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Dick Curless - A Tombstone Every Mile
659 plays

Dick CurlessA Tombstone Every Mile

from A Tombstone Every Mile (1965)

Here’s eyepatched Dick Curless, the man with one of the best baritones in the business, with his ode to a stretch of road in Maine that turns into a “ribbon of ice” in the winter. The truckers call it the “Haynesville Woods.” Take this tale below for what it’s worth:

"People living in that section of Maine talked about seeing a woman in white walking along the road at night. She would appear out of nowhere in front of a tractor-trailer and ask the startled truckdriver for a ride. She would tell the driver that she and her husband had just been in a terrible wreck and they needed help. Those drivers who encountered the mysterious woman said later they could feel a weird chill when she got into their trucks. As they exited the dark Haynesville Woods, the woman would then vanish without a trace."  - via The McDowell News

If you’re wondering why a country singer would know anything at all about road conditions in Maine, it’s because Curless had an unusual pedigree. He hailed from Fort Fairfield, Maine — just about as far north and east as you can go in Maine before the state turns into New Brunswick. Haynesville and that haunted highway, Route 2, were right in his backyard.

If you dig into the LP, it’s not just trucker songs. He also sings in Japanese on the track ‘China Nights (Shina no yoru).’ Grab it at On the Edge of Country.


Faron Young - Hello Walls
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Faron YoungHello Walls (1961)

Country Sunday: a young Willie Nelson wrote this tune for Faron Young… one of Willie’s first big songwriting hits.

Hello walls (hello hello) how things go for you today
Don’t you miss her since she upped and walked away
And I’ll bet you dread to spend another lonely night with me
But lonely walls I’ll keep you company


Classic country star, Faron Young: Feb 25, 1932 - 1996, suicide…

Faron Young was known as the Hillbilly Heartthrob when he was young and handsome. His recordings always had a lot of pizazz, just like his signature FU belt buckle did.

In ‘96 when he felt no one cared for his brand of music anymore and no one gave him the credit he deserved, he said one more FU to all of us by blowing his brains out, almost making his big hit song’s title come true: “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young”…

(via countrycheese)

Johnny Paycheck - (Like Me) You'll Recover In Time
20 plays

Johnny Paycheck — (Like Me) You’ll Recover in Time

from The Real Mr. Heartache: The Little Darlin’ Years

Love in a straightjacket, on this late-60s track from Johnny Paycheck. Brilliant.

Tex Ritter - High Noon
9,979 plays

Tex RitterThe Ballad of High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me) (1952)

Saw High Noon last night for the first time. The final gunfight isn’t the most riveting, but Gary Cooper was in fine form. I wasn’t aware of the Red Scare connection, detailed below.


Although now considered by many to be an archetypal Western movie, High Noon was, at the time, considered very controversial.   Its production and release intersected with the second Red Scare and the Korean War. Writer, producer and partner Carl Foreman was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) while he was writing the film. Foreman had not been in the Communist Party for almost ten years, but declined to name names and was considered an “un-cooperative witness”. When Stanley Kramer found out some of this, he forced Foreman to sell his part of their company, and tried to get him kicked off the making of the picture. Fred Zinnemann, Gary Cooper, and Bruce Church, the film’s director, star, and producer intervened. Thus Foreman remained on the production, but moved to England before it was released nationally, as he knew he would never be allowed to work in America again.

Upon its release, the film was criticized by many filmgoers, as it did not contain such expected western staples, such as chases, violence, action, and picture postcard scenery. Rather, it presented emotional and moralistic dialogue throughout most of the film. Only in the last few minutes were there action scenes.

John Wayne strongly despised the film because he felt it was an allegory for blacklisting, which he and his good friends Ward Bond and Howard Hawks actively supported. In his Playboy interview from May 1971, Wayne stated he considered High Noon “the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life” and went on to say he would never regret having helped blacklist liberal screenwriter Carl Foreman from Hollywood. In 1959 he teamed up with director Howard Hawks to make Rio Bravo as a conservative response.

