Forgotten Artists: David Rogers

Paul W. Dennis | August 5th, 2008

David Rogers

David Rogers (1936-1993) is proof of the adage that it’s great to be on a major label, but only if the label is truly behind you.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, during the depths of the Great Depression, Rogers began playing guitar when he was eleven, and shortly thereafter began appearing in local bands. He successfully auditioned for Roger Miller in 1956, but was drafted before getting the opportunity to join Miller’s band.

In 1962, after Rogers’ was discharged from the service, he landed a regular gig at the Egyptian Ballroom–a gig which lasted several years. While performing there he recorded a demo tape which eventually came to the attention of Frank Jones at Columbia, and a recording contract was not far behind.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s Columbia was home to a great many country artists, including Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Carl Smith, Stonewall Jackson, Lefty Frizzell, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Carl Butler & Pearl, Lynn Anderson, Jimmie Dickens, Johnny Duncan, Barbara Fairchild and a host of other minor artists. The label also controlled significant back catalogs on artists such as Ted Daffan, Gene Autry, Bill Monroe and Bob Wills.

With that array of artists (which doesn’t even count those on sister label Epic), there simply wasn’t much promotional oomph left for the likes of an aging bar-band singer, and so the recording of Roger’s albums was left to independent producer Pete Drake.

Drake, a great steel player famous for his “talking” steel guitar, used the “Country Cocktail” production style of Billy Sherrill and Glenn Sutton on Rogers’ records. Background vocals and symphonic strings were heavy, but because of Drake’s personal instrumental specialty, steel guitar played a far more prominent role than in the typical Sherrill or Sutton production.

Rogers’ first single, “Forgiven Fruit,” was release in 1967, but failed to chart. The next single, “I’d Be Your Fool Again,” checked in at #69, and the one after that, “I’m In Love With My Wife,” (bundled with “Tessie’s Bar Mystery”) finally cracked the top 40. Progress was slow but steady. In 1969, “A World Called You” hit #23. Meanwhile, Rogers made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry and started appearing regularly on the WWVA (Wheeling, WV) Big Jamboree, where I first heard him many Saturday nights on the radio.

Rogers’ breakthrough hit was 1970’s “I Wake Up In Heaven”, which peaked at #19 on the Cashbox Country Chart (Billboard had it at #26). The song was very strong in selected regional markets, hitting #1 in places like Orlando, FL, and Norfolk VA. The follow-up single, “She Don’t Make Me Cry” (#19 Billboard / #4 Cashbox) continued the upward momentum, and “Ruby You’re Warm” held place (#21 Billboard / #13 Cashbox).

According to Billboard, the next single, 1972’s “Need You,” was Rogers’ biggest hit, reaching #9 (it went to #5 on Cashbox and, again, hit #1 in many markets). (“Need You” was a remake of the 1958 Donnie Owens pop hit and is, in fact, my favorite David Rogers recording.)

After that peak, Columbia apparently lost interest in Rogers as his next two singles barely cracked the top 40 on either Billboard or Cashbox. By 1973, Rogers was off Columbia and had signed with Atlantic Records, hardly a power in the world of country music, though the label was trying to penetrate the country market as they signed Willie Nelson at this time.

Atlantic actually had more success with Rogers than with Nelson–Rogers achieved one top ten single with the late 1973 single “Loving You Has Changed My Life,” which peaked at #9 on both Billboard and Cashbox in January 1974.

Both Nelson and Rogers were gone from Atlantic by the end of 1974. Nelson, of course, went on to bigger and better things, but Rogers would slowly fade from the public eye. After recording one album for United Artists, he moved on to a series of minor labels including Republic, Kari, Music Master and Hal Kat, where he charted singles until 1984, with only 1979’s “Darling” cracking the top twenty.

Recordings

Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, none of David Rogers’ albums have ever been issued on CD, so you’ll need to do vinyl hunting (there may be some digital download available).

The three Columbia albums (A World Called You, She Don’t Make Me Cry and Need You) are quite good, especially the latter two. The Atlantic albums, which were again produced by Pete Drake, are also worthwhile, though they differ from the Columbia albums in that most of the “Country Cocktail” trappings were abandoned.

My favorite album from the Atlantic years is Farewell To The Ryman, issued in 1973 to commemorate the Opry’s move to Opryland. The track-list is a cornucopia of classic country songs: “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Great Speckled Bird,” “I’m Movin’ On,” “I Can’t Help It,” “Walking The Floor Over You,” “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On,” “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “Release Me,” “Mexican Joe,” “Wondering,”, “I Walk The Line,” and “Satisfied Mind.”

Aside from the Republic records, Music Master issued one Rogers album titled The Best of David Rogers, a two record set comprised of 11 re-makes of his Columbia and Atlantic hits and nine new songs written by Harold Shields. The new songs aren’t bad; two of them–“Hold Me” and “Crown Prince of the Barroom”–charted, and the remakes are decent, finding Rogers in good voice.

