CHARTBUSTERS USA-SPECIAL COUNTRY EDITION.

CHARTBUSTERS USA-SPECIAL COUNTRY EDITION.

It was back in June 1999 that Ace Records released Chartbusters USA Vol.1. Little did they realise that this occasional series would still be going strong over seventeen years later. That’s quite a feat in the increasingly competitive compilation market.

What has been crucial to the continued success of Chartbusters USA series, is the quality and consistency of music. These are lovingly curated compilations. That was the case with Chartbusters USA Vol.2 which was released in January 2002. Here was a compilation that oozed quality. So Chartbusters USA Vol. 3 when it was released in March 2003. Ace Records seemed to have found a successful formula for a long-running compilation series.

Most record companies would’ve turned Chartbusters USA into an annual event. Not Ace Records though. This wasn’t going to be a compilation series that reached Volume 22. Instead, Chartbusters USA was about to become an occasional series.

Five years later, and the next instalment in the Chartbusters USA series was released in June 2009. The series made a welcome return with a Special Edition. This was Chartbusters USA Special Edition-Sunshine Pop. It was a welcome reminder of this popular series.

Despite the glowing reviews and popularity of the latest instalment, Ace Records again eschewed the temptation to make the series an annual occurrence. Instead, Chartbusters USA would remain an occasional series. 

Then after seven year absence, Ace Records announced the release another in the Chartbusters USA series. Just like the previous instalment, it was another Special Edition. This time, though, Ace Records had turned their attention to country music on Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition. It’s the latest instalment in this long running and occasional compilation series.

For Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition, compiler Tony Rounce chose twenty-four tracks released between 1963 and 1969. This includes songs from country music royalty. There’s no bigger names than George Jones, Hank Williams Jr, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and Merle Haggard and The Strangers. That is not forgetting Marty Robbins, Tammy Wynette, Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Jeannie C. Riley and Buck Owens. These songs are just a few of the artists on a compilation that contains hits aplenty.

In total,twenty-three of these songs reached the top ten in the US Country charts. Twelve of these songs reached number one. Each of these songs crossed over, and were a hit in the US Billboard 100. Four singles reached the top ten, with one topping the Billboard 100. That was Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley PTA, which topped the US Country and US US Billboard 100 in 1968. It’s just one of the familiar songs that feature on Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition. They were recorded by some of the biggest names to set foot in a Nashville Studio.

This includes George Jones, the man who for the latter part of his life was known as: “the greatest living country singer”. He opens Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition with his 1964 single, The Race Is On. It was released on United Artists, and reached number three in the US Country charts and ninety-six in the US Billboard 100. A year later, The Race Is On lent its name to a new George Jones album in April 1965. Upon its release, it reached number  three in the US Country charts, and became the most successful album of George Jones’ career so far.

In 1968, Jerry Lee Lewis was in the process of reinventing himself as a country singer. It had been a long, hard slog for The Killer after his fall from grace in 1957. He had signed to Smash Records, an imprint of Mercury in 1963 and began his comeback. The American public were unforgiving and Jerry Lee Lewis’ music failed to find an audience.

By 1968, his hard work and persistence was paying off. Jerry Lee Lewis released what was billed as his comeback album, Another Place, Another Time. One of the singles released from the album was What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me) on the Smash label. Its melancholy sound struck a nerve with record buyers across North America. The single reached number one in the Canadian Country charts; two in the US Country Charts and ninety-four in the US Billboard 100. After ten years, The Killer was on comeback trail, thanks in part to the melancholy strains of What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me).

In 1964, Hank Williams Jr’s career was just beginning. He had decided to follow in the footsteps of his famous father. Already comparisons were being drawn between Hank Williams Jr and his famous father. Meanwhile, the doubters wondered whether the family name would weigh heavy on Hank Williams Jr’s shoulders? That proved not be the case. Long Gone Lonesome Blues showed that musically Hank Williams Jr was his father’s song. When it was released as a single on MGM 1964, and reached number four in the US Country charts and sixty-seven in the US Billboard 100. This was just the start of a long and successful career for Hank Williams Jr, where he would release over 106 singles and fifty-six albums. These albums went on to sell over seventy million copies, and in the process prove the doubters wrongs.

By 1968, country music was changing and Glen Campbell was at the vanguard of the countrypolitan sound. Two features of this new sound were smooth vocals and strings. These pop stylings feature on Glen Campbell’s 1968 single I Wanna Live. This John D. Loudermilk composition was a call for tolerance. When it was released on Capitol in 1968, this countrypolitan ballad waltzed hopefully, and into the charts. It reached thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and gave Glen Campbell the first of five US Country number one singles.

Adultery and murder have long been the subject of country songs. Songwriter Jack Clements managed to combine both subjects into Miller’s Cave. This was covered by Bobby Bare covered in 1964 at RCA’s Nashville Studio. His vocal is a mixture of country and folk, as the lyrics come to life. When Miller’s Cave was then released on RCA, and eventually, reached twenty-three in the US Billboard 100 and four on the US Country charts. This was one of a string of hits Bobby Bare enjoyed between 1962 and 1970.

Fifty years after the release of David Houston’s 1966 single Almost Persuaded, controversy sounds the song. Rick Hall remembers driving Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts from Muscle Shoals, Alabama to Nashville to let Billy Sherrill hear Almost Persuaded. Maybe he would be interested in recording the song? Alas, their journey was a wasted one. That however, wasn’t the end of the story.

