Bear Family adds 5 new cds to highly acclaimed series
Acclaimed as the finest country music compilation series ever, Bear Family Records has released five new volumes to its long running Country & Western Hit Parade
series. A unique presentation of a small, hardcover book accompanying a
cd (or should it be cd with a book?), the series was launched in 2008
with a compilation of country music recordings released in 1945. It was
followed, on a regular basis with further compilations devoted to
subsequent years, each cd comprising (approx.) 30 tracks with 72 pages
in the books. The latest cd’s cover the years 1966-1970, bringing to an
end a quarter of a century of changes, innovations and artists that
helped make country music a major presence in the entertainment world.
The praise for the series is unanimous. The late Jack Clement said “this is the best country music series of all time. No doubt. No question” while Robert Hilburn (in the Los Angeles Times) wrote “an
invaluable album project … enables fans to step back in time and listen
to the radio just like Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan did”.
Producer Allen Reynolds (Garth Brooks, Don Williams and others) stopped Bear Family’s Richard Weize at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame to congratulate him on the series.
Subtitled “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music”,
the series reveals how the music had moved on from its post-war
beginnings, widening audience appeal over the years and reaching over
into near pop horizons with the development of the Nashville Sound in
the late 1950s.  Now, with these latest releases, the period showed its
greatest impact with the presence of some of the music’s foremost
contemporary names – among them Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride and Tammy Wynette – while such already well established artists like Eddy Arnold, Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens, Marty Robbins and Faron Young
continued to turn out the hits. And, displaying the infusion of music
genres, a new genre came into being with the arrival of country-rock via
such as Gram Parsons, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
total of 149 tracks are spread over these 5 uniquely designed,
hardcover gatefold cds, with each full colour book presenting an
introduction to the particular year followed by invaluable information
on every track comprising the artist photograph and biography, song and
recording details, the occasional reproduction of a record promo advert
and other incidental facts, much not found in other reference sources.
Country music author and historian Colin Escott is responsible
for these remarkable releases, an obvious labour of love that has taken
considerable research effort and resulting in an essential insight into
the development of country music over the years – not necessarily by
spotlighting the most successful recordings but, rather, the most
influential and ground-breaking records, successful or not!
Jim Reeves: Distant Drums * Bobby Bare: The Streets Of Baltimore * Marty Robbins: The Shoe Goes On The Other Foot Tonight * Jeannie Sealy: Don‘t Touch Me * Mel Tillis: Stateside * David Houston: Almost Persuaded * Bill Anderson: I Get The Fever * Loretta Lynn: You Ain’t Woman Enough * Roger Miller: Husbands And Wives * Merle Haggard: Swinging Doors * Don Gibson: Funny, Familiar Forgotten Feelings * Buck Owens: Waitin‘ in Your Welfare Line * Nat Stuckey: Sweet Thang * Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything * Dallas Frazier: Elvira * Merle Haggard: The Bottle Let Me Down * Roger Miller; I’ve Been A Long Time Leavin‘ (But l’ll Be A Longtime Gone) * Wilma Burgess: Misty Blue * Faron Young: Unmitigated Gall * Eddy Amold: l Want To Go With You * Johnny Cash: The One On The Right is On The Left * Johnny Paycheck: (Pardon Me) I’ve Got Someone in Kill * Ray Price: Touch My Heart * The Browns: l‘ll Just Be Fool Enough * Merle Haggard: The Fugitive (aka I’m A Lonesome Fugitive) * Porter Wagoner: Skid Row Joe * Tammy Wynette: Apartment #9 * Buck Owens: Upen Up YourHeart * Waylon Jennings: Anita You’re Dreaming * Loretta Lynn: Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin‘ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)  * Jim Reeves: Distant Drums (undubbed)
introduction to this set spotlights the growing number of award shows
with Billboard magazine, the Country Music Association and Music City
News all presenting their own while, on the West Coast, the CMA’s rival
Academy of Country Music launched its first. There were also accolades
given out from BMI and the Nashville Songwriters Association. Further
proof of the expanding popularity of country music came with the growing
numbers attending Nashville’s annual Disc Jockey Convention (soon to be
renamed Country Music Week) and Billboard increasing the number of
positions in its Hot Country Singles chart from 50 to 75.