3 Pings

  1. [...] you enjoyed Paul W. Dennis’ “Forgotten Artist” feature on David Rogers, go check it out again. We added several tracks to the bottom that will hopefully whet your appetite and entice you to [...]
  2. [...] “Need You” – David Rogers (1972) (See the Forgotten Artist article for more on David Rogers) [...]
  3. [...] want to check out an article written by our buddy Paul W. Dennis, a few years ago, on the website the9513, that gives a really nice overview of his career. You can read that article by simply clicking [...]
  1. Rick
    August 5, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Paul, thanks for another very interesting article on an artist I never heard of before. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of such artists from over the years, so I was wondering what your selection criteria is? I’m guessing these artists are personal favorites of yours that you feel never got the airplay or recognition they deserve. My take is that if you like them enough to feature them in this series, then they are probably worth tracking down and listening to.

  2. Stormy
    August 5, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    If you get a copy of an album onj Vinyl you can get USB ports to connect between your record player and computer to rip it to digital.

  3. Paul W Dennis
    August 5, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks Rick

    Here are the criteria I use:

    1) They will be artists whose music I have enjoyed – you wouldn’t expect me to spotlight artists whose music I cannot stand, would you ?

    2) They will be artists of some degree of accomplishment. In the case of David Rogers, he charted 37 times with 5 top 20 hits (according to Billboard). In the case of Johnny Darrell , he had less charting records (18) but was important in helping unearth significant songs. Charley Pride, of course, was unbelievably successful

    3) They can’t be too obscure – I want to showcase artists whose music an enterprising reader could locate and hear. This would eliminate an artist like Peggy Little who issued two albums on Dot (only one of which featured her photograph) and charted ten singles, only two of which got as high as #37. If you try to google Peggy Little , you will get a bunch of entries for Little Peggy March, a pop singer of the early 60s.

    4) Chart success is not the only definition of success. In the early days many artists were radio stars or TV stars. Others had great regional success that was not picked up by Billboard or Cashbox, or records that sold slowly but steadily. It is reported that Carl Smith’s recording of “I Overlooked An Orchid” sold over 500,000 copies, huge total for a country record in the early 1950s, yet it never charted at all. It was released during a period when the Billboard charts ran 8-10 places and apparently bubbled under the top ten forever

  4. mr.sandy
    August 6, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Um…do you take requests? Don Bowman (who made that immortal line famous in his send up of Ralph Emery, Hello Mr. DJ). Also, Diana Trask, Dick Feller and Susie Allanson.

  5. Jim Malec
    August 6, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Damn, I’d actually like to hear more about those obscure artists! I hereby officially request an entry on Peggy Little. ;-)

  6. Paul W Dennis
    August 6, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Truth is I don’t know enough about Peggy Little to write an article about her. Her two albums are good but the only song I remember being played on radio was “Son of a Preacher Man” , her cover of a Dusty Springfield song. It was played frequently by WCMS in Norfolk, VA but only got to #40 nationally

    I like Dick Feller’s music and sense of humor and will do a feature on him in the future. I’m open to suggestions. I plan to mix relative unknowns with some artists who were once famous but now forgotten

    Next up will be Wynn Stewart and after that, since I haven’t done any yet on the distaff side, I will do Goldie Hill (a/k/a Mrs. Carl Smith)

  7. Rick
    August 6, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Paul, thanks for detailing your selection criteria. I’m glad you’ll be spotlighting Wynn Stewart. I’m kinda partial to any artist who was a pioneer of the Bakersfield Sound prior to Buck Owens. Does this mean Tommy Collins (Leonard Sipes) will make the list too? (lol)

  8. Homebody
    August 7, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Peggy Little- wasn’t she on the Mike Douglas show frequently? My favorite song by her was “Mama I Won’t Be Wearing a Ring.” I was able to find a good copy of the LP on ebay, but biographical info is almost impossible.

  9. pselby
    August 24, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Great feature! I’ve been reading (and re-reading)Joel Whitburn’s Country Annual publication, which lists every charting song from 1944 through 1997. I noticed that David Rogers turned up a lot and I was interested, having never heard of him. I also noticed that the name Mundo Earwood turned up several times and I had not heard of him either – could he be a candidate on this topic?

  10. JACK L DAVIS
    August 27, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    DAVID ROGERS I could listen to forever and i wish he were still with us and making great music and touring

  11. Ann Brown
    December 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Hello Paul:

    I had the pleasure of working with David in the late 80’s early 90’s.
    I sang backup and duets with him,and I appeared with him on the Ernst Midnight Jamboree. David was a great talent and super entertainer.

    Constantly Country – Ann Brown

  12. Buster
    May 30, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I just picked up too albums of Peggy Little as i never heard of her i was looking for more. Is 2 LPs all she has done? BY the way i paid $1.00 each and they are great.

