Monday, April 16, 2012

The End of the World

Country Crossovers: Part 3
Our next group of Country music artists begins with the hugely successful singer-songwriter, record producer, and actor Kenny Rogers. Although he is mainly considered a country artist, this Texan has charted more than 120 singles across different music genres and has topped the country and pop album charts for more 200 individual weeks in the US alone. Starting off with some rock hits in the late '60s with The First Edition (like "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In"), Rogers decided to take his group into more of a country direction, and recorded (in one take) their first country pop single, "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town." Released in 1969, this major hit reached #6 on the US pop chart, and was even a bigger success in the UK reaching #2 on their singles chart, eventually selling more than 7 million records. Rogers continued with this band until 1976 when they split and he launched a successful solo career. Live on The Mike Douglas Show, here's Kenny Rogers & The First Edition.

Next, it's one of country music's best-known artists and biggest-selling female artists Tammy Wynette. Known as the First Lady of Country Music, she dominated the country charts in the late '60s and early '70s, scoring 17 #1 hits, and helped define the role of the female country singer in the 1970s. In 1968, she co-wrote (with her producer Billy Sherrill) and released the most successful record of her career, "Stand By Your Man," which reached #1 on the US country chart and crossed over to the pop chart at #19. Elevating Wynette to superstar status, this song also hit #1 in the UK after it was finally released there in 1975. Placed at #1 on CMT's list of Top 100 Country Music Songs, this country tune is one of the biggest selling hit singles by a woman in the history of country music (despite its lyrics being derided by the Feminist Movement of late '60s and early '70s). In 2011, the original recording was selected by the US Library of Congress to be preserved, chosen for its cultural significance. Here's one of the most influential country singers performing her Grammy Award-winning signature song, live on The Johnny Cash Show.

An acknowledged influence on Tammy Wynette, Skeeter Davis was one of the first women to achieve major stardom as a solo vocalist in the country music field. Starting out as a part of The Davis Sisters as a teenager in the late '40s, followed by becoming a solo star in the late '50s, she scored her biggest hit in 1963 with "The End of the World." With this single peaking at #2 on the Billboard pop chart, #2 on the country chart, #1 on the Easy Listening chart, and even #4 on the R&B chart, Davis' four-chart Top-10 accomplishment has never been duplicated by any other artist in Billboard chart history. With its smooth vocals and sophisticated production (appealing to audiences beyond traditional country music listeners), this song is considered one of the foremost examples of the Nashville Sound. Davis did go on to release other country music and crossover pop hits, but as this was her signature song, she sang it at every concert appearance she made after its success. From 1965, here's Skeeter Davis' live performance on The Bobby Lord Show.

Last but not least, it's American country music singer Leroy Van Dyke who, in his 50 years-plus career, has recorded over 500 songs with dozens of them making it into the charts. In August of 1961, he released his most successful single "Walk on By," which spent a ground-breaking 19 weeks at #1 on the country chart. Also crossing over to the pop charts peaking at #5 in the US and in the UK, this classic country tune was later named by Billboard magazine as the biggest country music record in history (based on sales, plays, and weeks in the charts). Currently at the age of 82, Van Dyke still continues a full performance schedule and sounds great, singing his signature tune here, as well as his 1956 hit "The Auctioneer." As my parents listened to a wide variety of music, I grew up being very familiar with the 1988 cover version of "Walk On By" by Asleep At The Wheel. Here's a live performance by Leroy Van Dyke at the height of this song's success.

No comments:

Post a Comment