(Pictured: country singer Lynn Anderson, 1971.)
It’s always a weird experience for me to look at a country radio survey from the late 60s or early 70s. I frequently see familiar names, but very few familiar songs. Only a tiny handful of the hits of that time would be found in the gold libraries of the stations I worked for in the first half of the 80s. That’s true of the survey from WEEP in Pittsburgh, dated October 15, 1971, which I saw on Facebook over the weekend. The pic won’t reproduce well here, but you can see the entire list here. And there’s some interesting stuff on it.
1. “Never Ending Song of Love”/Mayf Nutter. Few names are more country than “Mayf Nutter”: his given name is “Mayfred,” after his great-grandparents, May and Fred. He was a native of Clarksburg, West Virginia, a couple of hours south of Pittsburgh. His “Never Ending Song of Love,” a cover of Delaney and Bonnie’s hit from earlier in 1971, was big there, and in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and a couple of other places, but it didn’t make Billboard‘s country Top 40, and neither did anything else Nutter recorded. He was also an actor, with recurring roles on The Waltons and Knots Landing, among others. He celebrated his 82nd birthday this past week.
2. “Easy Lovin'”/Freddie Hart
6. “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died”/Tom T. Hall
10. “You’re Lookin’ at Country”/Loretta Lynn
19. “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms”/Buck Owens
44. “She’s All I Got”/Johnny Paycheck
I submit that only these five records achieved anything like classic status in the years that followed 1971. There was a time when every respectable country singer or band would have known the Flatt/Scruggs bluegrass chestnut “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” Owens’ recording was the biggest hit, but it would also be recorded by Leon Russell under the name Hank Wilson.
5. “Miss Nancy Ann’s Hotel for Girls”/Tex Williams
9. “I’d Rather Be Sorry”/Ray Price
15. “A Song to Mama”/Carter Family
19. “The Mark of a Heel”/Hank Thompson
25. “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie”/Slim Whitman
27. “Leavin’ and Sayin’ Goodbye”/Faron Young
29. “Be a Little Quieter”/Porter Wagoner
30. “Someone Stole Me Blind”/Webb Pierce
35. “Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboy”/Lefty Frizzell
40. “Fall Away”/Tex Ritter
41. “Red Door”/Carl Smith
These are some of the most famous names in country music, and in the case of the Carter Family, of American music, period. They would remain popular for as long as they could climb on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, but by 1971 it wouldn’t be long before they would be too old-timey for the radio.
8. “Quits”/Bill Anderson
12. “How Can I Unlove You”/Lynn Anderson
No relation, these two. I heard their songs on my parents’ radio stations and never forgot them. “Quits” is a perfect example of Bill Anderson’s ingratiating style and gift for wordplay, and also of Nashville’s pop-appealing countrypolitan sound. (It’s as far removed from “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” as it’s possible to get.) “How Can I Unlove You” is three more minutes of “Rose Garden,” Lynn Anderson’s hit from earlier in the year, but I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.
12. “Brand New Mister Me”/Mel Tillis
16. “Pictures”/Statler Brothers
33. “Six Weeks Every Summer”/Dottie West
A handful of stars on this chart would raise their profile as the 70s went on, and remain hitmakers into the 80s.
22. “No Need to Worry”/Johnny Cash and June Carter
24. “Good Lovin’ Makes It Right”/Tammy Wynette
39. “After All They Used to All Belong to Me”/Hank Williams Jr.
42. “Lead Me On”/Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn
45. “Papa Was a Good Man”/Johnny Cash
46. “I Wonder What She’ll Think About Me Leavin”/Conway Twitty
Some era-transcending giants of country were at work too, although not with songs anybody remembers today.
47. “Baby I’m Yours”/Jody Miller
49. “There Must Be More to Life (Than Growing Old)”-“Fire Hydrant #79″/Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan
Jody Miller had a classic countrypolitan style and great taste in covers, including “Baby I’m Yours,” and I am sorry to learn that she died earlier this month at the age of 80. Jack and Misty, best known for “Tennessee Birdwalk” and “Humphrey the Camel,” have been favorites of this website since always. “There Must Be More to Life” is done straight, but with the odd harmony that made them so compelling. “Fire Hydrant #79” is sung from the point of view of a failed country singer to his only friend, a Nashville fire hydrant. It’s 100 percent uncut Jack and Misty.
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