“Baby Rocked Her Dolly”: Frankie (Miller) & Johnny (Horton)

Merle Kilgore really brings the pathos on an original composition that absolutely could have come from the canon of Johnny Cash:

“Baby Rocked Her Dolly” was also covered by Starday labelmates, Frankie Miller (1960) and Red Sovine (1967).  However, for his own version, Kilgore wisely decides to begin — just as George Martin did on “She Loves You” — with the chorus, and to great effect.

Baby Rocked Her Dolly 45Thanks to Nathan D. Gibson, author of The Starday Story:  The House That Country Music Built for the back story on this song:

“[Starday co-founder, Don] Pierce and [singer, Frankie] Miller had found success with a clean, wholesome image, and Miller continued to record down-home, earthy songs.  With his second release after “Family Man,” Miller again found himself in the national charts, this time with ‘Baby Rocked Her Dolly’ reaching Billboard’s #15 spot.  According to Miller, “We definitely tried to keep a family image.  ‘Black Land Farmer.’  ‘Family Man.’  The next one we had was ‘Reunion.’  And then ‘Baby Rocked Her Dolly’ which was a good chart song for me, one that Merle Kilgore wrote.  He originally wrote it for Johnny Horton.  Well, I was gonna record next week, and we was doing the Louisiana Hayride one Saturday.  Johnny was in the restroom and I went in and asked him, ‘Johnny, you got any songs, boy?  I need some material.  I’m fixin’ to record next week.’  He said, ‘I got a good song here for you.  Merle Kilgore wrote it for me but I’m not going to be able to cut it anytime soon.’  So he taught it to me backstage at the Louisiana Hayride and I recorded it the next week.  That was another Bradley’s [Owen Bradley’s Quonset hut] cut.”

“Baby Rocked Her Dolly” was included on Merle Kilgore’s 1963 Starday LP, There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills.

“Johnny Zero”: Reduced to Nothing

Recorded by Merle Kilgore in early November, 1963 at Columbia Recording Studio in Nashville and released January 1964 as a single by MGM:

Johnny Zero 45

 

 

 

 

 

Does Merle Kilgore sound like Johnny Cash because they were such good friends, or were Merle and Johnny good friends because their musical styles were so compatible?

“Johnny Zero” (co-written with Don Christopher) can also be found on MGM country compilation album, Great Country & Western Stars.

MGM country LP

“A Woman’s World”: Feminist or Traditionalist?

Teresa Brewer – whose duet with Mickey Mantle, “I Love Mickey,” reached #87 in 1956 – would later record ever so briefly for Shelby Singleton.  June 1968’s “A Woman’s World” was the first of but two singles Brewer recorded for SSS International:

The song initially gives the impression of threatening to challenge the status quo regarding gender roles and division of responsibilities, as the singer sobs over the plight of a homemaker’s isolation and lack of fulfillment.  “The woman’s born to make the man a home,” begins the second verse, “You cook and clean and sew all the time he’s gone.”  But somehow, just the sight of him entering their domicile after a long day’s work is enough to make her forget all about the deep structural inequities of their relationship.

Who wrote this song, I wonder – and was it a man?  I am hoping to obtain the answer to that question without leaving my seat, but alas, the Internet has let me down.  So I go fetch the record, half expecting to see the name “Tom T. Hall” when, lo and behold, it turns out to be Teresa Brewer herself!  Or wait – is it?  According to the songwriting credit on the 1969 Plantation compilation album, Country Gold Volume 1, Brewer is the song’s composer.  But according to the 45 image that I just now retrieved and attached to this blog piece, the tune’s creator is Ben Peters (a man – just as I had suspected).   The truth?

Teresa Brewer 45“A Woman’s World” was paired with “Ride-a-Roo,” a large rubber ball toy that kids bounce upon (also known worldwide as a space hopper, moon hopper, skippyball & hoppity hop).

Ride-a-Roo poster(Also known as a kangaroo jockey ball)

Commercially speaking, “A Woman’s World” did not do well, unfortunately — according to 45Cat, “this record did not chart.”  As one YouTube contributor astutely observes, this song finds Teresa Brewer very much in the Sandy Posey mold.  How interesting to consider that just five years hence we will find Teresa in London embracing the hard rock sound of Oily Rags.