  13. TERRY
    June 7, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I TOTALLY AGREE WITH JACK DAVIS. I SAW DAVID ROGERS SEVERAL TIMES AT POSSUM HOLLOW IN YORK,SC AND TALKED WITH HIM A LOT.THE ONE THING HE TOLD ME THAT I REALLY ADMIRED IN HIM WAS THAT HE WOULD NEVER SING A SONG THAT WOULD PUT A WOMAN DOWN IN ANY WAY.

  14. Marsha Smith
    July 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Great artist and even better older brother. I miss him very much every day. Not only did he have great state presence, he endeavored to be familiar with his audience and connect with each and every fan. A unique ability not found in many artists, especially today.

  15. micachee sound
    September 8, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    i remember him as a artist that was born to music
    it was always about doing the best show every time

  16. J Lewis
    November 11, 2009 at 12:27 am

    i just watched an old episode of hee haw circa ’69 (before i was born) and saw peggy little on there doing “preacher man”…i can’t find ANYTHING about her besides her brief career. this is the first artist i’ve been unable to find anything about (birth, death?, etc.)

  17. ronwhite
    November 11, 2009 at 8:18 am

    i had a band caled alana & the night riders that was the top band in new england for ten years and backed david many times he stayed at our house many times and i always thought he had one of the best voices i have ever heard i had many of his albums at one time but over the years have lost them i”me still in the buseness but i do miss working with some of those not so big talents
    love your article and like some of the others that have noted you i”ve tried to find some cds of david but could not find anything i did find some of dave dudley who we worked with at the lone star in n.h.and dick curliss who we also worked with many times also a great talent with a remarkable voice if you do evr find some of davids old elbums please e mail me thanks ron

  18. Michael Kelly
    November 19, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Thank you so much for keeping these great artists names alive like David Rogers and Ed Bruce. Keep up the wonderful work.

  19. Frank Grainger
    January 13, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    how can I find Peggy Little. She sang ” I knew you would be leaveing when your reason for staying is gone”. She gave one of her records to my daughter years ago in Hawaii.

  20. Paul Watts
    March 25, 2010 at 2:19 am

    I worked for david rogers for yrs as his drummer.I lost touch with him and heard he died just a couple of yrs ago and been trying to find out what and why mainly. I enjoyed working with him so much he was a gentleman and wow,,could he hold an audience. I knew the songs but everytime he was on stage I would just really enjoy it never got tired of his singing.Thank you for your work in this area. I just found out about this site tonight, however I shall be back,,,

  21. Don Laakso
    May 9, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Was David Rogers owner or part owner of Country Green Lounge in Atlanta during the 70s??? I remember meeting him when I went there to hear him sing and have a few drinks. He really was a good singer and I appreciated him. He made you feel the music.

  22. Tina Barbknecht
    July 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I just read the comment from Paul Watts and I am wondering if he is the brother of Bobby Watts and, if so, if you remember Paul Daugherty. I am his sister, Tina. Paul died in January 2000. I think he played steel guitar for David Rogers for awhile, didn’t he? I would love it if you see this and reply. Thanks. Tina

  23. TL
    August 10, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    I am a very close friend of Peggy Little. I am also her biggest fan. Try my web page: http://www.wix.com/4peggy/peggy-little-sings
    I will forward any comments to her from that website. She is alive and well and still has that beautiful voice.

  24. nancy sanders
    May 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I just found this article. I have always loved the only David Rogers tune I had ever heard: When a Woman Cries. This song played constantly on WBAP around Christmas of 1978 and was on the juke box at the local club. I always cried when I heard it, and have spent the last thirty years trying to get a copy of it. I just ordered one and can’t wait to get it and hear the lovely words and David’s voice singing those words.
    God made woman for man to love, God made woman from the angels above, every time a woman cries, it make the angels cry.

    Sad that is all I can remember, but it has stuck with me all these years. I have spent a small fortune on boxes of 45’s over the years trying to find this one song and have finally found a copy which hopefully will be here within the week.

    Thanks for keeping his memory alive.

  25. Joanna
    August 27, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I have looked for the song mahogany bridge for over 20 years it was on a jukebox where I worked and I didn’t know who sing it. just found it today on utube. so I had to look up David Rogers. so thank you for not forgetting him.

  26. Rick Martin
    October 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Just came across your website a couple years after your article Paul. Thanks again for the interesting article on the late David Rogers. I became acquainted with David’s music in the early / mid 70’s as a 20 year old. My future wife and I listened to his great songs and unique voice throughout the 70’s and 80’s then lost track of him as our children came along. Now in my mid 50’s I thought of David last year and did a search that unfortunately revealed that David had died some time ago. What a great talent and wonderful man! His music brings back so many memories for my wife and I. May God bless his memory!

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