(Pictured: Bill Anderson in the 70s.)
The other day on Twitter I threatened to start up a whole new blog devoted to 70s country, which I love, but which I have always suspected is of somewhat limited interest to the readership of this website (which itself is already of limited interest to the world at large). A handful of kind readers chimed in to say they’d read it, which is gratifying. So for today: the great Radio Rewinder Twitter feed posted the Billboard Top 75 country chart from May 17, 1975, earlier this week, and there’s lots of good stuff on it.
The first thing you notice is the number of pop crossovers: the top three songs were all significant pop hits, and two of them, by B. J. Thomas and John Denver, were #1 on the Hot 100. In all, 10 of 1975’s #1 country singles were significant pop hits, and six of them were Hot 100 #1s. Other crossover hits on the 5/17/75 chart include “I’m Not Lisa,” “Misty,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “Lizzie and the Rain Man,” “Reconsider Me,” “Rainy Day People,” and “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.” But beyond the pop crossovers, several songs at the top of this chart would be considered country classics for the next couple of decades: “She’s Acting Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles),” “Too Late to Worry,” “Tryin’ to Beat the Morning Home,” “Roll on Big Mama.” Record charts from any genre and any bygone year can impress us with the number of legends appearing, and this one certainly does: George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Buck Owens, Brenda Lee, Don Williams (just starting his Hall of Fame career), Hank Williams Jr., Sonny James, Roy Clark, Lynn Anderson, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Mel Tillis, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed, Mac Davis.
Let’s dip into the chart and see what’s interesting.
10. “Misty”/Ray Stevens. Let me again praise this version of the Erroll Garner piano bar standard, which is done straight and is brilliantly produced by Stevens. It made #14 on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1975.
44. “The Tip of My Fingers”/Jean Shepard. A now-forgotten pioneer of country music, one of the first women to headline country concerts in her own right, and a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 60 years until her death in 2016, Jean Shepard hit the country Top 40 31 times starting in 1953; “The Tip of My Fingers,” which had gone to #16, was her last Top 40 entry. It was written and first a made a hit by Bill Anderson (about whom there’s more below) in 1960; later versions by Roy Clark (1963) and Eddy Arnold (1966) are probably the best-known.
50. “Boilin’ Cabbage”/Bill Black’s Combo. Bill Black, Elvis Presley’s bassist and with a successful career in his own right, died in 1965. His widow sold his recording studio and the name “Bill Black’s Combo” to Bob Tucker and Larry Rogers. Tucker had taken over leading the combo when Black’s health failed in 1963. “Boilin’ Cabbage” was on the 1974 album Solid & Country, released on the Hi label (also home to Al Green), and it is quite the country stomper. Their next album, World’s Greatest Honky Tonk Band, was successful enough for Billboard to honor them as the top country instrumental group of 1976.
53. “Fireball Rolled a Seven”/Dave Dudley. Dudley is most famous for the 1963 hit “Six Days on the Road.” “Fireball Rolled a Seven” name-checks every major Southern stock car race and Richard Petty too, and is mentioned here entirely because the phrase “fireball rolled a seven” just sounds cool.
62. “Freda Comes, Freda Goes”/Bobby G. Rice. Fans of obscure pop tunes may remember “Freedom Comes, Freedom Goes” by the Fortunes. This is the same song except for the change from “freedom” to “Freda.”
73. “Country DJ”/Bill Anderson. I’d never heard “Country DJ” before I saw this chart, and I do not have sufficient words to describe how much I adore it. Anybody who ever worked in small-market radio will recognize practically everything in it as God’s Own Truth.
95. “God’s Gonna Get’cha (For That)”/George Jones and Tammy Wynette. While I don’t know it for sure, I have to think this record was inspired by Maude‘s TV catchphrase “God’ll get you for that, Walter.” “God’s Gonna Get’cha (For That)” is a minor entry in the George and Tammy catalog (eventually making #25) , but it’s worth 2:41 of your time, and the harmonies are great.
Y’all better be serious about wanting to read more along this line, because there will be more of it next week.