The liner notes for the 2-disc anthology of Shelby Singleton’s Plantation and SSS labels, Plantation Gold, confirm Ben Peters as the tune’s author.

Teresa Brewer & MuppetsTeresa Brewer with Miss Piggy & Kermit – July 1977

 

“Legend of the Big Steeple”: Spectacular Spire

Nice tremolo effect on the piano in this bittersweet tale (written by Charles Underwood) about how the good people eventually got their steeple:

The song, issued on an RCA 45 both in the States and overseas, was also included on Country Feeling, the second  of 4 albums [!] released in 1969 for Porter.

Country Feeling LP

                             Staggering Output:  A Country Music Thing

Porter Wagoner wasn’t the only country artist who released multiple albums a year; nevertheless his output in the mid-60s to early-70s was pretty prodigious:

Year          # of albums
1965          3
1966          5 + gospel album + hits package
1967          2
1968          5
1969          4
1970          5 + 1 hits package
1971          4 + 2 hits packages
1972          5
1973          4
1974          3

 

“Comin’ Down”: B-Side? Try Song of the Year

In July 1974 Dave Dudley was the featured guest on an episode of (Your Local Navy Recruiter Presents) Navy Hoedown.  On this broadcast, host Hal Durham appears to be giving Dave Dudley a good poke in the ribs when – after listening to uptempo ballad, “Comin’ Down” – he inquires, “So, was that a side-B song for you?”  How cathartic it is, then, for the listener when Dudley calmly responds, “No, that was a recording that won Song of the Year”:

Comin’ Down – Dave Dudley

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Comin’ Down” by Dave Dudley.]

Navy Hoedown LP

Mercury released “Comin’ Down” b/w “Six-O-One” (both songs written by Dave Dudley)   in February 1970 – on the heels of “Pool Shark” (written by Tom T. Hall) released the month before.

Comin' Down - Dave Dudley 45

“Mary Anne”: UK Countrypolitan

Legendary producer/engineer, Glyn Johns (The Who, Faces, Belly, Joe Satriani) gets behind the mic to sing this tuneful slice of British-flavored countrypolitan, “Mary Anne“:

Produced, arranged and conducted by – not Johns – but rather, Tony Meehan, drummer of premier UK instrumental outfit, The Shadows, and released in 1965 on Immediate, the independent label started by Rolling Stones’ manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, along with Tony Calder.

Mary Anne - Glyn Johns 45

Johns’ one and only Immediate 45 has commanded healthy prices at auction in recent years.

“Hicktown”: Place from Which No One Escapes

“Hicktown” appears to be the B-side of an updated “Sixteen Tons” single released on Capitol in 1965.  Tennessee Ernie Ford sings of a down-on-its-luck place that holds its destitute and demoralized residents captive, unable to leave.  Sounds terrifying, actually:

Hicktown 45

Hank Thompson: Western Swing’s Dean of Diction

In my prior post about the Nashville Chowdown LP, I mentioned that back in the early 70s jazz singer Blossom Dearie’s  “exceptional annunciation” was being put to good use in the singing rice-ipe radio ads.  If Blossom Dearie had a male counterpart, that person would undoubtedly be Hank Thompson, whose singing style is distinguished by equally excellent articulation.

Someone once humorously described Hank and his band, the Brazos Valley Boys, as a honky tonk band disguised as a western swing outfit – funny because it’s true.  Anyway, here’s one of Hank’s more playful songs – from an earlier time in American popular culture, lyrically speaking – although I have to admit I only just now learned that it is a cover of a Bud Alden & the Buckeroos 1956 recording.  This tune, “Squaws Along the Yukon,” was the A-side of a 1958 Capitol single (with Merle Travis on guitar) that was later included in Hank’s 1960 album, Most of All:

Talk about a classic cover:Six Pack o' Hank

Here’s a bonus video link to Hank’s live performance of “Six Pack to Go” at the Opry: