For the benefit of those who tend to dismiss geezer music as just “oldies” or maybe something by Glenn Miller (not that there’s anything wrong with Glenn Miller!) I thought I’d veer into the land of Classic Country, which is a genre every bit as distinct as Classic Rock — although country and rock do have some common roots and have often paralleled each other through the years. You’d have to give the nod to country as developing first though, when you consider that early rural folk music was among the first of any kind to be recorded. In any case, both genres – especially the classic versions – are favorites of music lovers of all ages.
As a young DJ I wasn’t too fond of any kind of country music — classic or otherwise. At that time I was working at a small-town radio station that catered to a solidly conservative Midwestern audience by sticking pretty closely to a middle-of-the-road playlist, not only because it was the preference of our listeners but also because of circumstances having to do with finances.
I’d been in on the start-up of the tiny station, and our source of music consisted of whatever record albums we’d all managed to scrape together. A few were promo records from marketing sources but most were just everybody’s personal albums, gathered together into one huge row on a shelf in the studio. We ended up with a total of several hundred and although there wasn’t anything too far-out, we had a nice mix that ran the gamut from Sinatra to Strauss, and it seemed to suit our audience. Some of that music was inevitably of the “hillbilly” variety, and the funny thing was that I found myself enjoying it more than I’d ever thought I would. I even began to acquire some favorites, as did the DJ who relieved me at 4PM every day — and that’s where the problem started.
Our normal methodology was to begin at the left end of the stack of albums and during the course of the day play one cut from each, until finally reaching the end of the stack. We’d then start over, of course. When we played the one from each album, we were supposed to try to play a different song each time through, but something like that was impossible to keep track of so we often just played our favorite. One day I was on my way home after being relieved by the 4PM DJ. I’d been on the road for quite a while and decided to turn on my car radio. The first thing I heard was Buck Owens doing a song I’d played just before quitting for the day. Uh-oh.
No cell phones in those days, but I began looking for a pay phone and meanwhile the car radio continued with more songs I’d just played. Finally I called the station and found out that the DJ had decided just on an impulse to change and go from right to left in the stack — and since he and I had a lot of the same favorite songs, he was repeating the same music I’d just played! (We got zero calls from our listeners – but it sure bugged the General Manager.)
I’m posting a couple of samples — both tunes are from an outstanding dual album named Billboard Classic Country #1’s. It seems only appropriate to choose for the first one the very same Buck Owens tune, “Act Naturally”, that came through my radio that day (and that was later recorded by the Beatles). Buck died not too long ago, and if you’ve always taken his music lightly you might be surprised if you listen to this old song and apply it to modern stars.
The second sample is from a country star who reinvented himself in mid-career. Ray Price was pretty successful for a long time as a traditional, “twangy” country singer, but then changed gears and came out with a softer and more modern sound, perfectly suited to his big hit that we’re posting here. It was written by a young Kris Kristofferson. Enjoy “For The Good Times”, and think again about opening up yourself to Classic Country.