Some time, later Rick Hall was listening to a country radio station and heard a song entitled Almost Persuaded. Billy Sherrill and Glenn Sutton had used the title and written a new song. When it was released by Epic in 1966, this confessional ballad made it to number twenty-four in the US Billboard 100 and number on the US Country charts. For David Houston, Almost Persuaded kickstarted his career

Another giant of country music is singer and songwriter, Marty Robbins. He enjoyed a long and successful career. In 1963, he wrote and recorded Begging You To Stay. This heart-wrenching ballad was released as a single on Columbia later in 1963. Although it only reached seventy-four in the US Billboard 100, it topped the US Country charts. This was the tenth of sixteen number ones Marty Robbins enjoyed during a career that spanned four decades.

Tammy Wynette’s career began in 1966. Success came quickly for her, when Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad gave Tammy Wynette a top ten single and album in 1967. However, in 1968 she released a song that would become synonymous with her, D-I-V-O-R-C-E. The single and album topped the US Country charts and crossed over. Suddenly, Tammy Wynette was one of the hottest properties in country music. 

She returned in 1969 with the ballad Singing My Song. This tale of heartbreak had been penned by Billy Sherrill and Glenn Sutton with Tammy Wynette. When it was released in 1969 it topped the US Country charts and reached number seventy-five in the US Billboard. For Tammy Wynette this was the sixth US Country number one of her career. It certainly wasn’t the last. Tammy Wynette enjoyed twenty US Country number ones between 1966 and 1976, making her one of the most successful country singers.

Eddy Arnold’s career began back in 1937. By 1965, he was signed to RCA and was regarded as one of the finest practitioners of the Nashville Sound. He was also one of the most popular country artists. He had enjoyed twenty US Country number one singles. When Eddy Arnold released a hurt-filled cover of Hank Cochran’s Make The World Go Away it reached number six on the US Billboard 100 and topped the US Country charts. This hurt-filled ballad gave Eddy Arnold the twenty-first US Country number one single. Eventually, Eddy Arnold sold eighty-five million records, a total that’s only surpassed George Jones.

Charley Pride was the footballer turned to country music singer. His career was beginning to flourish, and had enjoyed seven consecutive top ten hits in the US Country charts. However, none of these singles had topped the chart. That was until Charley Pride released All I Have to Offer You (Is Me) in June 1969. Not only did it top the US Country charts, but reached ninety-one in the US Billboard. This heartfelt ballad was also Charley Pride’s first single to crossover. For Charley Pride this was just the start. He became one of the most successful country artists of the seventies.

Charley Pride was the footballer turned to country music singer. By 1969, his career was beginning to flourish. Already he had enjoyed seven consecutive top ten hits in the US Country charts. However, none of these singles had topped the chart. That was until Charley Pride released All I Have to Offer You (Is Me) in June 1969. Not only did it top the US Country charts, but reached ninety-one in the US Billboard. This heartfelt ballad was also Charley Pride’s first single to crossover. For Charley Pride this was just the start. He became one of the most successful country artists of the seventies and early eighties.

When Jeannie C. Riley released Harper Valley PTA on Plantation Records in 1968, it transformed her career. The single topped both the US Country and US Billboard 100 charts. This Tom T. Hall penned song was akin to a mini-drama, where Jeannie C. Riley exposes the hypocrisy of the Harper Valley PTA. Within four weeks this country classic was certified gold. The following year, Jeannie C. Riley the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and was the Country Music Association’s single of the year. Eventually, Harper Valley PTA sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide. For Jeannie C. Riley this was just the start. 

Later in 1969, Jeannie C. Riley hosted her own major network variety special. Then as the seventies dawned, the commercial success continued. During the late-seventies, Jeannie C. Riley was a familiar face on televisions. There were also offers from Hollywood to star in films. By then, Jeannie C. Riley was a born again Christian, and started singing gospel. This lead to her distancing herself from the song that transformed her career just a decade earlier.

Jimmy Dean’s The First Thing Ev’ry Morning (And The Last Thing Ev’ry Night) closes Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition. It was released on Columbia in 1965, and reached number one on the US Country charts and number ninety-one on the US Billboard 100. It’s another example of the countrypolitan sub-genre, which is country music with pop stylings. There’s even a nod Dean Martin stylistically, as the song takes on an easy listening singalong style. Sadly, Jimmy Dean only enjoyed two more hit singles, and never again enjoyed another US Country number one. A new breed of country singers were about to make their presence felt, as country music continued to evolve.

Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition is a snapshot of country music between 1963 and 1969. During this period, the Nashville Sound peaked in popularity and countrypolitan sound began to take centre-stage. Country music also began to crossover and reach a new audience. Each of the songs that feature on Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition crossover to some extent. Most were just minor crossover hits, apart from  Roger Miller’s Chug-A-Lug, The Statler Brothers’ Flowers On The Wall and Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley PTA. However, as the sixties gave way to the seventies, country music’s crossover appeal grew. The artists on Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition had sown the seeds.

Many of the artists on Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition would go on to enjoy commercial success throughout the seventies. Among them, were George Jones, Hank Williams Jr, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Billie Jo Spears, Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride and Jeannie C. Riley. Country music’s crossover appeal grew, with more and more country singers reaching the upper reaches of the US Billboard 100. Belatedly, country music was reaching a wider audience.

Nowadays, country music is as popular as ever. Partly, that’s because country music has continued to evolve and stay relevant. 

However, it’s often the music from country music’s past that a new generation of record buyers discover. Often this begins with discovering one artist. This often leads them to embark upon a voyage of discovery through country music’s history. The same can be said of Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition.

A copy of Ace Records’ Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition could well be the start of a musical voyage of discovery

through the Chartbusters USA series. Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition may well even be the start of lifelong love affair with country music.

CHARTBUSTERS USA-SPECIAL COUNTRY EDITION.

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