Connie Smith - Tell another lie
1,009 plays

Connie Smith — Tell Another Lie

from Connie Smith (1965)

This Country Sunday, a track from a singer many consider the heiress to the throne of Patsy Cline: Connie Smith. She knows how to belt it out, and this album is one bruising punch after another, with tracks like ‘I’m Ashamed of You,’ ‘The Other Side of You,’ and this one, ‘Tell Another Lie.’ The LP went straight to the top of the Billboard country charts in 1965.

Dolly Parton apparently once said: “You know, there’s really only three female singers in the world: Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, and Connie Smith. The rest of us are only pretending.”

Mac Curtis
339 plays

Mac Curtis — Pistol Packin’ Mama (1975)

Yeehaw for a little rockabilly this Country Sunday. Al Dexter wrote the original ‘Pistol Packin’ Mama’ in 1944, performing it as a jazzy swing number. Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters also had a big hit with it. This version takes the cake for me though.

Mac Curtis version via Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives

Dave Dudley - My Kind Of Love
19 plays

Dave Dudley — My Kind of Love

from My Kind of Love (1967)

Big roarin’ Nashville sounds this Country Sunday, with mariachi-style horns and all. The singer is Dave Dudley, a man with a really beautiful, booming baritone. On slower numbers he sounds a bit like Fred Neil. Below is a clipping from Billboard magazine, April 8, 1967, pegging this album as a potentially big hit. The single hit #12 on the country charts, but sadly the album never made it there.

Willis Brothers - Soft Shoulders, Dangerous Curves
109 plays

The Willis Brothers — Soft Shoulders, Dangerous Curves

from Goin’ to Town (1966)

Formerly known as the Oklahoma Wranglers, brothers James, Charles and Joe Willis played the Grand Ole Opry and backed Hank Williams. Later they left the Opry and struck out on their own as The Willis Brothers, turning out truckdriving songs like this innuendo-filled gem, laced with savage fuzz guitar.

Now truckers pay heed to what I say
When you see a sign don’t look the other way
Or you’ll end up on the wrong right of way
And leave those girls alone along the way

Gotta watch those soft shoulders and dangerous curves
You see signs on the road constantly
Gotta watch those soft shoulders and dangerous curves
Or you’ll end up wrecked just like me

via Beware of the Blog: Country Fuzz Spectacular

Dean Martin - In The Misty Moonlight
39 plays

Dean Martin — In the Misty Moonlight

(recorded 1964, released 1967)

This Country Sunday, we’ve got Dean Martin—not your typical cowboy type, I know—covering a song by country music songwriter Cindy Walker.

Hat tip to Singing in the Wire, who compiled a bunch of Cindy Walker covers some time ago. Tracklisting here, though the download is no longer available. (shucks)

Spade Cooley and the Western Swing Dance Gang Feat. Tex Williams - Better Do It Now
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Spade Cooley and the Western Swing Dance Gang feat Tex Williams — Better Do It Now

from Shame on You

This Country Sunday, I’ve got a crazy tale of love, violence and death. Excerpted here is the story of western swing violinist Spade Cooley, as JoeMC tells it over at the Free Music Archive:

One of the most notorious figures in country music history is western swing pioneer Spade Cooley. Cooley was known as the “King of Western Swing” in his heyday, but due to a gruesome incident in his private life, he is often viewed these days more as the Sid Vicious of Western Swing. His is a model lesson in how a brilliant musical legacy can be overshadowed by unsavory personal problems.

Born in Oklahoma in 1910, Donnell Cooley showed an early aptitude for the violin. Shortly after his family moved West to escape the ravages of the Great Depression, Cooley struck out for Hollywood. At first, he paid the bills as a day laborer and card shark (his nickname “Spade” arose from a poker game in which he got three straight flushes, all spades), but soon his fiddle playing in the evening started to pay off. A sideman gig with country bandleader Jimmy Wakely led to a featured spot at the Venice Pier Ballroom in Santa Monica, one of the premier venues for the mix of country and western, swing, polka, and jazz that came to be known as western swing. Cooley hand-picked some of the best musicians in the area, gave them cowboy names, and his new band went on to set attendance records.

