THE GOLDEN AGE OF AMERICAN POPULAR MUSIC: MORE COUNTRY HITS.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF AMERICAN POPULAR MUSIC: MORE COUNTRY HITS.

For many people, the golden age of country music was the late fifties and early sixties. During that period, country music provided the soundtrack to much of American life. Providing the soundtrack were giants of country music like Johnny Cash, Don Gibson, Carl Perkins, George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis and Marty Robbins. Their singles regularly topped the country charts and crossed over into the US Billboard 100.  Songs from each of these artists feature on a recently released compilation by Ace Records, The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits.

This is the long-awaited followup to The Golden Age Of American Country Music: The Country Hits, which was released back in 2008. Fast forward eight years, and The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits features another twenty-eight hits from some of the giants of country music. Essentially, The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits features a who’s who of country music. There’s also contributions from Jim Reeves, Patti Page, Stonewall Jackson, Ray Price, Bill Anderson and Carl Smith. Given the quality of music on The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits, choosing the highlights isn’t going to be easy. However, here goes.

Opening The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits is a true legend of country music, Jim Reeves. His recording career began in 1949. Since then, he had enjoyed a string of hit singles in the US Country charts, including two number one singles. Two became three when Gentleman Jim Reeves released Four Walls in on RCA Victor 1957. It was a thoughtful ballad which George Campbell and Marvin Moore penned. Unlike previous singles, Four Walls, a thoughtful ballad, crossed over into the US Billboard 100, where it reached twenty-seven. This was a first for a country single, and not for the first time was Jim Reeves a trailblazer in country music.

Between the late fifties and early seventies, Hank Locklin was one of the most successful country singers. The Florida born singer spent these years signed to RCA Victor, where he released Send Me The Pillow You Dream On in 1958. This was a song he had written and recorded in 1951. However, back then, the single failed commercially. Seven years later, and Send Me The Pillow You Dream On, with a vocal full of yearning gave Hank Locklin a hit single. It reached number five on the US Country charts, and number seventy-seven on the US Billboard 100. For Hank Locklin, it was a case of second time around.

Probably the best known country singer is Johnny Cash. In a career that spanned forty-nine years, The Man In Black released ninety-three albums that sold ninety-million copies. However, in 1958 released I Got Stripes as a single. It was penned by Johnny and Charlie Williams, and released on Columbia in 1958. I Got Stripes reached number four on the US Country charts, and number forty-three on the US Billboard 100. Fittingly, when Johnny Cash released At Folsom Prison in 1968, I Got Stripes featured on this classic album.

Eventually, Don Gibson became one of the biggest names in country music. However, success didn’t come easy for Don Gibson. He endured some lean years at MGM, before he Sweet Dreams reached number nine in the US Country charts in 1956. While this kickstarted his career, Don Gibson’s fortunes improved when he moved from MGM to RCA Victor. In 1958, Don released one of his own compositions Blue Blue Day as a single. It gave Don his second  number one on the US Country charts, and reached number twenty on the US Billboard 100. Blue Blue Day went on to feature on Don’s 1958 debut album Oh Lonesome Me. This was the first of forty albums Don Gibson released in a long and illustrious career.

George Jones is regarded by many as the greatest country singer. However, back in 1959, George Jones was just twenty-eight, and had been releasing singles since the early fifties. Since 1957, George Jones was signed to Mercury, and in 1959 released the piano driven Who Shot Sam as a single. It reached number seven in the US Country charts, and number ninety-three on the US Billboard 100. After this, George Jones went on to become one of the most successful country singers, enjoying nine country number one singles.

Hank Snow’s career began in thirties, when he was signed to RCA’s Canadian division. By the time he released Rockin’ Rollin’Ocean in 1960, Hank Snow was signed to RCA Victor, which was country music’s most successful label. Regularly artists signed to RCA topped the charts. However, the almost wistful Rockin’ Rollin’ Ocean stalled at just twenty-two in the US Country charts, and number eighty-seven on the US Billboard 100. It was a far cry from the fifties, when Hank Snow topped the US Country charts. Music had started to change since the birth of rock ’n’ roll.

