County Music History, Essential Releases of 1975, Part II
“Afternoon Delight,” “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” low rent rendezvous.
1. “Out of Hand,” Gary Stewart. After having his breakthrough hit in 1974 with “Drinkin’ Thing,” Stewart went Top Five with this song about flirtation that went too far. “Out of Hand” was co-written by California folkie Tom Jans whose song “Loving Arms” has been recorded by everyone from Dobie Gray to Elvis to the Dixie Chicks. Even more impressive is that the other co-writer was Jeff Berry, whose credits include “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Da Doo Run Run,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Be My Baby,” etc. Gary and his producer discovered the song from an album my Mentor Williams, who was the brother of Paul Williams and the songwriter of the Dobie Gray hit “Drift Away.” Paul Williams, of course, wrote “The Rainbow Connection,” which my wife and I consider “our song.” OK, it’s official. This entry is out of hand.
2. “The Pill,” Loretta Lynn. The oral contraceptive birth control pill was approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960, but its introduction into the marketplace wasn’t without controversy. It took two U.S. Supreme Court decisions to broaden the availability of “the pill” – first to all married women in 1965 and to unmarried women in 1972. Loretta Lynn recorded this celebration of being free from serial pregnancies in 1972, but MCA withheld its release for three years, fearing the subject matter was too controversial. Loretta’s well known large family added an element of reality to the song and while it didn’t make the pop Top 40, it was her best solo outing on the pop charts, peaking at #70.
3. “Rhinestone Cowboy,” Glen Campbell. Glen Campbell became very geographical in the early 1970s, releasing the singles “Oklahoma Sunday Morning,” “Delight Arkansas” (an instrumental titled after his hometown that failed to chart), and “Manhattan, Kansas,” a town that proudly refers to itself as “The Little Apple”. His success had waned from his late 1960’s stardom, but he did return to #3 on the country charts in 1974 with his cover of Pee Wee King’s “Bonaparte’s Retreat.” “Rhinestone Cowboy” had been a minor adult contemporary chart hit for songwriter Larry Weiss (who co-wrote “Bend Me, Shape Me,” a #5 hit for the American Breed in 1968). Campbell was already a fan of Weiss’s recording, particularly relating to the compromises artists make for commercial success, before Capital Records recommended that Campbell cut his own version. With the paradoxical title and Campbell’s familiar tenor voice, his cover version resulted in his first #1 pop hit.
4. “Roll On, Big Mama,” Joe Stampley. Louisiana native Joe Stampley fronted the Shreveport based swamp pop act The Uniques from 1965 to 1970, then became a solo country act in 1971. He quickly had success on the country charts, going to #1 in 1973 with the instantly forgettable “Soul Song.” He returned to the top slot for the second time with the rambling trucker tune “Roll On, Big Mama.” “Roll On, Big Mama” has a Johnny Cash rockabilly rhythm and was written by Danny Durst, the subject of the 2012 Nashville documentary “American Songwriter.” Superstar act Alabama reprised the theme with the decidedly inferior “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler),” a 1984 #1 single written by Dave Loggins of “Please Come to Boston” fame.
5. “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles),” Gary Stewart. Bar rooms and heartbreak. Loneliness and whiskey. While others in Nashville voiced these themes from the comfort of their gated community mansions, Stewart was most at home working the gritty Texas honky-tonk circuit. Penned by Wayne Carson (“ The Letter,” “Always on My Mind”), “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)” was Stewart’s sole #1 country hit. A lesser singer would have emphasized the wordplay in the lyrics; Stewart sounded like a man with a knife in his chest.
6. “Third Rate Romance,” The Amazing Rhythm Aces. The Amazing Rhythm Aces formed in Memphis in 1974, evolving from the band Fatback that performed in Knoxville, Tennessee in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. “Third Rate Romance” is an amused take by a third party watching a developing one night stand and has a groove that is laid back and funky the same time. The Aces scored two more country hits in 1975 and 1976 with “Amazing Grace (Used to Be Her Favorite Song),” which peaked at “# 9 and “The End Is Not in Sight (The Cowboy Tune),” which went to #12. Sammy Kershaw released a cover of “Third Rate Romance” that peaked at #2 in 1994. Insert Lorrie Morgan joke here.
