Okay, here’s my list of country artists from the past. Artists I believe deserve a new listen from a new audience. I’ve been around long enough to remember when I thought everything started with my generation.
Maggie and I ran an open-mic downtown Panama City in the early to mid-nineties, and raised a generation of wandering kids…Hispanics who called themselves ‘the brown boys,‘ Goth kids dressed in black, and all the other wonderful young people with no real ‘home‘ waiting for them at the end of the day.
Thing is, they knew what they knew about music, and nothing else. One night a kid sang In the Pines, then said it was by Nirvana. We told him it was actually a song from around 1870, called ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night.’ Another version around the same time was called ‘Black Girl.’ He told his friends, and they learned something new.
We packed up that night and talked on the way home about musical heritage, and decided we were as ignorant as that kid was about music before our time. And I go back to Patty Page and Hank, Sr.
Hell, I was raised on radio shows like Fibber McGee and Molly and Gangbusters. Roy Rogers’ Don’t Fence Me In was played on the radio, for god’s sake.
Odd ducks like Tiny Tim and the incredible Leon Redbone spent their careers keeping songs from the 19-teens through the thirties alive, and introducing that music to new audiences.
Koerner, Ray and Glover brought old Leadbelly songs to a generation of White kids who’d never heard early Black blues.
So, here’s my list of pre-Merle Country singers that I remember. Nothing wrong with the new crop, but browse a little, and add yours. My brain ain’t what it used to be, and it never was that good.
1. Jim Reeves
2. Cowboy Copas
3. Don Gibson
4. Stonewall Jackson
5. Patsy Montana
6. Patsy Cline
7. Kitty Wells
8. Johnny Russell
9. Webb Pierce
10. Lefty Frizzell
11. Eddie Arnold
12. Floyd Cramer (instrumentals, but still….)
13. Al Dexter
14. Ernest Tubb
15. Floyd Tillman
16. Marty Robbins
17. Ray Price
18. Johnny Horton
20. The Davis Sisters
Like any top-20 list, it’s terribly incomplete. I was just sitting here this morning listening to an old song, and my heart just sort-of drifted off. Help me…..