“Honky Tonk Blues”
Written by Hank Williams
#1 (1 week)
April 12, 1980
Charley Pride was already one of the most successful country artists in history as he entered the eighties, having been a major force on the country charts since the late sixties. All three of his singles from 1979 had gone to No. 1 on at least one chart, so his momentum wasn’t slowing down at the dawn of the new decade.
He made the bold choice to open the eighties with a tribute album: There’s a Little Bit of Hank in Me. It was previewed by “Honky Tonk Blues,” which featured supporting harmonies from the Jordanaires.
Pride sings the ever loving fire out of “Honky Tonk Blues,” incorporating elements of his own smooth vocal style while perfectly preserving Hank Williams’ high lonesome wail. It cuts right through the production treacle of this era, making only one misstep: the harmonies from the Jordanaires are an unnecessary distraction. They don’t make it sound like an eighties pop record or anything, but they do bring a Nashville Sound quality that doesn’t mesh well with the pure honky tonk of the musical track and Pride’s vocal performance.
There’s a Little Bit of Hank in Me became one of Pride’s biggest albums, and earned him a nomination for Album of the Year at the CMA Awards later in 1980 and the ACM Awards in 1981. We’ll see an even better single from the LP later this year.
“Honky Tonk Blues” gets a B+.
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These musical tips-of-the-hat to an artist’s musical influences provide such essential generational connective tissue for country listeners. So much the better, when they nail the performance like Pride does here.
Tribute albums keep traditions alive and compel fans of one era to explore artists and music from another. It can help connect the dots between seemingly desperate sounds and generations.
Charley Pride was still a monstrous musical presence in th early eighties.