7. “Too Far Gone,” Emmylou Harris. Emmylou’s 1975 album “Pieces of the Sky” is an eclectic affair that included her first Top Ten country hit, a cover of The Louvin Brothers “If I Could Only Win Your Love.” She also included material from contemporary country songwriters (Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Rodney Crowell), Lennon/McCartney, and Shel Silverstein. Still, the best known tracks from the album are “Boulder to Birmingham,” a song about a faraway love that Harris co-wrote with Bill Daniff of Starland Vocal Band/”Afternoon Delight” fame, and “Too Far Gone.” “Too Far Gone” was a Billy Sherrill weeper about a person that can’t move past a broken relationship and was a #1 country hit in Canada in 1967 for Lucille Starr. Joe Stampley took “Too Far Gone” to #13 on the country charts in 1973 and Emmylou’s version wasn’t a real hit until a re-release in 1978 also peaked at #13.
8. “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” Elvis Presley. “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” not to be confused with the Lieber/ Stoller song “Trouble” from the 1958 film “Kid Creole,” is a fast paced, boogie woogie rocker that allows Elvis to indulge in some lip curling, stud swagger fun. Songwriter Jerry Chesnut, “After meeting (Elvis), I tried to start creating music that he would like. Once Elvis walked into your life, you were never the same again.” Travis Twit, I mean Tritt, brought “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” back onto the country airwaves with his 1993 release.
9. “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” Freddy Fender. Fender originally penned and recorded “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” in 1959 and it was covered in 1969 by the Sir Douglas Quintet. When Sahm was holding court at the Soap Creek Saloon in Austin in the early 1970s, it was the frequent requests for “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” that caused Sahm to track down Fender and have him work a headlining gig at the Soap Creek. Joe Nick Patoski, “In other words, if not for Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender probably would still be working on cars back in Corpus, wondering about what might have been and never was.” His 1975 re-recording is an example of R& B influenced Texas/ Louisiana swamp pop. Music historian John Broven, “Although Freddy was a Chicano from Texas marketed as a country artist, much of his formative career was spent in South Louisiana; spiritually, Fender’s music was from the Louisiana swamps.” Freddy had his second #1 country single, crossover pop hit and international smash (he charted particularly well in New Zealand and Australia) with his resurrected composition.
10. “When Will I Be Loved,” Linda Ronstadt. Phil Everly wrote “When Will I Be Loved” and the rockabilly tinged original by The Everly Brothers was a Top Ten pop hit. Manfred Mann released a blue-eyed soul version of the song in 1966 and John Denver included his folk version on his 1966 debut album “John Denver Sings” (titled as such so that no one would confuse him for a rap artist). Ronstadt upped the tempo and scored her only #1 country single, and a #2 pop hit, with her L.A. studio musician take. Ronstadt would often mine popular pre-Beatles rock and pop music for her material – “Heat Wave,” “That’ll Be the Day,” “Blue Bayou,” “It’s So Easy,” and “Back in the U.S.A.” being some obvious examples.
11. “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill,” Loretta Lynn. There isn’t a plethora of information on songwriter/singer Lola Jean Dillon whose first writing credit seems to be a 1967 Dolly Parton album track and whose biggest hits were Loretta’s “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill,” “Somebody, Somewhere (Don’t Know What He’s Missin’ Tonight)” (a 1976 #1 single), and “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” which Dillon recorded with L.E. White and was a hit for Loretta and Conway. “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill” is a country version of “It’s Too Late,” a realization that a love affair has inexorably faded. A rather unusual lyric for the genre, “The body performs but the soul has no will.” Songwriter Dillon declared bankruptcy in 1998, but maybe her fortunes have improved with writing credits on 2016 albums by Loretta Lynn and Cyndi Lauper.
12. “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” David Allan Coe. David Allan Coe’s bio reads like an outlaw country publicist’s dream – starting at the age of nine, he spent approximately twenty years in reform schools and prison (his 1970 debut album was titled “Penitentiary Blues”). He later lived in front of Nashville’s famous Ryman Auditorium in a hearse and performed in a Lone Ranger mask as “The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy.” “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” is a famous/infamous parody of a country song written by Steve Goodman and an uncredited John Prine that became Coe’s first major hit on the country charts. In another layer of truth being stranger than fiction, after the Internal Revenue Service repossessed Coe’s home in the 1980s, he spent several months living in a Tennessee cave.