Porter Wagoner, Earl of C&W LP Covers

I listen to The Essential collection for music — But these are in the vinyl stacks:

Porter 2

Porter 1

Porter 3

Porter 3.5

Porter 4

Porter 5

Porter 6

Porter 7

Yeah, these are from the late ’60s when everybody was trying to be wild ‘n’ crazy like rock LPs.

PS for KIDZ: the position of the cheater guy’s hand was a then-hi-school fave dipshit game. You held your hand like than and some sucker tried to poke a finger through the hole before you pulled it away (classic no-tech, right?). If the sucker failed (99.99999% of the time) you got to punch him in — well, us nice guys did the shoulder.

R.I.P.: Jean Shepard (Part One)

Groundbreaker in Opryland, anyway. I’m ashamed to admit Jean Shepard was one of those famous-in-my-youth C&W performers who I never got around to once I recovered from my aversion to country. A little bit of yodel goes a long way with me, but honky-tonk style is timeless. I know I have a few hits scattered about, but was a bit shocked to check and confirm that I did not have any whole albums by Shepard. I shall correct that and report back.


MY “Song of the Summer” — Go Get Your Own

The New Yorker is running a series of music pieces where various writers pick their “Song of the Summer.” I applaud it in the sense that it will get some unusual material written about in the mag, but really the underlying concept is a square circle. The “Song of the Summer” has to be a hit that embodies a mass audience experience of the season, and that sort of collective identity through pop tunes is extinct, presumably for the foreseeable future.

But hey, I wanna get in on the fun.

This morning, I was so zapped by a sudden exposure to an old fave that I’ve declared it my “Song of the Summer”: Patsy Montana’s biggest hit, “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” (1935). Patsy (actually from Arkansas) starts with some truly wild and wolfly yodeling and the whole number is a nonstop clever cavort —

check it out, swingers.

My second-favorite “version” of this tune, btw, is a wacky rewrite sung by Preston Blair’s pure-sex Toon beauty Red in Tex Avery’s lunatic “Wild and Woolfy” (1945).

Put up with French subtitles for a nice, clear rendition of the toon here.

Patsy doesn’t get any spot in the credits, which is too bad, but her own number was a pretty straight lift from “Texas Plains,” so …

P.S: Yet more confirmation that Tex Avery was a natural Surrealist.

PS: PS: I do have to add that only a bunch who have kicked dogs hard would know how to do the whining-reaction of the obedience-cowboy. Probably mysterious to most folks today.

Expert Witness Comment for (Past) Weeks

Plus Sized Dan with Marshall Ruffin and Big Day in a Small Town, Brandy Clark

Songwriting lives, kidz! And rools, too.

The Plus Sized Dan ought to be depressing, frankly, but instead it’s .. bracing, I think is the word I want. And “Plastic Bag in a Tree” is on the year-end best-of automatic don’t hesitate.

Clark does realism like nobody’s business, too. How to keep dignity and face the garbage fire life has become at the same time. Refuse to be the “Girl Next Door” and cope with the routine of “Drinkin’ Smokin’ Cheatin'” and crack a few jokes that stick and bite. The C&W classics were this blunt about work and sometimes life in the sheets, but not about the texture of little-burg activity in general. Near masterpiece, I say.

Stuff in the Air That Came Out of Speakers Today #33: Country Music?

All three superb albums (though really ranked in order of my preference):

Margo Price, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (Third Man). This can be legit identified as a “country album” 2016 — though it’s really roots/Americana. And as Joyce Millman notes, very much like “country fusion” from 40+ years ago.

Rob Baird, Wrong Side of the River (Hard Luck). Tone and texture and subject matter fit into the country category well enough. But it feels like a rock record.

Sturgill Simson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (Atlantic). Not a country record. Unless that he sounds like Waylon Jennings (a bit less than in the past) makes all the crucial difference.


C&W was the soundtrack where I grew up. I resisted. Country was songs for squares, refrains for Republicans. Stations programmed a lot more sentimental slop than they did cheatin’ songs. But I still remember the moment I was paddling around the pool at Chico Hot Springs when the opening of a song hit me as hard as a Tiger shark:

Down every road there’s always one more city

I’m on the run, the highway is my home

Blam — that was it. The first time I heard “I’m the Lonesome Fugitive” the world disappeared and I was in the song like a movie running in my head. I had not yet grasped the essence of Hank Williams, but I knew what kind of country I liked — this fugitive guy’s. The first best-of on Capitol was either the earliest or one of the earliest C&W vinyls in my collection. (I stupidly sold it at the peak of my “no LP/CD duplicates” phase.)

The “Okie” dust-up annoyed me, but Hag was one of those instinctual nonconformists like Cash and Nelson who would never be an all-out reactionary force. So I forgave him and played Big Brother’s “I’ll Change Your Flat Tire, Merle” for whoever would listen.

I saw Hag and the Strangers perform at the Paradise in Boston when it was a fairly new club and that along with Willie Nelson on Boston Common were the most exhilarating, gratifying and life-affirming C&W shows I bet I’ll ever see.

Slowly, Haggard began to goof off — not get in any more trouble than he had to makin’ albums. I still tried to keep up with the good ‘uns that trusted ears recommended to me. (Working in Tennessee was indeed outstanding.) Now he’s up there and can listen to Johnny Cash in person, as fresh as that first time that changed his earthly life.

Here’s the LPs I retained because I treasured the terrific graphics and song selections:

Strangers (Stetson)

Mama Tried (Capitol) (Mama insert on the cover is too much)

A Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today (Capitol) (The “HAG” lunch box is even more too much.)

Pride in What I Am (Capitol) (The contrast between the too-staged cover photo and the family-album stuff on the back is perfect.)

Serving 190 Proof (MCA) (Drinking his own brand of whiskey … wowsers.)

Rainbow Stew/Live at Anaheim Stadium (MCA) (I’m right with John Morthland — the finest live set.)

His Epic Hits/The First 11 (Epic)

LPs faded around this time and the CD box I reach for is

Down Every Road: 1962-1994

And for the hardcore who have decided that Capitol stuff is the sweetest straight shot out there, I highly recommend you shell out the small fortune for

Hag: Concepts, Live & the Strangers. Capitol Recordings 1968-1976 (Bear Family) (Talk about beautiful graphics. And those Strangers — Whoooo-eee!)