The cd kicks off with Jim Reeves’ posthumous Distant Drums (and concludes with his undubbed demo) while You Ain’t Woman Enough, Unmitigated Gall, Open Up Your Heart and Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings were among the songs that kept the hits rolling for Messrs. Lynn, Young, Owens and Gibson among other seasoned hitmakers. The chart newcomers included Tammy Wynette (Apartment #9), Nat Stuckey (Sweet Thang) and Jeanne Seely (who picked up a Grammy as Country Female Vocal for Don’t Touch Me) while former Texas Troubadour Jack Greene went to number with his second single There Goes My Everything. Singer/songwriters were also present, with Bill Anderson and Roger Miller charting I Get The Fever and Husbands And Wives respectively, and non-charters included Dallas Frazier’s original Elvira, destined to become a massive hit for the Oak Ridge Boys 15 years later, and Johnny Paycheck’s sparse sound with (Pardon Me) I’ve Got Someone To Kill on Little Darlin’ Records.
Bobbie Gentry: Ode To Billie Joe * Johnny Darrell: Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love to Town) * Waylon Jennings: Mental Revenge * Jim Reeves: l Won‘t Came in While He‘s There * George Hamilton IV: Break My Mind *  Leon Ashley: Laura {What‘s He Got That l Ain’t Got) * Merle Haggard: Branded Man * Loretta Lynn: What Kind 0f Girl (Do You Think I Am)? * Jim Ed Brown: Pop A Top 1* Ray Price: Danny Boy * Robert Mitchum: Little Ole Wine Drinker Me * John Hartford: Gentle On My Mind * Glen Campbell: By The Time I Get To Phoenix * Marty Robbins: Tonight Carmen * Mel Tillis: Life Turned Her That Way * Buck 0wens: Where Does The Good Times Go * Skeeter Davis: What Does It Take (To Keep A Man Like You Satisfied) * Waylon Jennings: The Chokin‘ Kind * Johnny Cash & June Carter: Jackson * Merle Haggard: Sing Me Back Home  * Wanda Jackson: Tears Will Be The Chaser For Your Wine * Jerry Reed: Guitar Man * Norma Jean: Jackson Ain’t A Very Big Town * George Jones: Walk Through This World With Me * David Houston & Tammy Wynette: My Elusive Dreams * Wynn Stewart: It’s Such A Pretty World Today * Buck Owens: Sam‘s Place  * Tammy Wynette: I Don’t Wanna Play House * Country Charlie Pride: Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger? * Porter Wagoner: Cold Hard Facts Of Life * The Lovin’ Spoonful: Nashville Cats
was the year that Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame opened its
doors to the public (admission $1.00) while major changes happened
within the ranks of the record industry. Don Law retired from Columbia, and Bob Johnston took over (“resulting in some of the worst country records ever made” writes author Escott); Chet Atkins cut back on producing sessions at RCA, with Bob Ferguson and Felton Jarvis taking over some duties; Shelby Singleton left Mercury to create SSS International, leaving Jerry Kennedy at his former label; and Ken Nelson became the industry’s longest reigning A&R chief at Capitol.
On record George Hamilton IV had a change of pace with John D. Loudermilk’s Break My Mind; Leon Ashley became the first artist to write, record and produce a #1 record on his own recordlabel (Ashley) with Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got); Ray Price moved into lounge music territory with Danny Boy; Jerry Reed wrote and recorded the quasi-autobiographical Guitar Man, soon to be adopted by Elvis Presley; and John Hartford created one of the most recorded songs ever, Gentle On My Mind. Charley Pride entered the country music scene (as “Country Charlie Pride”) with Does My Ring Hurt My Finger, produced by Jack Clement, and among the duettings were Johnny Cash & June Carter (Jackson) and David Houston & Tammy Wynette (My Elusive Dreams).  Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard moved further up the ladder of success, and George Jones and Porter Wagoner showed no signs of theirs slowing down. Then, away from the country norm but all perfectly fitting it, were Bobbie Gentry, Robert Mitchum and The Lovin’ Spoonful.