Unlike Bob Wills’ Playboys or Milton Brown’s Brownies, the other two bands responsible for the popularity of western swing in California, Cooley’s band didn’t have many rough edges. Cooley and his musicians were well-trained, and they showed it in their accomplished performances. The song featured in today’s post, a radio transcription from 1944, shows just how polished they were. Pedro DePaul’s accordion, and the trio of fiddles played by Cooley, Rex Call, and Cactus Soldi, interact smoothly and seamlessly, while Cooley’s star vocalist Tex Williams conveys the carpe diem ultimatum of the lyric perfectly.

Record companies came calling, as did the movies. Cooley had several hit records, hosted his own radio and TV shows, and appeared in over 50 films. He earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and became a multi-millionaire. Although Bob Wills might’ve argued the point, Cooley’s self-appointment as King of Western Swing was not too wide of the mark.

Despite his onscreen amiability and great showmanship, however, Cooley had a dark side…

He liked to drink, and he was not a nice drunk. He fired members of his band for petty infractions and once attempted to throw one of his vocalists off of the Santa Monica pier. When he fired Tex Williams over perceived loyalty issues, most of his band quit in solidarity with Williams. Popular with the public, Cooley was not too popular with his own musicians.

But Cooley saved his worst behavior for home. He left his first wife and their children for young singer Ella Mae Evans. Not a one-woman man, his philandering, along with his alcoholism and immense sexual jealousy, turned his marriage abusive. Once he even pushed his wife out of a moving car.

By the late 50s, Cooley’s star was on the wane. Western swing was long past its time of popularity and work dried up. Not one to rest on his laurels and incredibly rich in his retirement, Cooley envisioned building a water park on the edge of the Mohave Desert. He might’ve done it, too, had he not allowed his personal demons to grab hold.

On April 3, 1961, fired up on booze and obsessed with his wife’s imagined infidelities, Cooley beat, sexually assaulted, and burned Ella Mae nearly to death. Their daughter, arriving home in the early evening, was dragged by her father to see her mother. Cooley pointed a pistol at his daughter’s head and told her he was going to make her watch as he killed her mother. This particular horror didn’t come to pass; by this time, Ella Mae was already dead.

Cooley was tried and convicted of murder. During the trial, he repeatedly collapsed and burst into tears, professing his love for his wife. Sentenced to 25 years in prison, Cooley’s career reached its inglorious end.

Or almost. In 1969, possibly due to the influence of Governor Ronald Reagan (an old cowboy movie compatriot), Spade Cooley was pardoned by the state. Four months before he was scheduled to leave prison, Cooley was released in order to play a benefit. After playing three songs to an appreciative crowd of 3,000 people, he walked offstage, had a heart attack, and died at age 59.

Spade Cooley’s personal shortcomings sometimes make it hard to remember his considerable achievements in music. Certainly, his reputation over the years has suffered because of them; Bob Wills has unquestionably ascended to the throne of King of Western Swing in the minds of most listeners. Fortunately, although Spade Cooley seemed to be a confused and often cruel man in his personal life, in his music he was cool, confident, and one of the greatest at what he did. That Spade Cooley can still be heard on “Better Do It Now,” back from the days when he was still the king.

Stonewall Jackson - I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water
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Stonewall Jackson — I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water

from Trouble and Me (1965)

This Country Sunday, a prison song from Stonewall Jackson, the hardcore honky tonker. (Not the Confederate general—though he’s named after him) The slinky guitar and garage organ in this tune are fantastic…

Hank Locklin - Hot Pepper Doll
39 plays

Hank Lockin — Hot Pepper Doll (RCA, 1968)

This Country Sunday, Hank Locklin brags about his girl, a ‘hot pepper doll’ he married down in Juarez, and her skills in the kitchen. Enough bad wordplay here to help yourself to seconds…

She makes me enchiladas, and tostadas
Hot frijoles, guacamole

She’s great at Mexican cooking
But everything she cooks is hot
I don’t know if it’s love or heartburn I’ve got…

Ten years before this release, Locklin released a whole album devoted to love affairs with girls from abroad, 1958’s Foreign Love, including tracks like ‘Geisha Girl,’ ‘Fraulein,’ ‘My Wild Irish Rose,’ ‘Filipino Baby’ and ‘Mexicali Rose.’

