In the Country of Country, Part II
My post about country radio this past weekend made me want to pick up The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country, Joel Whitburn's valuable chronicle of the country charts from 1944. The first place I looked was at the list of Number One songs, and found a few notable ones that topped the country chart in Aprils gone by.
1994: "Piece of My Heart"/Faith Hill. This song was mentioned in the comment to my country radio post, and I agree with the guy who said it's pretty ridiculous for Faith Hill, who never appears to actually sweat, to attempt a Janis Joplin tune.
1992: "She Is His Only Need"/Wynonna Judd. A positively gorgeous love song, and probably the best thing she ever recorded, although "Girls With Guitars" is pretty good, too.
1984: "Don't Make It Easy for Me"/Earl Thomas Conley. His voice wasn't much, but his band was great--instrumentally, few country performers of the era seemed to be striving harder for interesting sounds. It paid off, too, with 17 Number Ones in 21 releases between 1982 and 1989.
1983: "We've Got Tonight"/Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton. During 1983, I was the music director at a country station, KDTH in Dubuque, Iowa. We played the hell out of this, even though it twangs not a whit.
1981: "Old Flame"/Alabama. The county fair in my hometown booked Alabama in the winter of 1981 for the fair that July. Nobody knew that by then, they'd have two more number-ones and be the biggest thing in country music. Pretty good deal at $5 a ticket.
1978: "Ready for the Times to Get Better"/Crystal Gayle. One of those non-twangy, shoulda-been-a-crossover records of hers.
1977: "Lucille"/Kenny Rogers. There are not words enough to express how much a lot of us HATED this record when it crossed to pop. And none that explain precisely how it happened, either.
1972: "My Hang-Up Is You"/Freddie Hart. This is what I meant when I said there are country records I got by osmosis thanks to the radio stations my parents were listening to. Freddie Hart had a way with a song, though. His 1971 hit, "Easy Lovin'," is one of the unknown gems of the decade, and "My Hang-Up Is You" is pretty close to a rewrite. Well, if it ain't broke . . .
1970: "Tennessee Bird Walk"/Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan. Perhaps you had to be there.
1968: "Fist City"/Loretta Lynn. Tammy Wynette might want to stand by her man, but Loretta would put him in the hospital if he pushed her to it. Listening to her singles from the mid 60s to the mid 70s--"Don't Come Home a-Drinkin' with Lovin' on Your Mind," "One's on the Way," and the mega-controversial "The Pill"--is like listening to the female half of Nixon's Silent Majority waking up to a new day.