Best early country songs – up to 1955

 

In this spirit-numbing information age, we gorge on the web and on CNN, we cannot free our hands of our Blackberrys and lap-tops and cellphones, but, in the end, we know less and less … of each other … of our hearts … of our souls.
But Johnny Cash singing “I Walk The Line” or Hank sorrowing through “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” still gives us more insight in three minutes, tells us more about what matters most in our lives, than we get in an entire twenty-four-hour news cycle.
Dana Jennings, in his magnificent book “Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music

This is our first article in a series highlighting the best country songs. We start off by nominating songs from the start up till 1955. The next post will focus on songs from 1956-1965.

When we are through nominating songs.. probably around 70-80 songs.. we will pull it all together and put a list of the 20 best Country songs ever.. in JV’s humble opinion.

Our goal is to only nominate one song from each artist.. I’ve managed to do so on this first article (although it was tough only including one Hank Williams song….)

… and btw .. the songs are presented in random order…

 

Can The Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye), The Carter Family

Produced by Art Satherley
Written by A.P. Carter
1935

The song is based on the hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” by Ada R. Habershon and Charles H. Gabriel. The song’s lyrics concern the death, funeral, and mourning of the narrator’s mother.

I was standing by the window
On one cold and cloudy day
And I saw the hearse come rolling
For to carry my mother away

Can the circle be unbroken
Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Lord, I told the undertaker
Undertaker, please drive slow
For this body you are hauling
How I hate to see her go

I followed close beside her
Tried to hold up and be brave
But I could not hide my sorrow
When they laid her in the grave

Went back home
Lord my home was lonesome
All my brothers sisters crying
What a home so sad and lone

 

and it feels right put this one out as well…

 

Lost Highway, Hank Williams with his Drifting Cowboys

Produced by Fred Rose
Written by Leon Payne
1949

Leon Payne’s take on the wages of sin fit Hank perfectly…

I’m a rollin’ stone all alone and lost
For a life of sin I have paid the cost
When I pass by all the people say
Just another guy on the lost highway

Just a deck of cards and a jug of wine
And a woman’s lies makes a life like mine
O the day we met, I went astray
I started rolling down that lost highway

I was just a lad, nearly 22
Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you
And now I’m lost, too late to pray
Lord I paid the cost, on the lost highway

Now boy’s don’t start to ramblin’ round
On this road of sin ,or you’re sorrow bound
Take my advice or you’ll curse the day
You started rollin’ down that lost highway

 

The Wild Side of Life, Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys

Produced by Ken Nelson
Written by A. A. Carter & W. Warren
1952

A melody based on The Carter Family’s “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes”.. so it was an easy song for most listeners to recognize.
According to country music historian Bill Malone, William Warren was inspired to create the song after his experiences with a young woman he met when he was younger — a honky tonk angel, as it were — who “found the glitter of the gay night life too hard to resist.”

Well, you wouldn’t read my letters if I wrote you
You asked me not to call you on the phone
There’s something I’ve been waiting for to tell you
So I wrote it in the words of this song

You never knew there were honky tonk angels
Or you might have known I’d never make a wife
You walked out on the only one who ever loved you
So I went back to the wild side of life

Now the glamor of the good life always lead me
To the places where the wild liquor flows
I tried to be your one and only angel
But I’m not that kind of angel, heaven knows

I cried so hard the day you went and left me
‘Cause some things you said, they cut me like a knife
What you wanted was another kind of angel
And you should be back to the wild side of life

No, well, I guess I’m just a honky tonk angel
I might have known I’d never make a wife
Well, you left the only one who ever loved you
And I’m back here on the wild side of life

I’m only a honky tonk angel
I might have known I’d never make a wife
You walked out on the only one who ever loved you
And you left me here on the wild side of life

 

It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, Kitty Wells

Produced by Paul Cohen
Written by J. D. Miller
1952

An “answere song” to Hank Thompsons “The Wild Side Of Life”. The song — which blamed unfaithful men for creating unfaithful women — became the first No. 1 Country hit for a solo female artist.

As I sit here tonight the jukebox playin’
The tune about the wild side of life
As I listen to the words you are sayin’
It brings memories when I was a trusting wife

It wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they’re still single
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong

It’s a shame that all the blame is on us women
It’s not true that only you men feel the same
From the start most every heart that’s ever broken
Was because there always was a man to blame

It wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they’re still single
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong

 

There Stands The Glass, Webb Pierce

Produced by Paul Cohen
Written by Russ Hull, Mary Jean Shurtz and Audrey Greisham
1953

Quintessential honky-tonk drinking song.

There stands the glass …
That will ease all my pain …
That will settle my brain …
It’s my first one to day …
There stands the glass …
That will hide all my tears …
That will drown all my fears …
Brother, I’m on my way. … …

CHORUS
I’m wond’ring where you are tonight
I’m wond’ring if you all right
I wonder if you think of me
In my mis-e-ry
There stands the glass
Fill it up to the brim
Till my troubles grow dim
It’s my first one to day.

Here is a wonderful version from Van Morrison:

 

I Don’t Hurt Anymore, Hank Snow

Produced by Steve Sholes
Written by Don Robertson and Jack Rollins.
1954

The lyrics itself oozes of  irony, but.. Hanks Snow’s crooning hints only of relief. This is his best song.

 I don’t hurt anymore, all my teardrops are dried
No more walking the floor with that burning inside
Just to think it could be time has opened the door
And at last I am free, I don’t hurt anymore.

No use to deny I wanted to die
The day you said we were through
But now that I find you’re out of my mind
I can’t believe that it’s true
I’ve forgotten somehow that I cared so before
And it’s wonderful now I don’t hurt anymore.

