Forgotten Artists: Ten from the ’80s, Pt. 2

Paul W. Dennis | April 16th, 2010

This article will focus on some more artists who either had a very short period of great success or had an extended run of near-success.

The McCarters blazed brightly across the sky in 1988 and ’89. Comprised of lead singer Jennifer and her twin sisters Lisa and Teresa, this trio hearkened back to an older form of music. Their first album produced three Top 10 hits in “Timeless and True Love” (#5), “The Gift” (#4) and “Up And Gone” (#9). Their second album, with the act now billed as Jennifer McCarter and The McCarters, lacked the charm of their freshman effort and produced only one Top 30 hit.

Mel McDaniel had 41 chart entries, 21 of them during the 1980s. 20 of McDaniel’s charted records failed to crack the Top 30, however, and another eight failed to crack the Top 20. During the 1980s he had nine Top 10 songs scattered across the decade, but everyone remembers him for “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On”–his sole #1–which hit the top in early 1985 and kicked off a string of three Top 10s.

The O’Kanes were a duo comprised of veteran singer-songwriters Kieran Kane and Jamie O’Hara. They charted seven singles in the 1980s, six of which broke the Top 10. Their sound was quite distinctive, very acoustic at times, seemingly somewhere between that of the Louvin Brothers and the Everly Brothers. The first single released, 1986’s “Oh Darlin’,” reached #10, followed by their biggest hit, “Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You” which hit the top in 1987. They broke up at the end of 1989 but both continued to be active in the Nashville music community.

K.T. Oslin perhaps wrote the decade’s theme song with her 1987 hit “80’s Ladies,” which hit #7 for the then-46 year old Oslin. By then, she had been in the music business for decades, having some success as a songwriter (most notably Gail Davies’ Top 10 recording of “Round The Clock Lovin’”). Ms Oslin actually had four #1 records and may be best remembered for the “Bride of Frankenstein” video that was made for her last #1 (and last Top 10) hit, “Come Next Monday” in 1990.

Paul Overstreet remains active as a Christian artist, but earlier in his career he had considerable success as a songwriter, writing “Same Old Me” for George Jones, “A Long Line of Love” for Michael Martin Murphey, and numerous other hits for others. An initial single for RCA stalled out at #76 in 1982, but then Overstreet got another shot at recording as part of SKO (see below). After leaving SKO, Overstreet appeared on the #1 hit recording of “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love” with the then red-hot Tanya Tucker and songwriter Paul Davis. In 1988, Overstreet issued his first solo single for MTM, the #3 “Love Helps Those,” then slid over to RCA when MTM collapsed and ran off seven more consecutive Top 10s with “Daddy’s Come Around” reaching # 1 in early 1991.

Sandy Pinkard and Jeff Bowden were long-time Nashville session men and songwriters who teamed up for some comedy records during the 1980s. While none were huge chart hits, “Mama She’s Lazy,” a parody of the Judds’ “Mama He’s Crazy” got some airplay and spawned a hilarious video. Pickard’s most notable solo credit was as the co-writer of “You’re The Reason God Made Oklahoma.”

Judy Rodman, like Janie Fricke and Karen Taylor-Good (her partners in a vocal group called Phase II), spent years doing backup vocals and commercial jingles. Unlike Fricke (who made it really big) and Taylor-Good (for whom nothing really happened), Ms. Rodman almost made it big. Her first three singles for MTM records all broke the Top 40 in 1985, then the first release in 1986, “Until I Met You,” made it to #1. Her next three singles (“She Thinks That She’ll Marry,” “Girls Ride Horses Too” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”) all reached Top 10 status. Unfortunately, MTM was a sinking ship and her next three records went to #18, #43 and #45 before MTM shut down its doors forever. While she never again was a force as a recording artist, she had success doing backing vocals and penning the LeAnn Rimes hit “One Way Ticket.” She currently works as a vocal coach/trainer and has a website.

It isn’t really fair to put The Rovers in this article–they had only two county hits (“Wasn’t That A Party” and “Pain In My Past”) during the early 1980s (the former, penned by Tom Paxton, was also a major pop hit), but under their former (and future) name–The Irish Rovers–this band of Irish-born Canadians has a long and distinguished pedigree having a major international hit with Bill Anderson’s “The Unicorn” in 1967 and having released over thirty albums, mostly of Irish folk music. They also had an international (but not U.S.) hit with “Grandma Got Run-Over By A Reindeer” in 1982.

