Great Country Songs from the 1970s, Pt. 7

Paul W. Dennis | June 23rd, 2009

Some more songs that I liked, one song per artist, not necessarily the biggest hit. As always, I consider myself free to comment on other songs by the artist.

I’m Having Your Baby” – Sunday Sharpe (1974)
Female answer to a rather lame Paul Anka hit with the answer song being better (or at least more believable) than the original. Ms. Sharpe originally was from Orlando, FL but seemingly has disappeared from view. This song reached #10 on Cashbox, her only Top 10 hit.

I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” – Billy Joe Shaver (1973)
For a guy whose only two charting records charted at 88 and 80, and who can’t sing a lick, Billy Joe Shaver has had a heck of a career as a recording artist, issuing several acclaimed albums. Of course, his main claim to fame is as a songwriter.

Slippin’ Away” – Jean Shepard (1973)
Jean took this Bill Anderson composition to #1 (Cashbox) reviving a career that Capitol had abandoned. (See the Forgotten Artist article for more on Jean Shepard)

Devil In The Bottle” – T.G. Sheppard (1975)
T.G. kicked off his career as a singer under the T.G. Sheppard name (real name Bill Browder, and recorded also as Brian Stacey) with consecutive #1s. T.G. would have 14 #1 singles between 1975 and ’86. He worked for Elvis at one point, before kicking off his solo career.

Greystone Chapel” – Glen Sherley (1970)
This song first saw the light of day when Johnny Cash recorded it for the Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison album in 1968. At the time Glen Sherley was a prisoner at Folsom. This was his only chart record, reaching #63. In addition to this song, Sherley had several other songs he’d written recorded, most notably Eddy Arnold’s recording of “Portrait of My Woman.” Johnny Cash helped get Glen Sherley released from prison, and even had him as part of his road show for a while. Unfortunately, Glen Sherley was unable to adapt to life outside of prison, and committed suicide in 1978.

I’m A Truck” – Red Simpson (1971)
A truck tells its side of the story:

There’d be no truck drivers if it wasn’t for us trucks
No double-clutching gear- jamming coffee drinking nuts
They’ll drive their way to glory and they have all the luck
There’d be no truck drivers if it wasn’t for us trucks.

Red’s biggest hit, in fact his only top 30 record, reaching #1 Cashbox/#4 Billboard. Simpson was from Bakersfield and co-wrote a number of songs with Buck Owens, many of which Buck recorded, including “Sam’s Place” and “Kansas City Song.” Junior Brown recently recorded Red’s “Highway Patrol.” Curiously enough, “I’m A Truck” was not written by Red Simpson, but came from the pen of Bob Stanton, who worked as a mailman and sent Red the song.

Nothing Can Stop My Loving You” – Patsy Sledd (1972)
Great debut recording–it only reached #68 but unknown to Ms. Sledd, her record label was created as a tax write off, so that there was no promotional push for anyone by the label. The next single “Chip Chip” reached #33 but from there it was all downhill. Patsy was part of the George Jones-Tammy Wynette show for a few years.

The Lord Knows I’m Drinking” – Cal Smith (1973)
Bill Anderson wrote it and Cal Smith took it to #1 on March 3, 1973. Cal only had four Top 10 records, but three of them went to #1. His biggest chart hit was “It’s Time To Pay The Fiddler,” but this song and “Country Bumpkin“ are probably the best remembered songs for the former member of Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours.

Mama Bear” – Carl Smith (1972)
Carl only had one Top 10 song after 1959 and this song wasn’t it, dying at #46. By the time this record was issued, Carl was 45 years old and his career as a recording artist was stone-cold dead but that doesn’t mean he quit making good records. This was one of many good records he issued in the 1970s.

Just One Time” – Connie Smith (1971)
The best female country vocalist ever, Connie took this Don Gibson classic to #1 on Cashbox (#2 Billboard). In 1973 she would leave RCA, where her classic hits were recorded, and her recording career would never really regain momentum.

Take My Breath Away” – Margo Smith (1976)
Margo is a great yodeler but this is not a yodeling record. This remains my favorite Margo Smith song, reaching #7.

I’ve Got To Have You” – Sammi Smith (1972)
She had bigger hits, but I was always partial to this recording.

Hello Love” – Hank Snow (1974)
Hank Snow was a few months short of 60 years old when this song reached #1, his first #1 in 11 years. For many years, Garrison Keiller would perform this song on Prairie Home Companion. For his career, Hank’s records spent 56 weeks at #1, with “I’m Moving On” being the biggest hit in the history of Billboard’s Country charts spending 21 weeks at #1, with 44 weeks in the Top 10. Hank was also a top-flgiht guitar picker, whose abilities probably exceeded those of Keith Urban and Brad Paisley today.

