(Pictured: Country star George Jones in the 1970s.)
So I was looking through radio station music surveys at ARSA, as one does, and I found one from country station KCKN, AM 1340 in Kansas City, Kansas, dated October 30, 1970. Here’s a lot on it that echoes stuff we’ve talked about here recently, so let’s see how much of it we can get to before this post becomes too long for you to stand.
1. “For the Good Times”/Ray Price. On the country charts since 1952 and one of country’s biggest stars in the 1960s, Price crossed over to the Hot 100 11 times, and the beautiful “For the Good Times” went all the way to #11.
2. “Fifteen Years Ago”/Conway Twitty. As mentioned here just last week.
3. “It’s Only Make Believe”/Glen Campbell. Which, as I wrote in my Campbell tribute last summer, stomps Twitty’s original recording into a fine powder.
6. “Thank God and Greyhound”/Roy Clark. The first half is a lament by a man whose lover is leaving him; the second half goes in an entirely different direction. “Thank God and Greyhound” is the kind of country songcraft you don’t hear on the radio much anymore.
11. “Coal Miner’s Daughter”/Loretta Lynn. Not merely a landmark in the history of country, but a great song, period, regardless of genre or era. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is an authentically vivid picture of family life and family love.
12. “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”/Elvis Presley. Debuting on KCKN’s Fabulous 50 at this lofty position, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” didn’t make Billboard‘s country chart at all, but it went to #11 on the Hot 100.
13. “Snowbird”/Anne Murray. Her first American hit, and another highly successful pop crossover; it had reached #8 on the Hot 100 at the end of September.
16. “The Preacher and the Bear”/Jerry Reed. “The Preacher and the Bear” was the flipside of the better-known “Amos Moses,” which would become both a pop and country smash, and a cleaned-up version of a song that was, for a time, the most popular that the American recording industry had ever produced. In 1905, the original recording of “The Preacher and the Bear” by Arthur Collins spent 11 weeks at #1 according to Joel Whitburn’s accounting of the primordial charts. It sold two million copies, a figure not exceeded until the 1920s. Collins’ original refers to the preacher as a “coon” and uses an exaggerated black dialect—which, of course, Reed’s does not. As the racist genre of “coon songs” went, the original was pretty mild, but still.
19. “Morning”/Jim Ed Brown. I have mentioned before that “Morning” was a record my mother adored, so much so that one of us bought her the 45 for Christmas that year. Never mind the fact that it’s a fairly explicit cheatin’ song—it’s a beautiful one.
21. “A Good Year for the Roses”/George Jones. “A Good Year for the Roses” (covered by Elvis Costello in 1981) tells a poignant and powerful story through a series of images and observations, but requires us to interpret them. It’s a superb piece of writing—again, the kind of songcraft that’s largely missing from mainstream country and pop music today—and would probably be the greatest thing George Jones ever did were it not for his 1980 hit “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
37. “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”/Johnny Cash. Like “A Good Year for the Roses,” “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” leaves its meaning for us to discern, although I’ve been listening to it for 47 years now and I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it. Like “For the Good Times,” it was written by Kris Kristofferson.
44. “I’ve Cried”/Crystal Gayle. Her first chart hit, as mentioned here not long ago.
49. “Asphalt Cowboy”/Sleepy LaBeef. From Smackover, Arkansas, this legendary rockabilly figure never hit the Billboard pop or country singles charts, and “Asphalt Cowboy” is one of only five listings of his among the 78,690 surveys on file at ARSA. But ever since 1979, when critic Peter Guralnick wrote about him in his book Lost Highway, he’s been considered one of the most important artists nobody knows.
KCKN was one of the first radio stations in Kansas, going on the air in 1925. It adopted a country format in 1957 and added an FM simulcast in the early 60s. In 1982, the AM and FM split, and the country format remained on FM. Today it’s known as KFKF. The station on 1340 in Kansas City today is KDTD, broadcasting a regional Mexican format.