In 1957, Sonny James released what’s undoubtably his best known single, Young Love. It was the first of twenty-six country number one singles Sonny James enjoyed. Three Years later, in 1960, Sonny released Jenny Lou, which stalled at twenty-two in the US Country charts, and number sixty-seven on the US Billboard 100. This was just a blip, and Sonny enjoyed went on to enjoy seventy-two hit singles, including sixteen consecutive number country number ones. The Southern Gentleman was one of the most successful artists of his generation,  and specialised in songs about the trials and tribulations of life, like Jenny Lou.

Without doubt, Skeeter Davis’ name will forever be in the annals of country music. She was one of the first female country singers, and paved the way for future generations. Skeeter Davis was also one of the first country singers to enjoy crossover appeal. Her music appealed to fans of country and pop. An example of this the heartfelt ballad I’m Saving My Love. It was released in 1963, on RCA Victor, and featured on the 1963 album Cloudy, With Occasional Tears. I’m Saving My Love reached number nine in the US Country charts, and number forty-one on the US Billboard 100.  Following I’m Saving My Love, Skeeter Davis’ enjoyed a commercial success right into the seventies, and was a popular live draw into the eighties. 

Texan born Bill Anderson was unlike many country singers. He came from a middle class background. However, this didn’t stop Bill Anderson enjoying a successful career. He released eighty singles during a career that spanned five decades. This included 8X10, which Bill wrote with Walter Haynes. It was released on Decca in 1963, and reached number two in the US Country charts, and number fifty-three on the US Billboard 100. This resulted in the tenth hit single of Bill Anderson’s long and illustrious career.

In 1958, Carl Smith was on a hot streak, and had enjoyed a string of successful singles. Many were penned by John Gluck and Diane Lampert. This included Your Name Is Beautiful, a beautiful, heartfelt paean. It was released on Columbia, and reached number six in the US Country charts, and number eighty on the US Billboard 100. For Carl Smith, this was the first crossover hot of his career. However, by the end of his career, Tennessee born Carl Smith had amassed thirty-five country hits and five crossover singles.

When Jerry Lee Lewis released a cover of Charlie Rich’s I’ll Make It All Up To You in 1958, he was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest names in music. Alas, it all came crashing down in the early sixties. However, when Sun released I’ll Make It All Up To You in 1958, the single  reached number nineteen  in the US Country charts, and number eighty-five on the US Billboard 100. Although this wasn’t the most successful single of The Killer’s career, it features an impassioned, reassuring vocal and is a hidden gem in Jerry Lee Lewis’ back-catalogue.

Marty Robbins’ cover of Melvin Endsley’s Singing The Blues closes The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits. Singing The Blues was released by Columbia in 1956, reaching number one on the US Country charts and number seventeen on the US Billboard 100. It’s one of the best versions of this oft-covered  and familiar track. It epitomises everything that’s good about country music. 

The same can be said of The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits. It was recently released by Ace Records, and is a welcome reminder of the golden age of American country music. Many of the giants and country music feature on the long-awaited followup to The Golden Age Of American Country Music: The Country Hits. There’s contributions from Johnny Cash, Don Gibson, Carl Perkins, George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis and Marty Robbins. That’s not forgetting Jim Reeves, Patti Page, Stonewall Jackson, Ray Price, Bill Anderson and Carl Smith. Each of these artists played an important part in the rise and rise of country music.

While the golden age of country music was the late fifties and early sixties, country music continued to be popular right into the 21st century. The majority of the twenty-eight artists on The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits went on to enjoy long and successful careers. Often their careers spanned four or five decades, and sometimes, even longer. Country music it seemed was here to stay. 

That’s the case today. While other musical genres crashed and burned, and disappeared without trace, country music has evolved and reinvented itself. By reinventing itself, country music has ensured that it stayed relevant. That was also the case back in the late fifties and early sixties, when the artists on The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits reinvented country music. Many artists gave country music crossover appeal, which introduced a whole new audience to the music coming out of Nashville. Little did they realise that they were enjoying what was the golden age of American country music. A reminder of that time can be found on The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits. It’s the perfect introduction to the golden age of American country music, and one of the best country compilations of 2016.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF AMERICAN POPULAR MUSIC: MORE COUNTRY HITS.

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