Friday Five: Clowns

Juli Thanki | January 14th, 2011

Are you a coulrophobic country music fan? You might want to skip this week’s Friday Five, because it’s got a miniature car’s worth of sad, often drunk, clowns.

  • Reflections / Should I Come Home6. “Heart of a Clown” – Gene Watson

    If ol’ Gene had the heart of a clown, he’d be able to keep a smile on his face when he felt like crying inside. That painted on smile is probably why so many people are creeped out by clowns in the first place.

  • Greatest Hits Volume 15. “Bandy, the Rodeo Clown” – Moe Bandy

    This song was written by Lefty Frizzell and became a Top 10 hit for Bandy in 1975. Now, I’ve only been to the rodeo as a spectator, but I’m going to guess that it’s not a good idea to drink on the job when said job involves one-ton creatures who could easily stomp your painted face into mush.

    Watch on YouTube

  • Conway's Latest Greatest Hits, Vol. 14. “The Clown” – Conway Twitty

    Love is a circus and poor Conway’s just a clown. Hey, better to be the clown than the dude who gets shot out of a cannon.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU63lpp6vrQ

  • This Time3. “Pocket of a Clown” – Dwight Yoakam

    It’s pretty sad inside the pocket of a clown, not only because you’ve got to watch smiles turn into frowns, but because you’ve probably been zapped with a shrink ray. But who can be too sad when you’ve got those doo-wop singers in the background? This song was the least successful single from Dwight’s fantastic (and triple platinum) ’93 album This Time.

  • Sweet Sixteen2. “Cathy’s Clown” – Reba McEntire

    Reba’s cover of the Everly Brothers hit topped the charts in 1989. Here she takes Cathy’s clown to task, telling him “When you let her tell you lies…you’re not a man at all.” Damn, Reba; way to kick a guy when he’s down.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cayQnBrCn9s

  • Jones Country1. “Wino the Clown” – George Jones

    The title might be funny, but this is one of the saddest songs the Possum’s ever recorded. It turns out the clown’s red nose and funny walk stems from the fact that he hit the bottle and lost his will to live after his wife passed away. Then things get even sadder when it’s revealed that the song is being told from Wino, Jr.’s perspective.

  1. Ken Morton
    January 14, 2011 at 9:12 am

    There’s something very contradictory and funny with George Jones holding a rifle for the title image of his YouTube video about clowns- as if he’s going to put the poor guy out of his misery.

    I can remember sitting in the back of my mom’s baby blue Continental listening to Ronnie Milsap’s 1980 “Cowboys and Clowns.” It’s a guilty pleasure still today.

  2. Dave D.
    January 14, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Solid list, even if (as much as I like Dwight) Pocket of a Clown isn’t my cup of tea.

    Honorable Mention to Beatin Ya Down by Dave Insley which, while not as clown-centric as the rest, is a great song.

  3. Jonathan
    January 14, 2011 at 9:38 am

    “Pocket of a Clown” was the first song to come to mind when I saw the post. It’s classic Yoakam, even if it’s an acquired taste.

    Reba’s version of “Cathy’s Clown” has really stood the test of time and proves just how great Reba can be when sings the right songs. The video is killer as well (as shown above).

    “Send in the Clowns,” the most famous song on the subject, doesn’t have any country versions (that I could find) but I did locate a version by Olivia-Newton John when searching on iTunes. It was released in 2004. She’s the closest to country I could turn up.

    Overall, a great list. I’m always amazed how many country songs exist on the most peculiar of subjects.

  4. numberonecountryfan
    January 14, 2011 at 9:45 am

    What about Kathy Mattea’s last major hit, Clown In Your Rodeo?

  5. J.R. Journey
    January 14, 2011 at 11:16 am

    This may be the first Friday Five where I know all the songs. The Conway Twitty song isn’t one of his greatest, but you still can’t help but love it a little when it’s Conway. I agree with Johnathan regarding Reba and ‘Cathy’s Clown’. And I was thinking the same thing about ‘Send In The Clowns’ – I was sure a country artist had recorded it at some point, and I’d have guessed Dolly Parton. Anyway, I found Krusty the Clown singing it on youtube.

    Happy Friday everyone!

  6. luckyoldsun
    January 14, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Apropos the discussions about songwriters and co-writers and credit, it should be noted that “Bandy the Rodeo Clown”–and some other hits like “That’s The Way Love Goes–were written by Sanger “Whitey” Shafer and Lefty Frizzell. Given that Whitey was the hot hit songwriter at the time and Lefty was the comebacking, faded country legend, I think it’s a pretty good bet that Whitey contributed at least as much to the joint efforts as Lefty did.