Waylon Jennings: Only Daddy That’ll Walk The line * Tammy Wynette: D-I-V-O-R-C-E * Johnny Cash: Folsom Prison Blues * International Submarine Band: Luxury Liner * Henson Cargill: Skip A Rope * Merle Haggard: Mama Tried * George Jones: Beneath Still Waters * Glen Campbell: l Wanna Live * Jeannie C. Riley: Harper Valley PTA. * Dillard & Clark: Train Leaves Here This Morning * Porter Wagoner: The Carroll County Accident * Jerry Lee Lewis: Another Place, Another Time * Merle Haggard: l Take A Lot Of Pride In What I Am  * Loretta Lynn: Fist City * Charlie Louvin: Will You Visit Me On Sundays? * Johnny Darrell: The Son Of Hickory Holler’s Tramp * Roger Miller: Little Green Apples * Tom T. Hall: Ballad Of Forty Dollars * The Byrds: Hickory Wind * Osborne Brothers: Rocky Top * Jerry Lee Lewis: What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me) * Glen Campbell: Wichita Lineman * Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: Holding On To Nothin’ * Johnny Cash: Daddy Sang Bass * Merle Haggard: I Started Loving You Again * Buck Owens: How Long Will My Baby Be Gone? * George Jones: When The Grass Grows Over Me * Marty Robbins: I Walk Alone * Conway Twitty: Next in Line * Tammy Wynette: Stand By Your Man * Jim Alley: Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line
Colin Escott’s introduction to the year notes the publication of Bill C. Malone’s “Country Music USA”, a very readable academic work, opening up the pathways to such equally recommended tomes as John Grissim’s “Country Music – A White Man’s Blues” and Paul Hemphill’s “The Nashville Sound”. RCA’s Steve Shoals (who signed Elvis Presley, built the first major label studio in Nashville and installed Chet Atkins to run the Nashville operation) died, with Red Foley and the Grand Ole Opry’s George D. Hay among other major passings. And 1968 probably marked the birth of country-rock, a somewhat different sound from rockabilly.
Several landmark recordings during the year included Waylon’s Only Daddy (and reprieved by hardluck musician Jim Alley, the song’s writer) Tammy’s twosome D-I-V-O-R-C-E and Stand By Your Man, Cash’s Fulsom Prison Blues and Hag’s Mama Tried, while equally memorable was songwriter turned singer Tom T. Hall’s Ballad of Forty Dollars and secretary turned singer Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley PTA which put Shelby Singleton’s Plantation label on the map. Dolly Parton was moving into the chart big time as Porter Wagoner’s duet partner and roadshow attraction. Other new acts making impressions were Henson Cargill (Skip A Rope) and Johnny Darrell (Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp). Glen Campbell kept up his smooth ballad work with Wichita Lineman, Jerry Lee made a highly successful transition from rock ‘n’ roller to country star with such titles Another Time, Another Place and bluegrass had a showing as the Osborne Brothers became the first to record Boudleaux & Felice Bryant’s Rocky Top (which became a Tennessee State song in 1982). Infusing country with rock, the highly influential Gram Parsons pioneered in two different groups, first the International Submarine Band and then The Byrds.
John Wesley Ryles: Kay * Buck Owens: Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass? * Bobby Bare: (Margie’s At) AT) The Lincoln Park Inn; The Byrds: Drug Store Truck Drivin‘ Man * Merle Haggard: Workin‘ Man Blues * Loretta Lynn: Woman Of The World (Leave My World Alone) * Charley Pride: All I Have To Offer You (Is Me) * Glen Campbell: Galveston * Jerry Lee Lewis: To Make Lave Sweeter For You * Johnny Cash: A Boy Named Sue * Dottie West & Don Gibson: Rings Of Gold * Jack Greene: Statue Of  A Fool * Roger Miller: Me And Bobbie McGee * Flying Burrito Brothers: Sin City * Tom T. Hall: Homecoming * George Jones: I’ll Share My World With You * Bobby Bare: God Bless America Again * Faron Young: Wine Me Up * Johnny Bush: You Gave Me A Mountain * Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: Just Someone l Used To Knew * Glen Campbell: Try A Little Kindness * Jerry Lee Lewis: She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye * Merle Haggard: Okie From Muskogee * Conway Twitty: To See My Angel Cry * Willie Nelson: Bloody Merry Morning * Charlie Rich: Life’s Little Ups and Downs * Kenny Rogers & The First Edition: Ruben James * Billy Lee Riley: Kay
1969 was the year that country music came to television, with the Glen Campbell Goodtime Time presenting a smooth, easy show; the Johnny Cash Show began a three year run with an eclectic guest list; and the far longer running Hee-Haw, headed up by Buck Owens and Roy Clark, reflected the rural humour of already proven tv winners like “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Petticoat Junction”. Sun Records was set to begin a major revival when founder Sam Phillips sold the catalogue to Shelby Singleton.
