Posts Tagged ‘The Oak Ridge Boys’

100 Greatest Men: #47. Rodney Crowell

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

First as a songwriter, then as a new country superstar, and currently as an alternative country icon, Rodney Crowell has made an indelible mark on country music for nearly four decades.

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, he was already a bandleader in high school, heading up a teenage outfit called the Arbitrators.   He was only 22 when he moved to Nashville, and by 1975, he’d been discovered by Jerry Reed, who heard him doing an acoustic set.   Reed not only recorded one of his songs, but also signed him to his publishing company.

Crowell was soon a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, and she was the first to record some of his compositions that went on to be big hits for other artists, including: “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”, a #1 hit for Waylon Jennings; “‘Til I Gain Control Again”, a #1 hit for Crystal Gayle;  “Leavin’ Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”, a #1 hit for the Oak Ridge Boys; and “Ashes By Now”, a top five hit for Lee Ann Womack.

His remarkable songwriting talent led to a record deal with Warner Bros.  While a trio of albums for the label were critically acclaimed, they failed to earn him success on the radio or at retail.   But as would be the case for his entire career, other artists mined those records for hits.  Most notably, “Shame on the Moon” became a #2 pop hit for Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band.

Crowell took a break from his solo career to focus on his songwriting and production responsibilities for then-wife Rosanne Cash.   This would be yet another successful avenue for Crowell, as his work with Cash produced several #1 singles and three gold albums.  The relationship also helped set his solo career on fire.  After signing with Cash’s label Columbia, his second set for the project was previewed with a duet with Cash, “It’s Such a Small World.”

It became the first of five consecutive #1 singles from Diamonds & Dirt, a gold-selling disc that briefly made Crowell an A-list country star, as five additional Cash singles that he had produced also hit #1 over the same time period.   He received a Grammy award for Best Country Song for “After All This Time.”   Two foll0w-up albums for Columbia also produced a handful of hits, with his final mainstream success being the pop crossover hit, “What Kind of Love.”

In the nineties, Crowell recorded two albums for MCA which were well-reviewed, but most notable for the second set including “Please Remember Me.”  It stalled as a single when Crowell released it, but  later that decade, Tim McGraw’s cover topped the charts for five weeks and earned Crowell a slew of award nominations.

The new century brought a reinvention on Crowell’s part, as he repositioned himself as an Americana artist with remarkable success.   A trio of albums earned rave reviews, as did his collaboration with old friends like Vince Gill on The Notorious Cherry Bombs, which earned a handful of Grammy nominations and included Crowell’s “Making Memories of Us.”  Once again, a current artist discovered it, and Keith Urban took it to #1 for several weeks.

Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, Crowell continues to build on his legacy as a singer, songwriter, and producer.  Most recently, Crowell produced Chely Wright’s confessional Lifted off the Ground and co-wrote an album with friend Mary Karr which features their songs recorded by several artists, including Crowell himself. 

Essential Singles:

  • I Ain’t Living Long Like This (Waylon Jennings), 1980
  • ‘Til I Gain Control Again (Crystal Gayle), 1982
  • Shame on the Moon (Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band), 1982
  • It’s Such a Small World (with Rosanne Cash), 1988
  • I Couldn’t Leave You if I Tried, 1988
  • After All This Time, 1989
  • What Kind of Love, 1992
  • Please Remember Me (Tim McGraw), 1999
  • Making Memories of Us (Keith Urban), 2005

Essential Albums:

  • Ain’t Living Long Like This, 1978
  • Diamonds & Dirt, 1988
  • The Houston Kid, 2001
  • Fate’s Right Hand, 2002
  • The Outsider, 2005

Next: #46. Dwight Yoakam

Previous: #48. Kris Kristofferson

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

100 Greatest Men: #88. The Oak Ridge Boys

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

They started out as a gospel group in the forties, but it was their country-pop hits of the early eighties that made them superstars.

First formed as Wally Fowler and the Georgia Clodhoppers in 1943, they became the Oak Ridge Quartet when they found that they were performing their gospel songs in that area of Tennessee more than in any other place.

The lineup would change over the next thirty years, but their focus on Southern gospel did not.  Renamed the Oak Ridge Boys in 1961, they slowly gained national prominence.  In 1971, they won the first of four Grammys in the gospel categories, for the song, “Talk About the Good Times.”

Singing backup for Johnny Cash and the Carter Family in 1973, they earned their first country chart appearance with the minor hit, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Soup.”  That same year, the lineup that would make them country superstars was finalized:  Duane Allen (lead), Joe Bonsall (tenor), William Lee Golden (baritone), and Richard Sterban (bass).  High-profile appearances with Roy Clark and Paul Simon soon followed, but their first major label deal was a bust, as Columbia didn’t understand how to market them to the gospel market.

Switching to ABC, they quickly became country stars with their 1977 breakthrough hit, “Y’All Come Back Saloon.”  The song was such a big hit that they were soon country radio staples, winning Vocal Group honors from the CMA in 1978 and the ACM in 1979.

In 1981, “Elvira” launched them into the stratosphere, powering their Fancy Free album to double platinum.  They won a Grammy and Single honors from both the ACM and CMA for that platinum-selling hit.  They remained top-selling artists through 1984, thanks to big hits like “Bobbie Sue” and “American Made.”   And while album sales began to slow in the second half of the decade, they remained in heavy rotation at country radio.

Golden exited the lineup in 1987, replaced by Steve Sanders until 1995.  Album sales weren’t as high during this period, but they did score another pair of signature hits that topped the charts: “Gonna Take a Lot of River” in 1988, and “No Matter How High” in 1989. They enjoyed their last top ten hit in 1991, “Lucky Moon”, their only successful single during a short tenure at RCA.

Personal problems led to Sanders exiting the group, and Golden returned in 1996.  In the years since, their original country lineup now intact, they’ve continued to record and to tour, as they approach the band’s seventieth anniversary in music.

Essential Singles:

  • Y’all Come Back Saloon, 1977
  • I’ll Be True to You, 1978
  • Leavin’ Louisiana in the Broad Daylight, 1979
  • Elvira, 1981
  • American Made, 1983
  • Gonna Take a Lot of River, 1988

Essential Albums:

  • Y’all Come Back Saloon, 1977
  • The Oak Ridge Boys Have Arrived, 1979
  • Fancy Free, 1981
  • American Made, 1983
  • Monongahela, 1988

Next: #87. Billy Walker

Previous: #89. Sawyer Brown

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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