Friday Open Thread

I’m thinking today of the stars that should have been. Some of them have been preserved thanks to YouTube. Here’s one that I liked who never made it:

Dude Mowrey

A great honky-tonk voice. I think he got his shot while still a bit too young and unformed.

Who are your favorite should have been stars? Add a youtube link in the comments and I’ll update the thread with the clips.


  1. Kevin I don’t know if you’ve ever visited my site but I have decided to start a feature much like this open topic. I’m running a bit behind schedeul though and won’t be posting til next week. How ever the two artist you put in today’s post won’t be on my list, because I’m only doing artist who debut since the turn of the century. Therefore I’m glad you’ve done it on two older artist. I have both of Bobbie Cryner’s albums and I think that her first one was great as well, but the second blew it out of the water. I always hoped she would have made a break through. With Dude Mowrey I’ve only ever heard one song, and I was never able to find any releases from him.

  2. I saw this when I was at work – and beyond Bobbie Cryner who is a favorite of mine, I also adore Shelly Fairchild, who is still producing music but cannot seem to get any airplay and I think lost her record deal. Another woman that I love is woman named Lisa Stewart, I think she had two songs on the radio in the early ’90’s “Drive Time”, “Somebody’s In Love” and “under the Light of the Texaco” – I am sure that there are others but these are the first ones that I thought of….

  3. So, I’m one of those people who has the ability to remember utterly useless bits of pop culture detritus. So the mention of Lisa Stewart immediately brought back a memory of the awesomely cheesy video for “Drive Time,” in which she broke down sobbing during an on-air radio interview. Which, sadly, is not available for viewing on either Youtube or Allmusic.

    I don’t think it worked to Stewart’s advantage that she and Ronna Reeves, another gorgeous brunette with a reasonably good voice and unremarkable pop-country production values, were being promoted at almost the exact same time. “Under the Light of the Texaco” had a nice melodic hook; had that been her first single instead of her third, after which point radio had collectively shrugged, she might have had a fighting chance.

    My picks for artists who should’ve been major stars:

    – Mandy Barnett. Her debut album included a stellar cover of Jim Lauderdale’s “Planet of Love,” but it was Barnett’s incomparable vocal skill that should’ve made her a huge star. For all of the hemming and hawing about how LeAnn Rimes sounds like Patsy Cline– and I like Rimes plenty, particularly her recent material, but that comparison has never fit– it’s Barnett who comes as close as anyone to the combination of power, range, and tone of a Patsy Cline. Given that she performed Cline’s songs in a popular Nashville revue for years, that makes sense. But Barnett has a distinctive sense of phrasing that’s more reminiscent of Maria McKee, and that keeps her from being just a mimic. Her sophomore album, I’ve Got A Right to Cry was partially produced by Owen Bradley until his death halfway through recording; completed by his brother, the album sounds like a lost classic of the countrypolitan era and is a stunning showcase for Barnett’s formidable talent. Unfortunately, the videos for the title track and first single “The Whispering Wind” aren’t on Youtube, so here’s a recent performance video (of questionable camera focusing ability) of Barnett, singing the living sh*t out of “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” There’s not any other currently popular singer in mainstream country in her league.

    – Marty Brown. A much harder sell than an artist as polished as Barnett, Brown illustrates that, yes, it is possible to be too country for country. The boy was just pure, unabashedly hillbilly through and through. Until Hank III came along, though, Brown was the closest Nashville has come to another Hank Williams. For all of that’s written about “authenticity” as it applies to modern country stars, it’s hard to imagine (m)any of them being able to parse the interview with Ralph Emery that opens this video of his single “High and Dry.” It’s worth noting that, in a pre-video era, Brown might have been huge. On talent alone, though, he should be more than just a hero to a very small cult.

    – George Ducas. He had a handful of hit singles (“Lipstick Promises” hit #5), but Ducas’ timing seemed to be off: radio had already begun to cool toward Dwight Yoakam by the time he brought his Bakersfield influences to the table, and he wasn’t able to sustain the level of success that his expressive vocals and, particularly, his sharp songwriting deserved. The videos for most of his singles (“Hello Cruel World” and “Every Time She Passes By” are my picks for his best) are up on Youtube, with some interesting commentary from Ducas himself.

    – Lari White. Like Ducas, White had several hit singles. Based on talent, White should’ve been a much bigger star than some of the other women who came along at the same time– she’s a fantastic singer who brings a good deal of Wynonna’s brand of R&B fire into her country, and she can write a mean hook. And she can even play piano with a missing pinky finger! What undid White was, unfortunately, poor choices of singles– cutesy fare like “That’s My Baby” and “Take Me” simply didn’t play to her strengths or make for much of a lasting impression. The video for “Wild At Heart,” in which White performed a line-dance while wearing a straight-jacket, was in (hilariously) poor taste, too. She’s found steady work, though, producing Toby Keith’s last album and even appearing in a small role in Cast Away. Unfortunately, her videos aren’t on Youtube or Allmusic either. There’s a badly cut performance video that features White, singing the killer title cut from her debut album, “Lead Me Not,” with the Gatlin Brothers. As a pure showcase for her vocal chops, though, there’s a video, complete with some interesting sub-titles, of her performing “There’s Power in the Blood” with a full gospel choir and apparently scaring the crap out of the much more reserved Bill Gaither “Friends” behind her.

    And then there are the likes of Kelly Willis, BR5-49, Kim Richey, etc., etc., who also had flirtations with mainstream success before going on to notable careers on the alt-country / americana scene… I could post for days on this topic, so I’ll just stick to those four.

  4. I second Lari White. I love her voice. She has a good duet with Toby, “Only God Could Stop Me From Loving You” (also performed by Emerson Drive and written by Mutt Lange). Although Toby’s White Trash With Money seems not to be a favorite of many, it’s my favorite album of his. I love some of the things that Lari did with the production on it. It was interesting, complete with a kazoo.:)

    I was also fond of George Ducas. Great voice and good songwriter.

    Another guy that I remember (I still have his album in my vast collection) is Billy Montana. I notice his name on many songwriting credits these days. I really enjoyed his voice and remember enjoying the album enough to buy it after hearing it on a radio show in the nineties.

  5. There was Jessi Alexander back in 2004 / 2005, I liked her first album, unfortunatly sony messed up marketing her.
    Also there was Shannon Lawson who had an interesting style, though I do think he should be singing other genres of music.
    Then there was Susan Haynes who has one of my favorite debut albums ever. Check out her video for “Drinkin’ In My Sunday Dress” too it’s great.

  6. Speaking of Jessi, I can’t believe I forgot my favorite artist who hasn’t quite made it, Jon Randall (her husband). Aside from writing “Whiskey Lullaby” with Bill Anderson, I love his voice and loved his album, Walking Among The Living. It had good songwriting and had an organic production that I love.

  7. PS. When I say he hasn’t made it, I mean as a solo artist as he wishes he could do. He has done well with Emmylou’s Nash Ramblers and was prominently featured on Patty Loveless’ Mountain Soul album, etc..

  8. Rebecca Lynn Howard…what a set of pipes on that lady. I have all of her music and listen to it quite frequently. ‘Tis a shame that commercial success doesn’t mirror talent…if that were the case, Rebecca Lynn would be top ten all the time and Rascal Flatts would be…sigh…non-existent.

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