'Hot Pepper Doll' is another treat from the WFMU Beware of the Blog post on fuzzbox country. Get fuzzed

Red Sovine - Phantom 309
37,239 plays

Red SovinePhantom 309 (1967)

This Country Sunday we visit with the master of the truck-driving ballad, Woodrow Wilson “Red” Sovine. (He dropped the presidential reference on stage.) On this tune he sings of a traveller who thumbs down a semi on a stormy night. The driver who picks him up is ghost trucker Big Joe and his rig, the “Phantom 309.” Big Joe drops the hitchhiker at a truck stop, where, over a cup of coffee, the hitchhiker learns that Big Joe died years ago in a highway smashup, when he swerved to save a school bus full of kids.

Sovine was born in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1918. His mother taught him guitar, and he landed a gig at Charleston’s WCHS when he was 17. He formed his first band in the late 40s, picking up the unfortunate nickname “Old Syrup Sopper” due both to his sponsorship by a syrup company and his syrupy balladry.

He was about to quit on music when none other than Hank Williams intervened, landing him a better radio slot on Montgomery, Alabama’s WSFA, and a record deal to boot. Soon Sovine was performing on the country music radio show Louisiana Hayride. Within five years he’d scored a number of chart-topping hits and joined the Grand Ole Opry.

In the 60s, he began composing his trucker ballads, lik ‘Phantom 309,’ ‘Giddyup Go' and 'Teddy Bear.’ Tom Waits later adapted ‘Phantom 309’ as ‘Big Joe And Phantom 309,’ from the Nighthawks at the Diner sessions. Red died of a heart attack at the wheel of his Ford van in 1980, while driving through Nashville.

Vernon Wray - When I Start Drinkin'
10 plays

Vernon Wray — When I Start Drinking

from Wasted (1972)

Hard-livin’ harmonies laid down in a Tucson shack with an 8-track. This desert jewel has now resurfaced with a vinyl reissue from Sebastian Speaks. It formerly existed only as an ultra-rare 400-record pressing by Wray’s record label, Vermillion Records, and copies were reportedly sold only at shows in the Tucson area.

Vernon’s younger brother Link Wray was the musical star of the family, a legendary guitarist who supposedly ‘invented’ the power chord in the 1950s, and the reason Pete Townsend picked up a guitar. Vernon never got as famous as Link, though he played in several iterations of his brother’s band. Along the way he worked as a taxi driver, grocery store owner and recording studio manager, at his own ‘Wray’s Shack 3-Track.’

In 1972 he moved from the family compound in Maryland to Tucson, taking a wall of his Maryland studio with him, and building a new studio around it, with eight tracks rather than three. There, he recorded this brightly melancholy collection.

Listen to that beautiful steel guitar. And that forlorn harmony. Makes a man want a beer, don’t it? Hell, why not…it’s Country Sunday.
Jackson Stonewall - Waterloo - (J.D.Loudermilk-M.Wilkin)
20 plays

Stonewall Jackson — Waterloo (1959)

This Country Sunday, we’ve got a hard-drivin’ barroom stomp from Stonewall Jackson. It was his biggest hit, spending five weeks at the top of the country & western charts in 1959, the same year Johnny Horton's historical number 'Battle of New Orleans' topped the charts. Riding on the success of this single, Billboard voted Jackson 1959's most promising country & western male vocalist.

Stonewall Jackson was born in North Carolina during the Great Depression, and was indeed named after the Confederate general, who he claims to be his ancestor. After his father died, mama carted the family off to her brother’s land in south Georgia, where the young Jackson took up farming, logging and, at age 17, songwriting.

In 1956 he drove his logging truck up to Nashville, where he scored an audition with Judge George D. Hay, originator of the Grand Ole Opry radio show. In November that year, he was up on stage at the Ryman Auditorium, and in 1958 he released his breakthrough hit, the George-Jones-penned prison ballad ‘Life to Go,’ followed shortly by ‘Waterloo.’