  7. Paul W Dennis
    January 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    My big for the best clown song would be Hank Thompson’s 1966 hit “Where Is THe Circus”

  8. Jon
    January 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I think it’s a pretty good bet that Whitey contributed at least as much to the joint efforts as Lefty did.

    And it’s an even better bet that that’s an utterly pointless and unnecessary one. If you want to run down Lefty Frizzell, why not try to find a more intellectually honest way to do it? Sheesh.

  9. TXmusicjim
    January 14, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Goodness people this is a light hearted subject, pardon the pun, running down Lefty Frizell is just plain wrong and any of the listed artists I’m sure would agree!

  10. luckyoldsun
    January 14, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I didn’t know that suggesting that Whitey Shaefer contributed at least as much to their co-writes as Lefty did–and deserves mention–constitutes “running down Lefty”–or is “intellectually dishonest.”

    Some people are overly sensitive and have wild imaginations.
    Sheesh. (Whatever the f that means.)

  11. SW
    January 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Although it was never a hit, Craig Morgan’s “Cowboy and Clown” off his “My Kind of Livin’” album is a pretty cool song.

  12. Ben Foster
    January 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Reba sure did make a lot of changes with her version of “Cathy’s Clown,” both in tweaking it to fit her gender, and in making it more of a ballad than a ditty. But I think the result turned out great. The song works well as a ballad, and Reba’s vocals sound great as always.

  13. Bob
    January 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Bobby Goldsboro – “See the Funny Little Clown”, written by BG

    Blaine Larsen – “Off to Join the World (The Circus Song)”, written by Shawn Camp and Mark Sanders

    from the 3rd verse:
    So he had a vague sense of uneasiness when
    His new sweetheart opened the door
    And he knew when he saw the clown standing behind her
    In front of her, there stood one more

  14. Ty
    January 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I love Hillary Lindsey’s ‘The Clown’.

  15. Jon
    January 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Pointing out that Whitey Shafer had a co-write on the song was a good idea; suggesting anything at all about the relative contribution of the two co-writers – and especially running down Lefty Frizzell by suggesting that he was less than a full contributor – not so much.

  16. Rick
    January 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    I’ve always disliked clowns and don’t care for songs about them either. “Cathy’s Clown” stands as one of my least favorite major radio hits from The Everly Brothers and Reba’s typical overwrought vocals affect me like fingernails on a chalkboard. The only clown related song I’ve ever really liked is “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, but that’s it. I do always enjoy Juli’s comments about these weekly “topic” songs though even when I have no interest in the songs themselves. Good stuff.

  17. Paul W Dennis
    January 14, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    I finally agree with Jon on something ! Knocking or questioning the contribution of Lefty Frizzell is something that you do at your own peril

  18. Jon G.
    January 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    I’m not sure that I should get into this, but when I read Luckyoldsun’s post, I got the impression that he was suggesting that Lefty and Whitey were equal contributors. The only slight was the ‘faded country legend’ comment, but it is true that Lefty was not as popular then as he once was.

  19. Jon G.
    January 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Again, I’m uneasy about dropping into this, but what I got out of the aforementioned comment was more a sense of, “You mentioned one songwriter, so why not mention the other who likely put as much into the song?”

  20. sheldon
    January 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Didn’t Kathy Matthea have a song “I ain’t gonna be a clown in your rodeo”, or was that someone else? I think I remember her on the cover of “Country Weakly”, (Yes, Weakly) in rodeo garb…

  21. Carrie
    January 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    “Cathy’s Clown” (Reba’s version) came out when I was 10 years old and absolutely wild about Reba. Just seeing the name on here takes me back. Wow.

    And, like Jonathan, it’s so much fun to see how many country songs there are about the most random subjects. I look forward to the Friday Five every week. :)

  22. luckyoldsun
    January 15, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Jon–
    For someone who purports to be the king of rhetoric and logic, your powers fail you this time.

    I happen to be a fan of Lefty Frizzell.
    I didn’t say or suggest that Lefty was less than a full contributor. All I said was that Whitey Shafer certainly WAS a full contributor–so that it’s inaccurate to say that “Rodeo Clown” was “written by Lefty Frizzell”–especially since that particular song does sound more like a Whitey song than a Lefty song.

    And saying that Whitey was a hot hitmaking songwriter at the time and Lefty was a comebacking faded country legend is simply a statement of fact. If that’s “running down Lefty” to you, then I suggest you shouldn’t read any biographical material on Lefty Frizzell, lest your sensibilities be offended. Under no circumstances should you read the essay in the CD booklet that comes with the Varese CD “That’s the Way Love Goes: The Final Recordings of Lefty Frizzell.” It may give you a stroke.

    I think Jon G. got what I was saying.