No use to deny I wanted to die
The day you said we were through
But now that I find you’re out of my mind
I can’t believe that it’s true
I’ve forgotten somehow that I cared so before
And it’s wonderful now I don’t hurt anymore…

A fine Johnny Cash version:

 

This Land Is Your Land, Woody Guthrie

Produced by Moses Asch
Written by Woody Guthrie
1945

Alt. national anthem & one of Bruce Springsteens fav songs… no need to say more..

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

 

 

Maybellene, Chuck Berry

Produced by Leonard Chess
Written by Chuck Berry
1955

It wasn’t only the white guys like Presley, Perkins etc who borrowed ideas and inspiration from rhythm & blues. It worked the other way around too.. Ray Charles, Fats Domino & …. Chuck Berry.

Maybellene, why can’t you be true?
Oh maybellene, why can’t you be true?
You’ve started back doing the things you used to do.

As I was motivatin’ over the hill
I saw maybellene in a coup de ville.
A cadillac a-rollin’ on the open road,
Nothin’ will outrun my v8 ford.
The cadillac doin’ ’bout ninety-five,
She’s bumper to bumber rollin’ side by side.

Maybellene, why can’t you be true?
Oh maybellene, why can’t you be true?
You’ve started back doing the things you used to do.

Pink in the mirror on top of the hill,
It’s just like swallowin’ up a medicine pill.
First thing I saw that cadillac grille
Doin’ a hundred and ten gallopin’ over that hill.
Offhill curve, a downhill strecth,
Me and that cadillac neck by neck.

Maybellene, why can’t you be true?
Oh maybellene, why can’t you be true?
You’ve started back doing the things you used to do.

The cadillac pulled up ahead of the ford,
The ford got hot and wouldn’t do no more.
It then got clody and it started to rain,
I tooted my horn for a passin’ lead
The rain water blowin’ all under my hood,
I knew that was doin’ my motor good.

Maybellene, why can’t you be true?
Oh maybellene, why can’t you be true?
You’ve started back doing the things you used to do.

The motor cooled down, the heat went down
And that’s when I heard that highway sound.
The cadillac a-sittin’ like a ton of lead
A hundred and ten a half a mile ahead.
The cadillac lookin’ like it’s sittin’ still
And I caught maybellene at the top of the hill.

Maybellene, why can’t you be true?
Oh maybellene, why can’t you be true?
You’ve started back doing the things you used to do.

 

and.. live…

Blue Moon of Kentucky, Elvis Presley, Scotty & Bill

Produced by Sam Phillips
Written by Bill Monroe
1954

Bill Black was foolin’ around with Bill Monroe’s classic, Scotty & Elvis joined in…  Sam rolled tape… After an early take Sam famously said: “Hell, that’s different”. Different & fantastic it was.
And it all happened @ 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee (That’s off coures Sam Phillips Sun  Studio)

 Blue moon, blue moon, blue moon,
keep shining bright.
Blue moon, keep on shining bright,
You’re gonna bring me back my baby tonight,
Blue moon, keep shining bright.

I said blue moon of Kentucky
keep on shining,
Shine on the one that’s gone and left me blue.
I said blue moon of Kentucky
keep on shining,
Shine on the one that’s gone and left me blue.

Well, it was on one moonlight night,
Stars shining bright,
Wish blown high
Love said good-bye.

Blue moon of Kentucky
Keep on shining.
Shine on the one that’s gone and left me blue.

Well, I said blue moon of Kentucky
Just keep on shining.
Shine on the one that’s gone and left me blue.
I said blue moon of Kentucky
keep on shining.
Shine on the one that’s gone and left me blue.

Well, it was on one moonlight night,
Stars shining bright,
Wish blown high
Love said good-bye.

Blue moon of Kentucky
Keep on shining.
Shine on the one that’s gone and left me blue.

 

We just HAVE to include a Bill Monroe version.. And YES it was a close call which one to nominate…

 

I Love You a Thousand Ways, Lefty Frizzell

Produced by Don Law and Art Satherley
Written by Lefty Frizzell
1950

Hell raisin’ William Orville Frizzell sure had solid left hook…  hence Lefty Frizzell.. But he had a soft side as well, and one country histories most expressive voices.

I love you, I’ll prove it in days to come
I swear it’s true,
Darlin’, you’re the only one
I think of you, of the past and all our fun
I love you, I’ll prove it in days to come

You’re my darling, you’ve been true
I should have been good to you
You’re the one that’s in my heart
While we’re apart

I’ll be true,
I’ll prove it to you someday
My love is for you,
In my heart you’ll always stay
I’ve been so blue and lonesome all these days
I love you, I’ll prove it a thousand ways

I’ll be nice and sweet to you
And no more will you be blue
I’ll prove I love you everyday
All kinds of ways

Darlin’ please wait,
Please wait until I’m free
There’ll be a change,
A great change made in me
I’ll be true, there’ll be no more blue days
I love you, I’ll prove it a thousand ways

another fine version:

 

Walking the Floor over You, Ernest Tubb

Produced by Dave Kapp
Written by Ernest Tubb
1941

The Texas Troubadour with a song that for sure was “rock’n roll” back in 1941…

 I’m walking the floor over you I can’t sleep a wink that is true
I’m hoping and I’m praying as my heart breaks right in two walking the floor over you

You left me and you went away you said that you’d be back in just a day
You’ve broken your promise and you left me here alone
I don’t know why you did dear but I do know that you’re gone
I’m walking the floor over you…

Now someday you may be lonesome too walking the floor is good for you
Just keep right on walking and it won’t hurt you to cry
Remember that I loved you and I will the day I die
I’m walking the floor over you…

 

 

Spotify playlist:

 

Inspirations:

-Egil

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...