Hot on the heels of some television success, John Schneider tried his hand as a country singer. A brief fling as a pop singer in the early eighties saw Schneider score with a #14 pop cover of Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now Or Never.” Several other pop songs scored with lesser success, but what struck Schneider’s management was that seven of the singles got some country airplay as well. After signing with MCA in mid-1984, he reached the top with “I’ve Been Around Enough To Know.” Schneider hung around the recording studios for another three years and scored three more #1s and five additional Top 10 records, but his heart was too much into being an actor to ever devote to touring and by the end of 1987 he was back to being an actor full-time. All told he charted 17 times with 10 Top 10 records. He wasn’t just a pretty face–he really could sing, and his records were as country as anything going at the time.

SKO/SKB: Many artists reach Nashville as songwriters but also wanting to have careers as performers. In 1986, songwriters Thom Schuyler, J. Fred Knoblock and Paul Overstreet–all of whom had written many hits for other artists–came together and formed an act, obtaining a recording contract in the process. Prior to forming the group, Schuyler and Overstreet had minor chart hits and Knoblock had a pair of country Top 10s–one a duet with actress Susan Anton–but with more pop-oriented material.

The first two singles, “You Can Stop Love” and “Baby’s Got A New Baby,” reached Top 10 status with the latter going to #1 in early 1987. The third single, “American Me,” stalled at #16, but by then Paul Overstreet had reached the decision to go it alone.

Overstreet was replaced by another successful songwriter in Craig Bickhardt and the group became SKB. Three more Top 30 singles followed with “Givers and Takers” reaching #8, but when the next single stiffed at #44, the jig was up. All of these guys continued to provide other singers with material.

  1. PaulaW
    April 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

    He wasn’t just a pretty face–he really could sing, and his records were as country as anything going at the time.

    John Schneider is back to recording country music. Some friends and I saw him last September at The Listening Room in Nashville and he was going back into the studio to record another album.

    And just for the record, he can still sing and he’s still easy on the eyes. ;-)

  2. Rick
    April 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I’ve been purchasing download singles off Amazon lately of songs I remember I really liked but never purchased. One of those was John Schneider’s “What’s a Memory Like You (Doing In A Love Like This)” which is up to Keith Whitley standards. The recorded sound quality is hollow and poor and its too bad John didn’t have a better producer on board!

    Awhile back I purchased a used CD of the O’Kanes self titled debut and it was not cheap! They must not be too common as used copies start on Amazon at over $ 30! The vinyl versions are plentiful and cheap in comparison.

    I’ll have to look into The McCarters as I don’t recall them being played on LA’s Top 40 country station back in the late 1980’s. Hmm…

    K.T. Oslin’s version of “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” is one of the better songs on the hit and miss “Tammy Wynette Remembered” tribute album. Try to imagine a gal like K.T. breaking into Top 40 country radio in today’s marketplace! That’s about as likely as Odumbo becoming a conservative, Constitution loving and respecting patriot! (lol)

  3. Sam G.
    April 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I managed to pick up copies of the O’Kanes CDs by searching through used CD stores. They’re not easy to find by well worth the effort. Both Kieran Kane and Jamie O’Hara have released some great solo records, though O’Hara’s last release was a number of years ago.

  4. Stormy
    April 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Rick: The best John Schneider song was an album cut off of his Greatest Hits album which I don’t believe was released as a single. Its called “If It Was Anyone But You.”

    For The McCarters think a more accoustic Forrester Sisters. The also had a lovely rendition of the Neil Finn/Crowded House song “Better Be Home Soon” that surpassed later Kasey Chambers cover. (I’m the opposite of Stephen. I was so into country rather than Rock in the 1980’s that I referred to this as a McCarters cover when discussing the Chambers version.)

  5. Stormy
    April 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Sam: You should try finding McCarters albums. But, good news in the country music realm–I tunes finally has songs by Shelly West.

  6. Josh
    April 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I don’t mean to insert something off here or seem inappropriate…but as a winner of the new Alan Jackson’s Freight Train, when do I receive the prize? I only ask because it’s been a week and a half with nary an album. Do y’all have my correct address?