  23. Jon
    January 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

    @luckyoldsun I was quite clear about what was objctionable in your post; I quoted it, and it had nothing to do with who was a hot songwriter, who a “faded legend” or your pointing out that Whitey Shafer wrote the song with Lefty Frizzell.

    All I said was that Whitey Shafer certainly WAS a full contributor…

    Well, no, that’s not what you said, and all you need do is look at your original post or my quote from it to see that’s not so. Before you complain about my taking issue with what you said, you might want to try to figure out what it actuallyw as.

  24. luckyoldsun
    January 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I was quite clear about what was objctionable in your post; I quoted it,…

    Jon–
    Actually, you were rather cryptic about what “was objectionable” in my post–and are becoming more cryptic as the thread progresses. In fact, I don’t know what your objection is.

  25. Brody Vercher
    January 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I’ll throw out a mention for Guy Clark’s “Funny Bone.” It’s definitely one worth checking out.

  26. Jon G.
    January 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Jon, I think you should be more explicitly criticizing the phrasing of his original post than his views. By now, it’s pretty obvious that he never meant to insult Lefty at all, even if you believe he did so unintentionally. Furthermore, I myself never would have drawn the same conclusion you did, and I’m not sure that TXmusicjim and Paul W Dennis would have, either, had they not first read your own post.
    I think you sometimes seek out conflict for conflict’s sake.

  27. Jon
    January 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Pointing out that Whitey Shafer had a co-write on the song was a good idea; suggesting anything at all about the relative contribution of the two co-writers – and especially running down Lefty Frizzell by suggesting that he was less than a full contributor – not so much.

    There’s nothing cryptic about that, and it’s not about phrasing, either, especially given that luckyoldsun has no more idea of how that song was co-written than he has of what I had for lunch yesterday, and no reason to speculate about the one than about the other in the first place.

  28. Bobby P.
    January 16, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Clown in Your Rodeo has the most mixed metaphor I’ve ever heard in a country song: “Hand me my feather duster / I’m cleaning house out of the gate / Before my heart starts caving in.” Yogi Berra, Dan Quayle and Buffy Summers combined weren’t that bad at word-mangling.

  29. luckyoldsun
    January 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Jon–
    You’re still off on this idea that I was “running down” Lefty or “suggesting that he was less than a full contributor.” That comes from your own jumping to conclusions–something that gets you all bent out of shape when you sense it in others.

    And by the way, “scholars” (including amateur scholars), buffs, etc. have always done all kinds of speculating–based on looking at the available information and using powers of perception–about everything from when each of the various books of the Bible was written–and who wrote it–to whether a particular painting was done by an old master or is an immitation. There’s nothing nefarious about that.

    “Bandy the Rodeo Clown” strikes me as more like a Whitey song than a Lefty song because it’s about a specific character. Lefty’s songs tended to be about emotions and were universal as to time, place, etc. (Lefty’s famous “fictional character” songs like “Sagniaw, Michigan” and “Long Black Veil” were written by others.) Also, Whitey was writing a lot of hits at the time and was writing other songs for Moe Bandy. Based on that, I merely surmised that it’s a good bet that Whitey’s contribution to the song was at least as big as Lefty’s and that he should be recognized for it–that the original writer of the post should not have said that “Rodeo Clown” “was written by Lefty” and left it at that. I didn’t say it’s a “sure bet” or that Lefty did not contribute to the song.

  30. Jon
    January 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Dude, the way language and logic work is that if you say Shafer contributed “at least as much as [Frizzell] did,” that inescapably means that Frizzell contributed at most as much as Shafer did. It suggests that they weren’t writing partners, but that Shafer was the main contributor. Now, unless Shafer and Frizzell said that was the case, you don’t really know for sure, and your argument is such a general one that would have to be a whole lot stronger to rise to the level of a good bet, never mind a safe or a sure one, with respect to any particular song, including this one. And dressing yourself up as a “scholar” when you won’t even put your own name to your theorizing is just sad.

  31. luckyoldsun
    January 18, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Jonny, your Aristotlian logic fails you again.

    When I say “‘scholars’ [in quotation marks] (including amateur scholars), buffs etc.,”

    the most you can logically conclude is that I’m setting myself up as an “amateur ‘scholar’”, a “buff” or something coming in under “etc.”

    The placement of quotation marks around the word “scholar” and the addition of the modifier “amateur” might have suggested that the word was being used whimsically or facetiously, but I wouldn’t expect you to take it that way.

  32. Jon
    January 19, 2011 at 6:20 am

    I’ll take that little divertissement as a graceless way to avoid acknowledging the essential point with respect to your effort to assign levels of co-writing responsibility where you had neither the knowledge nor any good reason to do so.

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