Walk A Mile In My Shoes” – Joe South (1970)
Joe South had much more success as a songwriter (“Rose Garden”) than as a performer. This record went #12 pop/#56 country.

You’re Only Lonely” – John David Souther (1979)
An Orbison-esque song, this song actually peaked in 1980, reaching #7 pop/#56 country.

Lay Down Sally” – Red Sovine (1978)
A nice cover of an Eric Clapton song, it only reached #70. The big hit for Sovine, of course, was the tear-jerker “Teddy Bear,” a huge pop and country hit that sold well over a million copies.

Blanket On The Ground”– Billy Jo Spears (1975)
This ode to married romance, reached #1 and also charted on the pop charts. A year later “What I’ve Got In Mind” continued the theme. A great singer whose impact abroad was greater than her impact in the USA.

Spiders and Snakes” – Jim Stafford (1974)
An amusing song, and a bigger pop hit (#3) than a country hit (#69). Conway and Loretta recorded this song for one of their albums, a version that still gets some airplay today.

Billy, Get Me A Woman” – Joe Stampley (1975)
It’s been years since I heard this one on a country oldies program, a victim of the PC thought police. This song got to #12 Billboard/#7 Cashbox.

The Blind Man In The Bleachers” – Kenny Starr (1976)
His only #1 (#1 Cashbox/#2 Billboard) hit. Great story line; a rather unique song.

I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You” – The Statler Brothers (1975)
The Statler Brothers lost much of their unique sound when high tenor Lew DeWitt was forced to retire due to illness in 1982. Jimmy Fortune was a great singer but he was no Lew DeWitt. This record went to #1 on Cashbox, but was marooned at #2 for four weeks on Billboard. This is my favorite Statler Brothers song.

Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills Music”– Red Steagall (1976)
What more could you ask for?

The Streak” – Ray Stevens (1973)
Streaking was a national fad during the early ’70s and no one could capture an absurdity quite like Ray Stevens. This song went to #1 on pop charts for three weeks but only to #3 on Billboard’s country chart (it did reach #1 on Cashbox).

Out of Hand” – Gary Stewart (1975)
The middle song of Gary’s three similarly themed songs from 1974-1975, and one of the greatest honky-tonk songs ever, but I could say the same for “Drinkin’ Thing” and “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles).” This Cashbox #1 is my favorite of the three by just a hair.

After The Storm” – Wynn Stewart (1976)
The last top 10 record for a Bakersfield legend. (See the Forgotten Artist article for more on Wynn Stewart)

Borrowed Angel” – Mel Street (1972)
George Jones called King Malachi “Mel” Street his favorite singer. Small wonder, since only Vern Gosdin and Mel Street ever approached George Jones as soulful interpreters of country songs. This song reached #7 on a small label, one of three top 10 records for Street. Always plagued by depression, Mel Street committed suicide on October 21, 1978, his 45th birthday. George Jones sang at his funeral.

A Daisy A Day” – Jud Strunk (1973)
A very gentle and tender love song, it only reach #33, but got to #14 on the pop charts. Styrunk was more of a actor (on Broadway and on television’s Rowan Martin’s Laugh-In) than a singer. He died in a plane crash in 1981 at the age of 45.

She Wakes Me With A Kiss Every Morning” – Nat Stuckey (1971)
This was Nat’s second biggest hit reaching #5 Cashbox/#11 Billboard. Nat was a bigger success as a songwriter than as a performer, although he was an excellent singer, signed to a major label. Alan Jackson took his composition “Pop –A-Top” to the top of the charts a few years back.

Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)” – Joe Sun (1978)
Joe had the original, and best, recording of this song. Signed to a minor label, Joe’s version only reached #14 but his smoky voice was perfect for the song. The song was covered in 1980 by Brian Collins and then later that same year someone named Dolly, who took it to #1.

I Can Help” – Billy Swan (1974)
His only top 10 song, this record reached #1 on both Billboard’s country and pop charts. Swan is a former member of Kris Kristofferson’s band. In 1976 he recorded a nice version of “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” the old Bill Haley hit from 1954. Billy’s version barely cracked the top 100.

