Not reaching the Top 10, however, is another matter. Many radio stations eliminate from oldies play (or refuse to take requests to play) any song that fails to reach the Top 10. I suppose that in the digital age, storage is not an issue (or at least not as much of an issue as constricted play lists), but in the days of vinyl 45s and cassette singles, storage was a real issue for many stations. Therefore, the real disappointment for an artist was to get marooned at #11 or #12–and thus have his/her record pulled from the station’s library.
Being marooned at #11 or #12 may not have been the kiss of death for a Reba McEntire, George Strait or Babara Mandrell song–the station may have kept keep the song around just because of the identity of the artist. But what if your career record died out at #11 or #12?
- 25. “Lost Highway” – Hank Williams
Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway” and “Mansion On The Hill” may be the most famous songs ever to miss the Top 10–both pulled up at #12 in 1949.
- 24. “How Far is Heaven” – Kitty Wells
If we were to judge by the number of amateurs attempting to tackle a song, “How Far Is Heaven” would surely come in as one of the all-time classics. Alas, it only reached #11 for Kitty Wells in 1956.
- 23. “This Old Man and his Horn” – Gene Watson
Gene Watson is probably one of the finest male vocalists the genre has ever had. Two of my personal favorites–1977’s “The Old Man and His Horn” and 1978’s “Cowboys Don’t Get Lucky All The Time”–both peaked at #11.
- 22. “Who Will Buy The Wine” – Charlie Walker
Charlie Walker had a few Top 10 hits, but 16 of his 25 chart records finished outside the Top 30. One of the genre’s better honky-tonk records was the 1960 hit “Who’ll Buy The Wine,” which reached #11.
- 21. “Life Turned Her That Way” – Mel Tillis
“Life Turned Her That Way” reached #11 for Mel Tillis in 1967–his biggest record up to that point after a decade of trying. It would take another year or two, but eventually his career would hit top speed. Ricky Van Shelton took the song to #1 in 1988.
- 20. “Lone Star Beer And Bob Wills Music” – Red Steagall
Many a bar band has played “Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills Music,” the career record of Red Steagall which reached #11 in 1976. Steagall is probably better remembered as the man who discovered Reba McEntire.
- 19. “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” – Sons Of The Pioneers
Other than “Cool Water” and “Back In The Saddle Again,” there isn’t a more well known modern cowboy song than “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” Oddly enough, it only charted for one week in 1948, placing at #11 for the Sons of the Pioneers. It should be noted that the Sons had recorded the song previously (in 1934) before there were any Billboard charts–either pop or country.
- 18. “Where Is My Castle” – Connie Smith
Connie Smith is the greatest female vocalist ever to grace the genre. She had many Top 10 hits as well as pair of #1s. My favorite of her songs–the Dallas Frazier-penned “Where Is My Castle”–wasn’t one of them, however: It reached only #11 in 1971.
- 17. “Between Lust and Watching T.V.” – Cal Smith
Sandwiched between a pair of number one records, Cal Smith’s 1974 release “Between Lust and Watching TV” only reached #11. I’ve always felt it was one of the best existential country records ever.
- 16. “I’m Having Your Baby” – Sunday Sharpe
Sunday Sharpe was born in Orlando in 1946. I don’t know what happened to her, but her first and biggest chart hit, “I’m Having Your Baby,” (an answer song to Paul Anka’s big pop hit of 1974), reached #11.
- 15. “Catfish John” – Johnny Russell
Johnny Russell was a successful songwriter and performer for many years. His biggest hit was “Red Necks White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer,” which reached #4 Billboard/#1 Cashbox in 1973. The next biggest hit after that was “Catfish John,” which reached #12 in early 1973.
- 14. “Who Do You Know In California” – Eddy Raven
“Who Do You Know In California” is one of Eddy Raven’s best remembered and most requested songs. Strangely enough, it only reached #11.
- 13. “Forgive and Forget” – Eddie Rabbitt
Eddie Rabbitt had many fine records, but two of my favorite of his tracks come from 1975 in the form of “Forgive And Forget (#12) and “I Should Have Married You” (#11). The real breakthrough occurred with his next single, “Drinking My Baby (Off My Mind),” which climbed all the way to the top of the charts.
