Friday, March 22, 2013
Today's post should be a treat for fans of the late Red Sovine as it features a couple of LPs that as far as I can determine have never circulated in digital form. Both from 1963, these are two of the rarer albums in the catalog of a singer whose work has been constantly in demand since his death at age 61 in 1980.
Sovine's recording career began in 1949 when his buddy Hank Williams got him a recording contract with MGM. Nothing much came of these records and in 1954 another of his powerful friends, Webb Pierce, got him a deal with Decca. Webb and Red scored a number one hit with a duet version of George Jones' "Why Baby Why", and Sovine had a few other modest successes with the label including some duets with Goldie Hill. By 1960 he had signed with Starday, but he didn't really hit the big time until 1965 when the trucker recitation "Giddyup Go" became his second number one hit. He followed it with many songs in a similar vein throughout his remaining career and the rest, as they say, is Country Music history.
Although Red recorded for Starday during this period, he must not have had an exclusive contract, for the two albums presented here were cut for the Arc and Somerset labels. That Sovine was not yet the star he would become after the success of "Giddyup Go" is driven home by fact that these are definitely not records that a successful Nashville entertainer would have made at the time.
"The Best Years Of Your Life" was recorded in Toronto and according to the website of the late Dick Nolan the backing band was the Blue Valley Boys with Nolan himself on rhythm guitar. Red probably recorded this session during one of his many stays at Jack Starr's legendary Horseshoe Hotel. It is comprised of remakes of some of Sovine's earlier Decca hits, as well as some standards and songs that were contemporary at the time. It is doubtful that this LP ever circulated outside Canada.
The next LP was released on Dave Miller's budget Somerset label and was part of a series titled "Country and Western Hits made famous by America's Greatest Singers" that were essentially cheapo "soundalike" cover albums. Each issue generally featured one side each of two hit artists' work covered by Nashville session musicians/singers whose names would mean little to the general public. The pairing of Red covering Tennessee Ernie Ford songs with Nashville veteran Jerry Shook playing Chet Atkins' numbers gives some idea of where Sovine's career was at in '63 (A teenage and unknown Dolly Parton recorded some Kitty Wells songs for one of these albums). In fact, in true budget fashion, most of the LPs included only three tunes the original artist had actually recorded, and two more "traditional" (public domain) songs to avoid paying publishing royalties. Cleverly, they made a "boogie" out of "Camptown Races" a la Tennessee Ernie, although Ford himself never recorded such a number. To his credit, Sovine doesn't really imitate Ernie, instead performing these numbers in his own distinct style.
"The Best Years Of Your Life"
1. We Could
2. Take Me As I Am
3. The Last Letter
4. Missing You
5. Wabash Cannonball
6. The Best Years Of Your Life
7. There Stands The Glass
8. I'm Glad You Found A Place For Me
9. In The Jailhouse Now
10. Here Comes My Baby
11. There She Goes
12. I'd Rather Die Young
Red Sovine & Jerry Shook
"Country and Western Hits Made Famous by Chet Atkins & Tennessee Ernie Ford"
1. Country Gentleman (Jerry Shook)
2. Redwing (Jerry Shook)
3. John Henry (Jerry Shook)
4. Wildwood Flower (Jerry Shook)
5. Black Mountain Rag (Jerry Shook)
6. Sixteen Tons (Red Sovine)
7. Footprints In The Snow (Red Sovine)
8. Shotgun Boogie (Red Sovine)
9. Philadelphia Lawyer (Red Sovine)
10. Camptown Boogie (Red Sovine)