted for many years.   His television fame helped bring his smooth style of country music to a very broad audience, though Foley never actively pursued the pop music scene.

Indeed, his country records decreased in popularity as the Nashville Sound took root, though his gospel recordings remained quite popular.  The sixties found him guesting on sitcoms and talk shows, while he continued to tour the world as part of the Grand Ole Opry cast.   In 1967, Foley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, an achievement that was sadly overshadowed one year later by his untimely death at age 58.

Today, Foley’s name is not as recognizable as many of his contemporaries, but it takes only one listen to his signature songs to immediately grasp the impact he had on the development of contemporary country music.

Essential Singles:

  • Smoke on the Water, 1944
  • Shame on You (with Lawrence Welk), 1945
  • Tennessee Saturday Night, 1948
  • Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy, 1950
  • (There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me), 1951
  • One by One (with Kitty Wells), 1954

Essential Albums:

  • Red and Ernie (with Ernest Tubb), 1954
  • Beyond the Sunset, 1958
  • Songs of Devotion, 1961
  • Together Again (with Kitty Wells), 1967

Next: #61. Charlie Daniels

Previous: #63. Clint Black

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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