Read other playlists in the Great Country Songs from the 1970s series:

  1. Brady Vercher
    June 23, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    I can’t remember whether I found it or if it was given to me as a birthday gift, but when I was a kid, I listened to a Ray Stevens casette tape with “The Streak” on it over and over. I still slip a “It’s me again, Margaret” in every once in awhile and people look at me like I’m crazy.

    Billy Joe Shaver had quite a few great songs back in the 70s, but most of them were better known in the hands of other artists. If I remember correctly, everybody wanted a piece of “Ride Me Down Easy.”

    I bought a copy of The Essential Gary Stewart a long time ago for a copy of “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” and was pleased to find some other material comparable in quality.

    Cool anecdote about Hank Snow being a top notch guitar player. I never hear his name mentioned in that regard.

  2. Rick
    June 23, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Top notch stuff as usual Paul. Always glad to see Wynn Stewart and Red Simpson get a mention for us big fans of the Bakersfield sound. I’ve never considered Billy Swan’s “I Can Help” to be a country song what with the organ part and all, but I’ve always liked it. Country artists with last names like Sledd, Strunk, and Stuckey should have considered a more reasonable stage last name like say “Twitty”! (lol)

    There is a classic country request radio show from Kentucky I listen to on Friday nights sometimes and one of their most requested songs is Red Sovine’s “Daddy’s Girl”. Still a bit syrupy, but nothing like “Teddy Bear”!

  3. Jay
    June 23, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    I have “Billy, Get Me A Woman” on a CD. The first time I heard it, I burst out laughing. Joe Stampley put out some awesome music in the 1970’s. As for Nat Stuckey in the 1970’s, I always loved his version of Tony Joe White’s “Old Man Willis”.

  4. ACcountryFan
    June 23, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    A #3 peak on the Billboard country chart for Ray Stevens with “The Streak” was a big deal as far as country music airplay was concerned. The fad was more in step with the pop audience…college students…as to why it rocketed up to #1 in a matter of weeks. I think it hit #1 on the Hot 100 in it’s fourth or fifth week on the chart. Ray was at the time crossing over from pop to country, going back and fourth every release, and the single struck a chord with country audience’s in a way his previous novelty songs never did. His comical songs and his love ballads were charting higher on the Hot 100 and Easy-Listening charts long before he decided to take his country music direction seriously in the late ’70s.

    I’m a die-hard Ray Stevens fan by the way and proud of it. :D :D

    Red Sovine did a song once called “It’ll Come Back” which had a similar little girl back-up group that was used on “Daddy’s Girl”. I like Sovine but i’m not a die-hard fan, though. Whenever I’d hear “I Can Help” I used to think it was an early Oak Ridge Boys song and it wasn’t until several years ago I found out who sang it.

  5. Jon
    June 24, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Uh, yeah, Brady, Snow did at least one instrumental album. He had good tone and great taste in constructing solos, but his picking certainly wasn’t very advanced; there’s nothing wrong with that at all – playing what fits is arguably the most important thing in an instrumentalist, and what Hank played certainly fit his general style – but IMO, to favorably compare his abilities to those of Urban and Paisley is ludicrous.

    For those who enjoy Ray Stevens, he’s still going strong, with a new album out that’s being sold exclusively at Pilot truck stops for a while.

  6. Mike K
    June 24, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Gary Stewart is one of my favorite artists (he lived just a few miles away from me before he passed away), but my favorite song is “I See the Want to in Your Eyes,” which was on the same album as the three songs you mentioned. I am also partial to “Snuff Queen” off his first (and only) MCA album.

    Brady – You aren’t crazy for liking “it’s Me Again Margaret.” “I’ll be there with a fried chicken, a weed-eater and some peach preserves.” I always liked that song, as well as the one about the Shriner’s convention.

    I think Ragged Old Truck is my favorite Billy Joe Shvaer song, but that one might not have been in the 70’s.

    Thanks, Paul, for another great list.

  7. Paul W Dennis
    June 24, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Having seen Hank perform live on several occasions, I can assure you that he was THAT good. He released five (5) instrumental albums including REMINISCING in 1966, which was a duet album with Chet Atkins. Chet never did duet albums with any guitarist who was not among the elite (Les Paul, Tommy Emmanuel, Lenny Breaux, Mark Knoffler, Jerry Reed)

  8. mark d. kitchen
    December 29, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    hi would like to say i like the late great mel street. i think it stinks that he aint in the country music hall of fame. i also think that country radio should play him more. i wish i would of got to go to one of his concerts, but he passed away in 1978, and i was born in 1979. mel is sure missed alot. we miss you mel street 1933 – 1978.

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