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.
“[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.