This cd kicks off with Kay, the song that launched John Wesley Ryles’ career (and reprised at the disc’s end with an ill-fated, rare version by Billy Lee Riley, an artist who went through several musical changes). Willie Nelson and Charlie Rich, a couple of artists looking for the right breaks, received attention with Bloody Merry Morning and Life’s Little Ups And Downs, and pre-Lucille Kenny Rogers scored in the pop-country crossover market with Reuben James. The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers continued to put West Coast country-rock on the map while Johnny Bush waved the flag for Texas (on Nashville’s short-lived Stop label) with the Marty Robbins penned You Gave Me A Mountain. Johnny Cash scored another career song with A Boy Named Sue and Roger Miller helped build Kris Kristofferson’s name by recording Me And Bobbie McGee. Meanwhile Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Bobby Bare, Faron Young and other stalwarts made regular appearances in the Billboard charts.
Conway Twitty: Hells Darlin’ * Lynn Anderson: Rose Garden * Jerry Lee Lewis: Once More With Feeling * Merle Haggard: The Fightin‘ Side Of Me * Johnny Cash: What is Truth * Bobby Bare: How l Got To Memphis: Roy Clark: Thank God And Greyhound * Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter * Tompall & The Glaser Brothers: Gone Girl * Dolly Parton: Mule Skinner Blues (Blue Yodel No. 8) * Guy Drake: Welfare Cadillac * Jerry Reed: Amos Moses * Sammi Smith: Help Me Make it Through The Night * Tom T. Hall: A Week in A Country Jail * Flying Burrito Brothers: Wild Horses * Charley Pride: ls Anybody Goin‘ To San Antone *  Ray Price: For The Good Times * Tammy Wynette: Run, Woman, Run * George Jones: A Good Year For The Roses * Waylon Jennings: The Taker * Dolly Parton: Joshua * Jerry Lee Lewis: There Must Be More To Love Than This * Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty: After The Fire ls Gone * Johnny Cash: Sunday Morning Coming Down * Billy Joe Shaver: Chicken On The Ground * Conway Twitty: Fifteen Years Ago; Marty Robbins: My Woman, My Woman, My Wife * Mickey Newbury: How I Love Them Old Songs
Colin Escott
begins his notes with an appraisal of the 25 years covered by this
series with a reflection on how the music had been sold, as 78s were
supplanted by LPs, 45s, 8-tracks and cassettes, noting that country
music (along with R&B) was still single driven and most albums
comprised one hit and nine fillers. Initially country music was recorded
nearly everywhere but in Nashville; the Grand Ole Opry remained the
magnet that drew the industry to the city; country hopefuls could still
make the rounds of the record labels in the chance of an “on the spot”
audition; and a mainstream sound evolved, known as the Nashville Sound.
And RIP one of the industry’s foremost executives, Paul Cohen.

It was another year of classic country music. Former rocker Conway Twitty, in his fourth year as top country hit maker, recorded a landmark song with Hello Darlin’, as did Lynn Anderson, George Jones and Charley Pride with Rose Garden, A Good Year For The Roses and Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone respectively. Loretta Lynn came up with the autobiographical Coal Miner’s Daughter (later spawning a bestselling book and hit movie) and Jerry Reed caused attention with his funky Amos Moses. Songwriter Kris Kristofferson made the breakthrough as newcomer Sammi Smith’s sultry rendition of Help Me Make It Through The Night topped the charts, as did Ray Price’s For The Good Times, but Johnny Cash made it triple success as his version of Sunday Morning Coming Down scored Song of the Year status at the 1970 CMA Awards. Other songwriters turned recording artists included Tom T. Hall (A Week In A County Jail), Billy Joe Shaver (Chicken On The Ground) and Mickey Newbury (How I Love Them Old Songs) while 65 year old former funeral home worker Guy Drake reflected upon the state of the nation with Welfare Cadillac.

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