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