    As for this post…the only thing I recognize is John Schneider and Paul Overstreet. Damn I was little!

  7. Brody Vercher
    April 16, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    We received the CDs on Monday and they went out on Tuesday, so yours should be arriving soon, Josh.

  8. t.scott
    April 16, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    John Schneider was a great country singer.Mel Mcdaniel started as a rockabilly artist,and his best songs were always fun type rockabilly numbers.
    He perhaps deserves a little more in depth review.(hint hint…)

  9. grumpyoldman
    April 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    “Hold Me” still gets me right there. Love K.T. Oslin.

  10. Lee
    April 16, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    More info on Mel would be great. Had a cassette of his greatest hits for years but just bought everything available off LaLa. Killer stuff.

  11. TimeO
    April 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    For what it’s worth “Bowden” of Pinkard & Bowden is Richard Bowden, not Jeff.

  12. NHunter
    April 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    If you can’t get their names correct they will probably stay forgotten. It’s Richard Bowden not Jeff !

  13. numberonecountryfan
    April 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    If you are going to have the O’Kanes on that list, what about another duo that had success at the same time as the O’Kanes-even on the same label-Columbia-the Sweethearts of the Rodeo?

  14. Noeller
    April 16, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I’m an 80s born guy, but I’ve always loved KT Oslin’s “80s Ladies” and thought it was a cool tune with a great vocal.

    For me, aside from his version of Merry Christmas, Mary that is a tradition around our home at the holidays, Overstreet is most noteworthy as a songwriter for some of the incredible stuff he penned for Whitley, Travis and others in the 80s.

    Lotta great talent in that decade, that’s for sure!!

  15. Paul W Dennis
    April 16, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Sorry about the “Jeff Bowden” error – I was watching some FSU football when I first started putting the article together – Jeff was the former offensive coordinator (and son of Bobby Bowden) at FSU !

  16. Josh
    April 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Dang! I spoke at the right time! :D Got it today…when I posted my comment above as well. :P Pahtooey me.

  17. Paul Selby
    April 16, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Glad John Schneider is getting some props here; I was listening to “What’s A Memory Like You” the other day and was thinking that it was stone country and really good. I also really like “Take The Long Way Home.” I’ve always loved KT Oslin, too; she was born in my hometown.

  18. Judy Rodman
    April 16, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for the mention.. nice to be remembered. It was fun!

  19. stormy
    April 16, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    I bought one of your songs a couple of months ago.

  20. luckyoldsun
    April 17, 2010 at 1:29 am

    I’m not disagreeing with what you wrote about Paul Overstreet, but I think you kind of missed he boat in describing his work. You left out his two most important songs–the ones that make him a hall-of-fame songwriter: the Randy Travis smashes “On the Other Hand” and “Forever and Ever Amen”!

  21. Josh
    April 17, 2010 at 9:03 am

    I agree with luckyoldsun.

  22. numberonecountryfan
    April 17, 2010 at 10:17 am

    I can’t wait for a 90s version!

  23. Razor X
    April 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I remember all of these. I always liked Mel McDaniel, Judy Rodman and Paul Overstreet. Never cared for K.T. Oslin very much; I never could understand what all the fuss was about.

  24. Noeller
    April 17, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Wasn’t Mel McDaniel’s “Louisianna Saturday Night” from the 80s? That song, to me, was always the most notable.

  25. numberonecountryfan
    April 17, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Louisiana Saturday Night was Mel McDaniel’s first top ten, peaking at #7 in 1981.

  26. Mayor JoBob
    April 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    When you do make a 90’d list, don’t forget River Road and Boy Howdy or Charlie Floyd!

  27. Mayor JoBob
    April 18, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Ok, technically River Road is 2000 but still…

  28. Lewis
    April 19, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Mel McDaniel’s career started in the mid 1970’s and he started charting singles in 1976. Several of my favorite songs of his are 1979’s “Play Her Back To Yesterday” which wasn’t even on an album and 1978’s “God Made Love” and of course his biggest hits like “Louisiana Saturday Night, “Baby Got Her Blue Jeans On”, “Big Ole Brew”, “Let It Roll”, “Stand Up”, “Stand On It” and “Real Good Feel Good Song”

    One of his 1980’s hits that didn’t quite make it and should have been a bigger hit than it was was 1983’s “Old Man River (I’ve Come To Talk To You Again)”

  29. Lewis
    April 19, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Another great song of Mel’s that should have done better was “Hello Daddy, Good Morning Darling” which only reached #39 in 1980.

