Forgotten Artists: Lacy J. Dalton

Paul W. Dennis | August 5th, 2009

lacy-j-dalton

With one of the more recognizable voices in the genre, Lacy J. Dalton blazed across the skies of country music during the 1980s, producing a number of memorable songs along the way. While not an overwhelming commercial success (only nine of her songs made the Billboard country Top 10) as an artist she impressed with her heartfelt vocals and gritty song interpretations. People magazine referred to her as “Country’s Bonnie Raitt,” a description with which few would differ.

Lacy J. Dalton (born Jill Byrem on October 13, 1946 in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania), was born into a musical family. Her father, mother and sister all played musical instruments and sang. Like many of her generation, Dalton’s early influences included the classic country sounds of her youth and the sounds of the folk music revival of the early 60s known as the “Hootenanny” era and artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Billie Holiday and Big Mama Thornton.

Following completion of high school, Dalton briefly attended Brigham Young University. But her restless spirit prevailed, and she dropped out and drifted around the country for a time, eventually arriving in Los Angeles and then Santa Cruz, where she performed as a protest-oriented folksinger. During the later ’60s, she sang with a Bay Area psychedelic rock band called Office, becoming Jill Croston when she married the group’s manager. This marriage did not last long as her husband died in a swimming pool accident.

During the late 1970s Lacy reinvented herself as a country singer adopting the stage name of Lacy J. Dalton. After an initial rock recording on the Harbor label in 1978, in 1979 she landed a recording contract with Columbia after Billy Sherrill heard a demo tape of her singing country music. Her Columbia debut, “Crazy Blue Eyes,” reached #17, followed by her recordings of “Tennessee Waltz” (#18) and “Losing Kind of Love” (#14).

The first three singles helped Lacy win the CMA’s Best New Artist Award. After that, her career kicked into high gear with a string of top ten records that took her through 1983, including “Hard Times” (#7) , “Hillbilly Girl With the Blues” (#8), “Whisper” (#10) and her biggest record “Takin’ It Easy” (#1 Cashbox/#2 Billboard). “Everybody Makes Mistakes,” backed with “Wild Turkey,” was a double-sided hit with the A side reaching #5.

While not her biggest hit, 1982’s “16th Avenue” is probably her best remembered, reaching #7. A 1983 cover of Roy Orbison’s “Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)” concluded her visits to the top ten, although she continued to record for Columbia through 1987. The changing tastes of the country music market, away from her ‘blue-eyed soul‘ style toward a more traditional style, greased her slide down the charts. A change of record labels, to Universal in 1989 and Capitol/Liberty in 1990 failed to arrest the slide, although “The Heart” in 1989 and “Black Coffee” in 1990 both reached the top 15, the latter song being her last appearance on the Billboard charts.

Lacy J. Dalton continues to write and record music, and tours the United States and Europe.

You can keep up with Lacy J. Dalton on her website.

Discography

Vinyl
As is always the case, all vinyl is out of print. You can sometimes find her records at used record shops, thrift shops or on the internet. MusicStack seems to be the best source for vinyl on the internet as it is a clearinghouse for many dealers.

Lacy issued nine albums on Columbia. One of these albums is a greatest hits collection, but they are all good albums. Trust me–if you like Lacy’s voice, you’ll like the albums. If you find any albums on Universal, Liberty or Capitol, you may as well buy them too.

CD
The Ernest Tubb Record Shop currently has her Greatest Hits available for $9.95. A ten song CD, this one has ten of her Columbia era songs and indeed is accurately titled. ET also has Best of the Best CD on the King label–same songs but I think these are remakes

Lacy’s website has a newer CD (from 2004/2008) Last Wild Place which has some newer material plus five of her old hits. This album is (more or less) acoustic.

In the past other CDs have been available including a hits collection on the Capitol/Liberty material.

1 Ping

  1. [...] today. So says Paul Dennis, a knowledgeable blogger on The 9513 and definitely one of us. Here’s the Lacy J. installment in that blog’s “Forgotten Artist” series. Thom Schuyler’s words and Dalton’s rough-edged voice — which belied her age but [...]
  1. Razor X
    August 5, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    I always liked Lacy J. a lot. She disappeared from the charts during the mid-80s due to a dispute of some sort with Columbia. I forget what it was about but they wouldn’t let her record, nor would they release her from her contract. By the time the situation had played out and she moved to Universal and then Capitol, she’d been gone from the airwaves too long and the momentum had been lost. She was a very underrated artist.

    Thanks, as always, for the great article, Paul.

  2. Kevin Coyne
    August 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Great write-up, of course. I definitely need to seek out more of her music. Her stuff and that of Gail Davies is very difficult to hunt down!

  3. plain_jo
    August 5, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I “discovered” Lacy J. Dalton, a few years ago when I was going through a really rough patch in life. Her songs helped get me through. Black Coffee, Shaky Ground and The Heart are some of my favorite songs. Her 1989 Survivor album is one of my all time favorite albums.

