The Leftovers

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It’s leftovers day today, in which I resurrect a fragment or fragments from my drafts folder and call it a post. This next is something I started after writing about Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” last month. Fifty years ago this week, the record hit #1 on the Hot 100. 

Goldsboro’s first major professional gig was touring as a guitarist with Roy Orbison in the early 60s, a gig he gave up when his solo career began to take off. He hit the Hot 100 26 times between 1963 and 1973, but apart from “Honey,” he made the Top 10 only one other time, with “See the Funny Little Clown,” which rose to #9 during the week of March 21, 1964, when the Beatles had the top three songs on the Hot 100 and the Four Seasons and Beach Boys were also riding high. He would eventually open shows for both of the latter acts, and according to his website, he also opened for the Rolling Stones on their first American tour in the summer of ’64.

Apart from “Honey” and its five weeks at #1 in 1968, Goldsboro hit the Top 20 just two other times, with “Little Things” in 1965 and “Watching Scotty Grow” in 1971. The latter was an enormous hit; it did six weeks at #1 on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart, where “Honey” had done only two, and went to #7 country. Goldsboro was a dominant Easy Listening act from 1968 to 1971, hitting the Top 10 eight times in all, including the #2 followup to “Honey,” “Autumn of My Life.” His final Hot 100 hit came in 1973, “Summer (The First Time),” which made #21 on the Hot 100. He would bubble under with some of his later releases, and he’d last long enough for me to play a couple of his final country hits on the radio in 1980 and 1981.

Goldsboro’s success eventually got him a syndicated TV show, The Bobby Goldsboro Show, a weekly half-hour of music and comedy that ran from 1973 through 1976. He was a frequent guest on other TV shows during the 70s, but at the same time, he was building an empire in music publishing. His last high-profile gig was providing music for the Burt Reynolds sitcom Evening Shade in the early 90s. (He’d known Reynolds for years, producing an album of Burt’s in the early 70s.) In recent years, he was been painting and writing children’s books. He’s now 77 years old.

I listened to several Goldsboro tunes while whipping this post into shape, and I can tell you that I’d rather listen to “Honey” 100 times than “Watching Scotty Grow” once. 

What’s next is something I wrote this morning, following up on a remark in my Friday post about the Elton John tribute album Restoration

Miranda Lambert won the Academy of Country Music’s Female Vocalist of the Year award for the ninth straight year last night. Nevertheless, I stand by my contention that mainstream country has moved on from her. It’s true that “Vice,” the first single from Miranda’s most recent album, The Weight of These Wings,” was a success. But the next two, including ACM Song of the Year “Tin Man,” struggled. In fact, Miranda hasn’t been a big deal on country radio for over three years, and in an environment where top stars are on the singles charts almost continuously, that’s not a good omen.

Country’s “woman problem” has been widely reported over the last few years. There are lots of female artists making really good country music, but they can’t get on the radio, and the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association generally don’t waste nominations or awards on artists the general run of country fans aren’t hearing every day. (That tendency is what made Chris Stapleton’s wins a couple of years ago for his album Traveller so shocking.) So the ACM has a shallow pool of women to nominate from. Only one other Female Vocalist nominee, Carrie Underwood, is remotely in Miranda’s league, but she didn’t have a hit single in 2017; although she still moves albums (and hosted the ACM show last night), Reba McEntire hasn’t been on the radio in eight years. Beyond those three, the stature gap is enormous: Maren Morris is a lightweight and Kelsea Ballerini is a cipher. I suspect Miranda Lambert got the award last night because the ACM basically had nobody else to give it to.

3 responses

  1. I listen to a lot of women country artists, two pf them are highly regarded. I have several Rosanne Cash CDs and a couple by Kacey Musgraves. Cash is to “old” for mainstream country music stations radio I’ve been told Musgraves is “too country” to be played on that format (Yes, apparently that is possible). Other really good female country artists are Matraca Berg, Kim Richey, and Emmylou Harris, who is famous despite never getting airplay (good for her). Margo Price is a really fine newcomer. If you haven’t heard these ladies you’d being doing yourself a favor by checking them out.

    1. Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris were bankable superstars in the 80s with several #1 hits between ’em, but their records get filed under “Americana” now. Kacey Musgraves’ first couple of singles got a lot of airplay, but she doesn’t fit in the sexpot/party girl box or the Taylor Swift wannabe box, which is the easiest route onto playlists for female singers not named Miranda or Carrie, so she’s not getting on anymore either, despite the glowing reviews for her new “Golden Hour.” (Also, the fact that her “Follow Your Arrow” displayed a pretty liberal attitude toward drug use and sexuality doesn’t make her especially welcome at a lot of stations.)

      Brandy Clark is really good and has had some minor single success; right now Ashley McBryde is a critical darling with a hit song. But neither they nor Kacey look to be successors to Miranda or Carrie. Nashville suits would like Kelsea Ballerini to be one, but she simply hasn’t got the talent. Maren Morris might, but she’s trying to pull off a Swiftian transition to pop. Carly Pearce is getting promoted hard, but her songs are nothing special.

      It looks as if the Nashville establishment isn’t all that interested in finding new female stars. If they were, they’d be putting new up-and-comers on duets with established stars instead of doing crossovers with pop stars. So Kenny Chesney makes a record with Pink, Dierks Bentley sings with Elle King, Keith Urban brings on Julia Michaels, and Florida Georgia Line teams up with Bebe Rexha.

  2. Two of my favorite Goldsboro singles are “The Straight Life” from 1968 and “I’m a Drifter” from 1969, both of which charted on KHJ in SoCal. Bounch and upbeat, as if he were trying to get away from the maudlin sound of “Honey” and “Autumn of My Life.” I read a few years ago that Ray Stevens sings the high harmony on Goldsboro’s version of “It’s Too Late,” and when I listen to it now, it clearly sounds like Stevens.

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