- 12. “Don’t You Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me” – Ray Price
Ray Price made many great recordings during his long and distinguished career. For whatever reason, his superior version of “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me” died at #11 in 1966. He remade the song as a duet with Willie Nelson in 1980, and guess what? Again, it stalled at the eleventh place on the charts. The song went to #1 for Ronnie Milsap in 1989, but his version can’t touch either of the two Ray Price recordings.
- 11. “Wings Upon Your Horns” – Loretta Lynn
In one of the greater disparities between the Billboard and Cashbox country charts, Loretta Lynn’s 1969-70 hit “Wings Upon Your Horns” died at #11 on the former but reached #1 on the latter. According to Billboard, Lynn had 11 solo #1 records and 5 duets with Conway Twitty–11 more of her records reached #1 on Cashbox and/or Record World’s country charts.
- 10. “Black Velvet” – Robin Lee
Stardom never happened for Robin Lee, although her cover of “Black Velvet” almost broke through for her in 1990, reaching #12.
- 9. “Little Arrows” – Leapy Lee
I still have difficulty believing that Leapy Lee’s 1968 hit “Little Arrows” only reached #11. You simply could not escape from the song during October and November of that year, as every station was playing it (it reached #16 on the pop charts). The song reached #2 in Great Britain, #1 in Canada, Australia, Denmark and 15 other countries–while selling an estimated five million copies in the process.
- 8. “Don’t It Break Your Heart” – Con Hunley
Con Hunley never had a Top 10 hit, although he charted 25 times. The closest he got to smash was 1985’s “What’s New With You” which peaked at #11 early in the year.
- 7. “Truck Driving Man” – George Hamilton Iv
“Truck Driving Man” is one of the most familiar and commonly played songs in country music, especially by bar bands. But the closest it got to being a big hit was George Hamilton IV’s 1965 recording, which reached #11.
- 6. “The Monkey That Became President” – Tom T. Hall
Tom T. Hall had many hits, but perhaps his most interesting song was 1971’s “The Monkey Who Became President.” The song stalled out at #11, but it asked a very important question: Would you rather have a monkey up in Washington DC, or have those people making monkeys out of you and me? It’s a question still worth asking today.
- 5. “The Morning After Baby Let Me Down” – Ray Griff
Ray Griff was a tremendously popular songwriter whose songs were recorded by many American artists. He also had many major hits in his native Canada, with 44 charted singles and eight Top 10s. In the United States, only “The Morning After Baby Let Me Down” (#14), “You Ring My Bell (#16) and “If I Let Her Come In” (#11, #1 in Canada) cracked the Top 20.
- 4. “Bluest Heartache Of The Year” – Kenny Dale
Kenny Dale did have one Top 10 song, but it is two 1977 numbers–each of which reached #11 (“Bluest Heartache of the Year” and “Shame Shame On Me”)–for which he is best remembered. For the life of me, I don’t know why “Bluest Heartache of the Year” wasn’t a massive hit.
- 3. “Haunted House” – The Compton Brothers
It never did happen for The Compton Brothers, although brother Harry did have some success as a songwriter. 1969’s “Haunted House” got to #11–and the follow up, “Charlie Brown,” to #16–but no more Top 20 hits were to follow.
- 2. “Hopelessly Yours” – Suzy Bogguss With Lee Greenwood
Suzy Bogguss eventually broke through, but she had to be discouraged when only one of the first eight songs she released to radio broke the Top 20. A 1991 pairing with then-current (but fading) star Lee Greenwood looked like it might pay dividends, but “Hopelessly Yours” died at #12–as did her solo follow up, “Someday Soon”.
- 1. “Bright Lights And Country Music” – Bill Anderson
Following a string of Top 5 records, Bill Anderson hit a skid in 1965 and 1966 when “Certain” (#12), “Bright Lights and Country Music” (#11) and “Golden Guitar” (#11) all pulled up short. Fortunately for Whisperin’ Bill, the B-side of “Golden Guitar” was “I Love You Drops,” which DJs discovered and pushed to #4.
- 0. “It’s Time We Talked Things Over” – Rex Allen, Jr.
A fine song that died at #12. Rex never really caught on in a big way, scoring only five top tens hits. His three biggest peaked at #8.