Red Simpson/David Bowie Tribute

Shame on Zero to 180 for not celebrating Red Simpson‘s musical legacy as a pioneer of the “Bakersfield Sound” until now – after his spirit has already left this mortal plane.

I’m afraid Simpson’s passing might have gotten overlooked in all the media attention given to the unexpected loss of David Bowie.  In a playful nod to both artists, Zero to 180 thought it would be fun to feature Simpson’s last charting hit, “The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver” (#99) from 1979:

“The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver”     Red Simpson     1979

“The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver” would first be released in 1976 on Vancouver label, Portland Records, and then again three years later to much greater commercial acclaim on Nashville-based K.E.Y. Records.

1976 release                                             1979 re-boot

Red Simpson 45-aRed Simpson 45-b

I just saw the trailer for the 2014 documentary, Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound, and one key point really hit home:  1960s Nashville-based country was primarily “sit down” music, while the principal aim of the ‘Bakersfield Sound’ was about getting folks to dance.  Red Simpson is one of the principal architects of the Bakersfield Sound – although he does not always get proper recognition in this regard.

Worth noting that (1) Red’s professional songwriting career goes back to the Korean War era, and (2) Simpson did not actually write his biggest hit “I’m a Truck” but did, in fact, write tons of even better tunes — see special Red Simpson feature below.

1966 Capitol debut                                      1966 follow-up LP

Red Simpson LP-aRed Simpson LP-b

Red Simpson tributes from Rolling Stone, CMT, Billboard & The Bakersfield CalifornianRed Simpson’s own website is also a great source for chart and songwriting info.

Red Simpson:  Songwriter

1975 Dutch Compilation LPRed Simpson LP-c

Burton & Mooney’s Diesel Classic

I once played a sweet little instrumental by James Burton and Ralph Mooney on an all-truck-driving radio show, even though it’s not actually a “trucker tune” — and yet nobody called me out on it, because the song – “Corn Pickin‘ – fit like a glove.  Later when I “back-announced” the set over the air, I re-named the song “Corn Pickin’ and Rig Ridin'” – to my great relief, the switchboard at WKHS did not light up in anger.   This was in 2004.

James Burton & Ralph Mooney LP

I happened to be checking the Washington Post website on March 23, 2011 when I was stunned to see Ralph Mooney’s name at the top of the home page — as one of the top “trending” stories!  As it turned out, Mooney – one of the “chief architects of the Bakersfield sound” – had left us at the age of 82.  The Post’s Melissa Bell was kind enough to add my Ralph Mooney recommendation to her musical tribute, the aforementioned “Corn Pickin'” from Burton and Mooney’s 1968 LP collaboration, Corn Pickin’ and Slick Slidin’.  But then that audio clip disappeared from YouTube and never returned.  Until a fortnight ago!

“Corn Pickin’ and Slick Slidin'”     James Burton & Ralph Mooney     1968

From a “musical acrobatics” standpoint, this is not particularly ‘flash’ guitar work — and yet the relaxed exchange between the two accomplished musicians is supremely satisfying.  John Beland of the Flying Burrito Brothers, in his review for Amazon.com (entitled “Ground Zero for the Bakersfield Sound of the 60s”) preaches the gospel:

“This album was my bible for Tele[caster] playing … Recorded at Capitol in the mid-60s, this album, while perhaps sounding corny to some, laid down a true blueprint for west coast country playing.”

At the time of release, Billboard would give the album a “four-star” review in its February 17, 1968 edition.

A-side                                                              B-side

James Burton & Ralph Mooney 45-aJames Burton & Ralph Mooney 45-b

Sadly, this is only the 16th Zero to 180 piece to feature a truck driving song

“I’ve Got a Happy Heart”: Love’s Bullet-Proof Armor

Yesterday’s piece about Mayf Nutter featured a link to the January 13, 1973 edition of Billboard, that happened to include an adjacent news item that named all the artists who played with Buck Owens at a recent Christmas event in Bakersfield:

“Buck Owens and his group drew more than 5,000 with some turned away at the Toys for Tots program in Bakersfield.  On the show with him were the Buckaroos, Mayf Nutter, Jack Lebsock, Freddie Hart, the Bakersfield Brass, Tony Booth, the Ray Sisters, Susan Raye, and a few others.”

Susan Raye’s name immediately brought to mind her 1971 radio-friendly country pop hit, “I’ve Got a Happy Heart” and its memorable chorus — they sure don’t write lines like these in country music anymore:

I’ve got a happy heart, I feel like I could almost fly
I think that if someone shot me, I wouldn’t even die

As it turns out, “I’ve Got a Happy Heart” was penned by Bakersfield’s own, Buck Owens, along with Pat Levely, and issued on 1971 album, Pitty Pitty Patter (#6 country).  Ms. Raye would not only record the song again in late 1971 for 1972’s, I’ve Got a Happy Heart LP (#8 country) but once more in March 1973 for a duets album with Buck, Good Old Days (#29 country).

Susan Raye 45

Musical Roll Call pt. 2: “You Can’t Wynn Stewart”

People readily associate Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Red Simpson with the legendary Bakersfield Sound, but not enough people associate the great Wynn Stewart,  as well.  Wynn’s musical roll call – “You Can’t Wynn Stewart” – playfully uses the names of country music notables (e.g., “She’ll hurt your Pride, Charley … Johnny, she’ll spend all your Cash”) to scare away potential rivals for the affection of his sweetheart.

Someone on YouTube put together a great accompanying video for this song:

That’s the late great Ralph Mooney playing pedal steel on a song that was recorded in 1969 and released on Wynn’s You Don’t Care What Happens to Me LP from 1970 on the Capitol label – home of the Bakersfield Sound.  Amazingly, this surefire winner of a song never enjoyed single release, not even as a B-side:

Wynn Stewart

Musician and recording credits for the album:

Tommy Collins, Russ Hansen, John Wakely, Bobby George, Dale Noe, 
Glenn Keener, Al Bruneau & Clarence White - guitar
Ralph Mooney - steel guitar
Bobby Austin, Red Wooten, Stanley Puls & Chuck Berghofer - bass
Helen Price, Archie Francis & Sam Goldstein - drums
Larry Muhoberac & Bob Pierce - piano
Earl Ball - piano/percussion
Recorded:
1968 & 1969 - Capitol Recording Studio - Hollywood