Friday, February 09, 2018

Faron Young - "He Stopped Loving Her Today" Start Tasting C&W

I recall some nice times with the guys from Dr. Hook, and one thing about their hit Columbia albums, was that they mixed rock, blues, novelty, oldies and country. The record label wasn't too happy, because a group was supposed to fit into a neat category to be sold. But, as Dennis said, "Look at your record collection. It has all types of music doesn't it? Why can't we play all types of music?" 

Well, yes, MY record collection has all types of music. I hope yours does, too. If not, do indeed download the greatest country song of all time, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," and try and get into some artists who have crossover appeal (the late Glen Campbell, the lively Gary Allan) as well as those who stayed pure (Hank Williams and George Jones come to mind, and I'll toss in Homer and Jethro, just fer fun). 

Funny thing; many of the rockers WE like grew up listening to hardcore C&W or hardcore R&B. It's just that they assimilated it into their rock music. Or, "stole" the black man's music and "stole" the redneck's music, as the hardcore C&W and R&B fans like to gripe. Fact is, the "pure" stuff is sometimes harder to swallow. That goes for classical, too. More often people listen to ersatz classical (movie theme music) than the real thing, or classical melodies softened into pop standards (like "Full Moon and Empty Arms" or "A Lover's Concerto" which you might recall via the opening lines, "How gentle is the rain...")

The Beatles of course loved Carl Perkins and Buck Owens, and Woody Guthrie influenced many rockers, and "rockabilly" from Elvis and Jerry Lee became its own crossover category. Elvis Costello, Keith Richards and others worked with George Jones. Johnny Cash didn't just cover "Hurt," he owned it. 

Phil Ochs, who grew up in Texas, and later was a "boy in Ohio," really was into  the music of Faron Young. A guy I know, who still tours in a well known rock band, was a friend of Phil's: "One time I told Phil that I thought he sounded like Faron Young…his phrasing. And Phil's eyes lit up. He was very happy to hear it." Phil would later perform the C&W protest song "Okie from Muskogee" by Merle Haggard at Carnegie Hall.

Faron had a 1954 #1 hit with "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young," a song title that seemed to have been adopted as words to live (and die by) by dozens of rockers.
Willie Nelson penned Faron's most famous #1, the 1961 smash "Hello Walls." After a lot of success at Capitol,  Young switched over to Mercury in 1963 and averaged two albums a year through 1976, when the hits began to evaporate. In 1979 he moved to MCA for a pair of albums "Chapter Two" and "Free and Easy," which the label hoped would appeal to a wider audience than Faron's hardcore rockabillies. There was a new thing called "countrypolitan," and even George Jones' producer Billy Sherrill was into this, trying to reduce the squeamy violins and add more of a beat and a lot of crossover production values.

It was Sherrill who insisted that Braddock and Putman re-work their morbid tune "He Stopped Loving Her Today" into more of a Top 40 ballad, and make the story dramatic but not country-corny. Then he worked on the arrangement and production, which was so different on Epic than what George had done at Musicor and the other earlier labels. George wasn't that fond of spending a lot of time in the studio, was seriously into booze, and the song had to be pieced together over quite a while. The result is a classic. 

Curly Putman remains my favorite country songwriter, and I am very proud to say that my appreciation for his writing was matched by his appreciation for mine. I mentioned to him the time I was in a very hipster-punk record store, and who was blasting from the loudspeakers? George Jones, the guy who covered so many Putman tunes. So tattoo and metal-nose ear-stud boyo walked in and sneered, "WHAT are ya playin'?" And the dude behind the counter just glanced down and said, "Gotta love George."

While George Jones or Johnny Cash are probably the most popular of the 60's and 70's C&W artists, there are quite a few others who have stood the test of time, including Faron Young.

In 1996, grieving over the death of his daughter, and despondent over his failing health, Faron Young killed himself. While Phil had used the hangman's noose back in 1976, rough 'n' ready Faron did himself in with a revolver.

You never stop lovin' great music until you're planted six feet deep, or blowin' in the wind. 

Faron Young - listen on line or download; no moronic passwords, no links to spyware or malware-loaded porn sites

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

don't forget Faron was founder and publisher of the Music City News paper and there was actually an "answer" song of Dr Hook's "On the Cover of the Rolling Stone" done as "On the Cover of the Music City News." Buck Owens did it, in 1974 WAY past his prime but got a top-ten country hit out of it.