Country Music History – Essential Records of 1956, Part II
The Elvis domination continues in Part II.
1. “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” Elvis Presley. “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” was co-written by Ira Kosloff, who had writing credits for Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Sarah Vaughn, and Maurice Mysels, who was part of a songwriting trio of brothers from Pittsburgh (his primary gig seems to have been real estate). The song was recorded at a rushed session with RCA needing more material and Elvis being busy with concert appearances. After almost twenty unsatisfactory takes, producer Steve Sholes spliced together, quite seamlessly, the best sections of two different efforts. The love ballad from the singer who every young girl dreamed about and every young man wanted to be was Presley’s third #1 country hit of the year.
2. “I Was the One,” Elvis Presley. The heartbreak doo wop of “I Was the One” was originally a b-side to “Heartbreak Hotel,” but eventually hit the pop charts and was a #1 country hit. Not sure why it took four songwriters to complete the tune, but credits went to Aaron Schroeder (whose future Elvis credits included “A Big Hunk o’ Love” and “It’s Now or Never,” among many others), Claude Demetrius (who penned R&B hits for Louis Jordan, “Hard Headed Woman” for Elvis, and “Mean Woman Blues” for Roy Orbison), country mainstay Hal Blair (“Ninety Miles an Hour Down a Dead End Street,” “Please Help Me, I’m Falling”), and Bill Peppers (who co-wrote “My Lips Are Sealed” for Jim Reeves). Session musician/pianist Floyd Cramer became a star in his own right in 1960.
3. “Just One More,” George Jones. Harold “Pappy” Daily was over fifty years old when he started Houston’s Starday Record label. He had worked in the railroad industry until the Great Depression, then sold jukeboxes, opened a record store, and became involved in wholesale distribution. George Jones was the first major artist to sign with Starday (“Pappy” Daily would later be instrumental in the careers of The Big Bopper, Roger Miller, and Gene Pitney). Despite not having any formal training in music, Daily often served as a producer and worked with Jones long after both men left Starday. “Just One More” is a Jones penned/Daily produced drinking song that recalls the hard country traditionalism of Hank Williams. For some reason, Jones could really belt out a drinking song.
4. “Love Me Tender,” Elvis Presley. “Aura Lee” was a Civil War ballad about a romantic obsession with a beautiful maiden. Lyricist Ken Darby, uncredited on the record due to the usual music business chicanery, wrote “Love Me Tender” using the melody of “Aura Lee,” then let Elvis do his magic. Darby, “He adjusted the music and the lyrics to his own particular presentation. Elvis has the most terrific ear of anyone I have ever met. He does not read music, but he does not need to. All I had to do was play the song for him once, and he made it his own! He has perfect judgment of what is right for him. He exercised that judgment when he chose ‘Love Me Tender’ as his theme song.” The King’s instincts resulted in a #1 pop hit that peaked at #3 on the country charts.
5. “Singing the Blues,” Marty Robbins. Arizona native Marty Robbins grew up enamored with cowboy culture, preferring ranch work to high school studies. He joined the Navy during World War II and learned to play guitar while in the service. In the late 1940s, he began appearing on Arizona radio and television programs, leading to a contract with Columbia Records in 1951. His 1953 hit “I’ll Go On Alone” was the first of his sixteen #1 singles. Less of a traditionalist than many of his peers, Robbins took “Singing the Blues” to #1 on the country charts; it had been a whistling hooked #1 pop song for Guy Mitchell earlier that year. “Singing the Blues” was written by Melvin Endsley, an Arkansas based singer who spent his life in a wheelchair after contracting polio at the age of three. Endsley recorded for RCA and MGM during the 1950s, but only succeeded as a writer, also penning “Knee Deep in the Blues,” a #3 country hit for Robbins and a #3 U.K. pop hit for Guy Mitchell.
6. “The Waltz of the Angels,” Wynn Stewart. Wynn Stewart was an important figure on the Bakersfield music scene – he reportedly helped Buck Owens get his first contract and Merle Haggard played bass in his band in 1962. A native of Southwest Missouri, Stewart’s family often traveled to California to work on farms. He formed a band while in high school and released his first singles on an independent label in 1954. With a push from Skeets McDonald, Stewart was signed to Capitol Records in 1956. “The Waltz of the Angels” is a sentimental love song that hit the Top Ten for George Jones & Margie Singleton. The songwriters, Jack Rhodes and Dick Reynolds, also penned “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.”
7. “The Wayward Wind,” Tex Ritter. Tex Ritter grew up in Beaumont, Texas and left law studies to work in the entertainment industry. After working on Houston radio, he moved to New York and performed in Broadway productions. During the early 1930s, he worked in television and started his recording career. Ritter moved to Hollywood in 1936 and performed in dozens of Western films. He started topping the charts in the mid-1940s with the #1 singles “I’m Wasting My Tears on You,” You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often,” and “You Will Have to Pay.” “The Wayward Wind” was written by Broadway composer Stanley Lebowsky and Herb Newman. Gogi Grant took it to #1 on the pop charts, but Tex’s beefy baritone was a better match for the kitsch drama material.