  30. Occasional Hope
    April 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I really liked both the McCarters and the O’Kanes.

  31. Bobby P.
    April 19, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    I have a Pinkard & Bowden album. They got very vulgar at times (almost Rodney Carrington levels) but still funny.

    Also, S-K-O’s first hit was “You Can’T Stop Love,” not “Can.”

    I remember K.T. Oslin most for “Come Next Monday.” Always liked that song. Mom would sometimes sing “Hey Bobby” to me when it came on the radio.

    …I really, really need to find a Sweethearts of the Rodeo album. None of their stuff’s on iTunes.

  32. Lucas
    April 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Schneider was/is great, someone above said that he needed a better producer, but I beg to differ. Jimmy Bowen was the producer (who was as sucessful as anyone in the ’80s), with Schneider co-producing on the latter records. They started recording in digital about as early as anyone and they used the big studio musicians.

    He fell apart in 1987 with that years album which was mostly rock and turned off country radio.

  33. Guy
    April 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Purchase some of The O’Kanes’ catalogue if you get the chance. For my money, that is some of best and most distinctive recordings ever made in Nashville. After years gone by now, it’s still so striking … pure … unusual … haunting … fun … vocal … acoustic … pick a description.

  34. Rick
    April 19, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Lucas said: “Schneider was/is great, someone above said that he needed a better producer, but I beg to differ. Jimmy Bowen was the producer (who was as sucessful as anyone in the ’80s), with Schneider co-producing on the latter records. They started recording in digital about as early as anyone and they used the big studio musicians.”

    That last sentence says it all! The early first generation Sony digital studio recorders sounded like SH*T! The other digital studio gear in use at the time, like analog to digital converters, didn’t typically sound good either. The sound quality of “What’s a Memory Like You” is poor and sounds like it was recorded in a cave. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s entire “State of the Heart” album had that edgy “digital sound” that was substandard as well. Many of my mid to late 80’s country CDs have the worst modern recorded sound quality in my collection! Songs extracted from 78’s for modern albums can even sound better if done properly.

  35. numberonecountryfan
    April 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    For Lucas: As I understand, John Scheider wanted to return to acting shortly after the Dukes of Hazard went off the air (1985-1986). He fulfilled his country contract in 1987, where he had his last top ten hit Love, You Ain’t Seen The Last Of Me (#6).

  36. will
    April 20, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I would love to see someone acknowledge Marie Osmond. I really LOVED Meet Me In Montana and her 3 Capitol albums produced by Paul Worley were great Country Pop. I really liked I Only Wanted You and thought that song should have been bigger. Then I went back and listened to her early LPs that were produced by Sonny James. They were extremely charming and are more country than a lot of stuff produced today. Vocally she wasn’t fantastic but she still is known as “A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY”

  37. Eric
    June 2, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    I have a question that I hope someone can answer.
    There was a video either in the late 90s or early 2000 that was by a female artist and i cant remember the song or the artist. All i can remember about the video is that there was a wall with round glass tubes and there were candles in them..can anyone help??

  38. Taylor
    October 11, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    How could you even possibly forget the Desert Rose Band!??! This glaring omission de-legitimizes this entire site.

  39. Paul W Dennis
    October 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Desert Rose is not really forgotten but more to the point, it never really broke up and it never really existed ! The core of Desert Rose is Chris Hillman and Herb Pederson. Yes, John Jorgenson was around for a while but before and after Desert Rose, Pederson and Hillman continued to perform and make records. Find a Chris Hillman record and you’ll find Herb Pederson playing on it. Likewise for Herb Pederson’s solo efforts – you’ll find Hillman playing on those. Plus they have done albums as a duo.

    As far as my failing to mention Desert Rose de-legitimizing the entire site, that’s true only if you are dumb enough to believe it. It might de-legitimize my article, but says NOTHING whatsoever about the veracity of the website. THe omission is strictly mine, although I should note that I never claimed the series is all-inclusive – I could string the series out to hundreds of artists if I though anyone really cared to read about Pake Entire or Shane Barmby or Sue Richard, etc

  40. Leeann Ward
    October 11, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Dramatic much, Taylor?

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