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LEONA WILLIAMS: REAL COUNTRY

LEONA WILLIAMS: REAL COUNTRY
Bear Family Release 3 cd Collection
Although her recording career stretches back into late 1960s, Leona Williams
has never received the full acclaim, or chart success, that she truly
deserves. But, along the way, she’s amassed praise from her peers and
compatriots: “…. The greatest country singer that has ever stepped up to a microphone” (George Jones), “ … Her heart for country music not only comes out in her singing but also her writing” (Connie Smith), “… a great singer. She sings with a lot of soul” (Willie Nelson), “… I can feel every emotion she puts in a song … one of the greatest songwriters of our time” (Tanya Tucker) and “… the purest voice this side of the Mississippi and beyond” (Rhonda Vincent).
Now Bear Family Records releases the first retrospective of her work with a 82 track, 3 cd set featuring recordings made during the period 1968-80 for Nugget, Hickory, RCA and MCA labels, plus a previously unreleased 1986 album produced by Tompall Glaser.
LEONA WILLIAMS    Yes, Ma’m, He Found me In A Honky Tonk
(Bear Family BCD 17246 CP)
Born Leona Belle Helton
in Vienna, Missouri, the ninth of twelve children, she launched her
music interests at an early age, first learning to play the mandolin at
five and graduating to the guitar four years later. Her early influences
included Kitty Wells and Hank Williams, though George Jones was her
greatest inspiration, beginning his phenomenal career when Leona was a
teenager. ”If a girl could sing just like him that’s what I wanted to do” she said.
Along
with other family members she performed art various local events and,
by the time she was fifteen, had secured her own sponsored weekday radio
show, “Leona Sings”, on radio station KWOS, in Jefferson City. One
enthusiastic listener was Ron Williams, a former Army private who
also possessed music ambitions and, when married, they started working
as a duo, he on guitar and she on upright bass, as well as back-up for
several country acts. One of these artists, Loretta Lynn, offered them a spot in her roadshow which, in  turn, brought them to Nashville and opened up doors to the music community.
Further attention was gained when Loretta recorded one of Leona’s songs, Get What ‘cha Got And Go, and Oscar Sullivan and Dave Hooten (better known as the comedy duo Lonzo & Oscar) produced four tracks on her in Nugget Studios in January 1968. The titles, which kick off this cd collection, were A Woman’s Man, Ten Minutes Till Heartaches, Broadminded and I Just Wanted You to Be Proud Of Me. Two days later the tapes were played to Wesley Rose, at Acuff-Rose Music, who immediately liked what he heard and, within a week, she was officially signed to company’s Hickory Records. A Woman’s Man was released as her first single though it wasn’t until her second studio session that produced her first chart success, the Dusty Owens penned Once More, already a proven winner for both Roy Acuff and the Osborne Brothers & Red Allen.
Unfortunately her five year (1968-73) association with Hickory only resulted in two further chart successes – Country Girl With Hot Pants On and Your Shoeshine Girl – although it did create a trademark song Yes, Ma’m, He Found Me A Honky Tonk (written by Glenn Barber and re-recorded several times over the years), revivals of such standards When I Stop Dreaming, They’ll Never Take Her Love from Me and Baby and We’re Really In Love  and several Leona & Ron Williams’ originals, all confirming Wesley Rose’s faith in her as a country singer in a classic mould.
But,
as Leona’s career progressed, her marriage fell apart with her success
outstripping Ron’s ambitions, and their divorce was finalised in 1975.
The same year saw a short, two session tenure with RCA Records before moving on to MCA and a rocky marriage to Merle Haggard. As
she explains this set’s accompanying booklet, she didn’t want to place
her career second to that of her superstar husband and met Hag’s
forceful, independent ways with her own by going out on tour with
different artists. Nevertheless they did enjoy a Top Ten duet with the
double entendre CB radio novelty The Bull And The Beaver and he convinced her to record The Baby Song