  4. KayLyne
    August 5, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    It’s sad that Lacy fell out of the limelight of country music in the past decade, because she still makes some great music, like she always has. The Last Wild Place was a great album, but not a lot of people know about it. Lacy’s music has always been part of my music playlist since my early teens, and will continue to be for as long as she’s still giving us the great gift of her voice and great songs.

  5. Rick
    August 5, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    It may be heresy, but I prefer Sunny Sweeney’s version of “16th Avenue” because, well its Sunny! (lol) Gritty voiced female artists haven’t done well on mainstream country radio since Lacy faded from the scene, except for maybe some of Tanya Tucker’s singles that came afterwards. Jann Browne certainly didn’t even fare near as well as Lacy at country radio although being quite a talent in her own right.

    In recent years Capitol artist Amber Dotson captured a lot of Lacy’s emotional grit as can clearly be heard at Amber’s MySpace. Sadly the radio failure of Amber’s two singles ended a promising career that never really made it off the starting blocks. I recently gave a spin to Amber’s “Good Ole Boy’s Kinda Girl” at the Grand Ole Echo club in LA and got some positive listener feedback, and I usually get no feedback at all! Oh well…
    Link: http://www.myspace.com/amberdotson

    These days Sarah Buxton has the grittiest voice on country radio but she hasn’t scored near the success she deserves. Hopefully “Outside My Window” will up the ante…

  6. Stormy
    August 5, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I can actually add some fun facts to this article! Yay! Lacy got her last name Dalton from her muscal influence and good friend Karen Dalton. Bust did a really great article about Karen based largely on Lacy’s stories a few years back.

  7. david
    August 5, 2009 at 8:08 pm
  8. Sunny Sweeney
    August 6, 2009 at 12:03 am

    now rick… that was sure sweet! : )

  9. Floyd Lamore
    August 6, 2009 at 12:09 am

    16th Avenue was great (is) But “the Heart is all that maatters in a man (or A woman)” says it all. I heard it first on highway 41 outside Macon Ga. going to see my dad in a nursing home after his stroke. I worked construction and a 16 oz. beer and her singing it after a 90 degree red clay GEORGIA DAY made my week. I followed her as an icon a’la Bonnie Raitt and Gretchen Wilson. Sometimes a song or music will give you the spirit like, “make a joyful noise”! Well she did, God Bless her. Please come back to us, someone give her a venue. Some groups/periodicals etc…let success go to their head and forget the roots which got them there. Thus they look for new audiences…patrons be damned. That’s when their arrogance becomes them as marauders of real music and writing. Like RS ignoring Part of the Plan and Leader of the Band aka Jackson Browne Jr. They becme the embodiment of what they promoted assymetrically, “back in the day”. Lacy deserves her props and so do some more of us old school writers and singers. Something is happening her, but you don’t know what it is . Do you, Mr. Jones???? No, you’ve encouraged the move on toward materialism and away from spirit.Shame on you.Hoo rah Ms. Lacy. Some of us know and love you . Alternative venue is still alive and well living in us. You go girl. Floyd Lamore, a patron of what’s good.

  10. antonio
    August 6, 2009 at 9:06 am

    please step away from the william s. burroughs novel, floyd.

  11. Floyd Lamore
    November 27, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Back to this Antonio comment about my giving Ms. Dalton her props and what she means to me. Is there no more to your life than adroitly bring in a tortured author to mock a largely shared commentary on an artist who came close to the top and brought joy to countless? Perhaps themes from NAKED LUNCH etc…excite you, then may I suggest you go to a William Burroughs site and dig in there? Rain on someone else’s parade. Lacy would have too much class to communicate that to you. She’d just wish you well. Maybe you should try MAN IN BLACK by Johnny Cash. It’s about the music. Peace out. The College Park Kid

  12. Kay mitchell
    February 26, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I love your song “ON A BLANKET ON THE GROUND” .
    It’s the best song and singing I have ever heard!!

  13. tonio
    April 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    lacy has been a fixture to my ears since crazy blue eyes and i still play her music on my record player almost every day my fav right now is her blue-eyed blues i have met her in person and she is very enjoyable and warm we need her music on the radio today djs are you listening! lacy if you see this you are the greatest and dont ever forget that

  14. Paul W Dennis
    March 24, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Lacy J Dalton’s newest recording project is a Hank Williams tribute album titled HERE’S TO HANK. Released in 2010, the album finds Lacy tackling a dozen Hank Sr. classics.

    While Lacy sticks to the obvious songs such as “Your Cheating Heart”, Hey Good Looking” and “You Win Again”, the fact remains that if (1) you take a really good and soulful singer (2) have her sing twelve of the greatest songs ever written and (3) add an appropriate crew of musicians and careful arrangements by Steven Swinford that update but do not lose the feel of the originals, then you will have a really good album

    Highly recommended to fans of Lacy J Dalton, fans of Hank Sr., and fans of really good country music

  15. Miss Leslie
    March 24, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Thanks, Paul, for posting that. I had no idea she had a CD out last year.

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