Country & Western Hit Parade 1955
Nobody remasters Golden Age country music better than Germany’s Bear Family Records. The admirable label doesn’t simply reissue albums, it also compiles the best single- and multi-artist collections out there.
One of its latest is the ongoing “Country & Western Hit Parade” series, subtitled “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music.” Each volume covers a year from 1945 to 1970, and the just-released second installment comprises 1951-55. Here are a half-dozen highlights from 1955, arguably one of country’s best years:
“I Feel Better All Over (More Than Anywhere’s Else)” was Ferlin Husky’s first solo hit, going to No. 6 on the country charts. According to Colin Escott’s liner notes in the exquisite 72-page hardback minibook accompanying the CD, Husky’s backing group The Hush Puppies probably were Nashville studio musicians, and infused the tune with a bit of rockabilly via slapped bass and drums.
Jimmy Martin formed a short-lived trio with the Osborne Brothers and recorded six songs for RCA Victor in Nashville, one of which was “20/20 Vision,” a track recorded by Gene Autry only a few months prior. The tune, which the Osbornes initially felt wouldn’t work for them, was revived by Dan Hicks in 1972 and covered again by Charlie Haden in 2008 (with guest vocalist Bruce Hornsby). Bob Dylan even played the song on the “Eyes” installment of his “Theme Time Radio Hour,” remarking: “Jimmy Martin — say what you will about him, but he was no jive turkey.”
“Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young” was Faron Young’s first No. 1 hit. It was written by Texas DJ Joe Allison (as was “20/20 Vision”), who went on to host television’s “Town Hall Party” in Los Angeles as well as sign Willie Nelson to his first recording contract. Young reportedly disliked the song, saying Capitol Records twisted his arm to record it. Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit put their spin on the number in 1984.
Eddie Arnold raised more than a few eyebrows and even the dander of many country purists by teaming with easy-listening orchestrator Hugo Winterhalter to update “Cattle Call,” a Tex Owens song Arnold first recorded in 1944 with his Tennessee Plowboys. It was a huge success and foretold the smoother Nashville Sound he would pioneer.
“So Lovely Baby” was the first single for Cajun-brother duo Rusty and Doug (Kershaw, pictured above on the CD’s cover), issued just after small-town producer J.D. Miller persuaded them to switch from French to English and leased them to Acuff-Rose’s Hickory label. The song, boasting a deliriously exuberant beat and peppered by pianist Wiley Barkdull’s bass vocal, went to No. 14 on the country charts. Chet Atkins appears on guitar.
In March and July of 1955, key members of Hank Snow’s Rainbow Ranch Boys convened with Chet Atkins to overdub themselves instrumentally onto eight Jimmie Rodgers recordings. “In the Jailhouse Now No. 2” probably was the most successful of the bunch, with guitar, steel guitar, bass and fiddle fitting like a glove with the old vocal, guitar and banjo that had been recorded in 1930.
1. FESS PARKER: Ballad Of Davy Crockett
2. FERLIN HUSKY: I Feel Better All Over (More Than Anywhere’s Else)
3. JIMMY WORK: Makin’ Believe
4. WEBB PIERCE: In The Jailhouse Now
5. EDDY ARNOLD: Just Call Me Lonesome
6. JIMMY MARTIN & THE OSBORNE BROTHERS: 20/20 Vision
7. BUD DECKELMAN: Daydreamin’
8. CHARLIE FEATHERS: Peepin’ Eyes
9. LOUVIN BROTHERS: When I Stop Dreaming
10. JIMMY DEAN: Big Blue Diamonds
11. GEORGE JONES: Why Baby Why
12. JOHNNY CASH: Cry! Cry! Cry!
13. RAY PRICE: Run Boy
14. LITTLE JIMMY DICKENS: We Could
15. FLATT & SCRUGGS: Before I Met You
16. HYLO BROWN: Lost To A Stranger
17. CARL SMITH: There She Goes
18. FARON YOUNG: Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young
19. TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD: Sixteen Tons
20. EDDY ARNOLD: The Cattle Call
21. JIM REEVES: Yonder Comes A Sucker
22. HANK SNOW: Let Me Go, Lover!
23. ERNEST TUBB: The Yellow Rose Of Texas
24. WEBB PIERCE: I Don’t Care
25. PORTER WAGONER: A Satisfied Mind
26. WEBSTER BROTHERS & CARL BUTLER: Angel Band
27. ARTHUR SMITH & DON RENO: Feudin’ Banjos
28. RUSTY AND DOUG: So Lovely Baby
29. ELVIS PRESLEY: I Forgot To Remember To Forget
30. MARTY ROBBINS: Maybellene
31. JIMMIE RODGERS: In The Jailhouse Now No. 2
Total time: 1:20:24