which she abhorred (her feelings confirmed with an unspectacular two
week run in the lower regions of Billboard’s Top 100 Country Chart
during February 1979). Nevertheless, in spite of their differences, they
were reunited for the 1983 Mercury album Heart To Heart Talk
which Hag then refused to get involved in its’ promotion. She filed for
divorce in late 1983. (This duet set, together with Leona’s solo Mercury recordings, is available on the previously released Bear Family cd – Old Loves Never Die: BCD16411 AH).
In 1986, when Tompall Glaser had a production deal with MCA, he recorded an album on her in the now long-gone Glaser Studios on Nashville’s 19th Avenue South – but the album was never released and makes its debut in this collection.
In spite of a lack of chart singles, Leona Williams has kept up an active career, regularly working gigs (often performing with her son, Ron Williams Jr.)
and releasing several albums on different labels over the years, her
pure country voice ensuring the loyalty of hardcore country fans. On the
personal front, she enjoyed a happy marriage for almost 20 years to
guitarist/songwriter Dave Kirby who died in 2004.
It is, as Wesley Rose remarked at the beginning of her career: “It
doesn’t make a difference if it’s a big hit record. We’re building a
foundation. You can work the rest of your life once you do that”.
Leona agrees by saying that his advice helped her with her career outlook. “There
have been ups and downs, but if any person in this business says it’s
just been smooth and good all the time, there’s something wrong
somewhere. I’ve been in the music business a long time, and I’ve seen
some rough times, but I have my career, and my kids, and I’m thankful
every day.”
This 3 cd collection is accompanied by a 48 page book in which author Randy Fox details the Leona Williams’ life and recordings, accompanied by photographs and discography.
Yes, Ma’m, He Found Me In A Honky Tonk (BCD 17246 CP) – track details:
Disc 1: A
Woman’s Man • Ten Minutes Till Heartaches • Broadminded • I Just Wanted
You To Be Proud Of Me • I Narrowed This Triangle (Down To Two) • Papa’s
Medicine Show • I Want Some More Of This Once More • If I’d Only
Listened To Mom And Dad • This Is Not A Home No More • They’ll Never
Take His Love From Me • Just Because Of You • The Circle Of Friends •
When I Stop Dreaming • Baby, We’re Really In Love Watch Her Go • • Yes,
Ma’am (He Found Me In A Honky Tonk) • Baby, Just For You • So Goes My
World • Somewhere • Inside The Old Place Is Gone • Lists Spot • He’s
Just You Made Over • Country Girl With Hot Pants On • Country Music In
My Soul • Since I’m Not With The One I Love (I’ll Love The One I’m With)
• The Boys And Lucy Brown • A Gentleman On My Mind • Tom Lucus • A
Woman’s Life Is More Than Just A Man • Happy Anniversary, Baby 
Disc 2: Out
Of Hand • Ain ‘t That Fine • How Great Thou Art • Cheese Cake And Apple
Pine • Your Shoeshine Girl • I’m Not Sup-posed to Love You Anymore •
I’d Rather Die (Loving Him) • I Can not Tell My Heart That • I Spent A
Week There Last Night • Anything Goes (Til Everything’s Gone) • You’re
tearing This Ole Heart Out Of Me • Everybody Loves Me But You • A
Lifetime To Forget • You Do not Love Me Like You Mean • It Just Like A
Prayer • Hey I’m Somebody (Not Just A Body) • For All I Know There’s
More Love In The Arms You’ll Be Leavin ‘• Shape Up Or Ship Out • I
Wonder Where I’ll Find You At Tonight • If Anyone Ought To Know • I Want
to Live Again • That Lonely Unloved Wife • Look Mom, I’ve Got To Go To
Memphis • Window Up Above • Stone • Rock and Roll Bright Morning Light •
The Bull And The Beaver (& MERLE HAGGARD) • I’m Getting ‘High
(& MERLE HAGGARD) 

Disc 3: The
Baby Song • Call Me Crazy Lady • Good Nights Make Good Mornings • He
Took Care Of Me • Yes ma’am • Any Port In A Storm • Red Boiling Springs,
Tennessee • Touch And Go • I Can not Break The Habit • I Am Barely
Getting By • Catching Craw Fish [Catchin ‘Crawfish] • Aberdeen • Why Be A
Dreamer • Midnight Blue • The Good Times Are Ready To Come • My Heart
Has Finally Said Goodbye • Guitar Pickin ‘song • You Put Out An Old
Flame • We’ve Had Some Good Times • North Alabama • Too Close To Home •
The Bridge

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