Country music week: Day 5

Let’s begin today with my favorite country song of all time: “Galveston“, written by Jim Webb and recorded by Glenn Campbell (b. 1936) in 1969.  It’s a simple but beautiful ballad of a soldier (according to Webb, in the Spanish-American war) who, scared to death, dreams of his lover as he goes into battle.

I thought that I was one of the few people who really loved this song, but at least one of the readers mentioned it, and I was pleased to find it occupying position #8 on CMT’s (Country Music Television’s) list of 100 greatest country songs (have a look at the link).

Mel Tillis turned 80 this year, and also received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama for his contributions to country music.  I doubt that many of you can name a single one of his songs, as he’s never crossed over into pop. Still, he did one song that I really love: “Send Me Down to Tucson“. It was written by Tillis and recorded in 1979, reaching #2 on the country singles chart.

If you’ve ever heard Tillis speak, you’ll know that he has a severe speech impediment: a bad case of stuttering. Curiously, although he can’t control it when he talks, when he sings it disappears completely. I think this is a common situation for stutterers, but I have no idea why; perhaps a reader can tell us.  At any rate, this is a sad ballad about a man who loves a woman besides his wife.

There’s a so-so live version, but here’s the original recording:

Who remembers Gale Garnett?  She’s the only country singer I know born in New Zealand (1932), but she later moved to Canada, swelling the sizeable ranks of that country’s folk and country singers.

She had but one big hit in her life, but it was a keeper: “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine,” written by Garnett and recorded in 1964.  It won a Grammy for best folk single, but I’m calling it a country song. And it’s been covered by many artists, including Wayne Newton, Helen Reddy, The Fleetwoods, Sonny and Cher, and, for crying out loud, Dean Martin. The best alternative version, I think, is the duo by Skeeter Davis (whom we heard singing “End of the World” the other day) and Bobby Bare (listen to it here). Skeeter in particular does a great job.

The song was immensely popular in the Sixties, perhaps because it dealt with the exuberant sexuality of the “Free Love” era, but also the sadness underlying those transitory couplings. You can still hear the song all over the oldies stations.

This is the original version, performed live but lip-synched to the record:

9 Comments

  1. acbobl
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Two suggestions: Matraca Berg and Pam Tillis

  2. bacopa
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    You might be interested to know that the song Galveston never has been that popular in southeast Texas. I think that’s because there’s nothing in the lyrics that indicates the singer had ever been to The Island.

    BTW, if you want to see Galveston, go now. Depending on how sea levels rise, it could be gone in a hundred years.

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I guess the reason Emmylou hasn’t made the week is that a whole week could be devoted to just her. A couple seriously country favorites: Two More Bottles of Wine & Queen of the Silver Dollar: http:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWCi8_ObPNU http:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D8ia29U8Zo

    And then there’s Linda Ronstadt, Silver Threads & Golden Needles: http:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FiKHaSRMeg (I never knew who did the original until just now – it was Wanda Jackson, 1956, but Linda’s is much better)

    Jeanne Pruitt, Satin Sheets: http:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZutNGdcqH0 I think this was her only hit, but it’s a great one.

    And those that came before them:
    It would be a great omission is Kitty Wells wasn’t mentioned. It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels: http:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKleTa94dC8

    And the first million-selling female country artist (1935!), Patsy Montana, I Wanna Cowboy’s Sweetheart: http:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zdgjEcEWlg

  4. michael buckley
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I’m not a country music fan, but I’m a guitar player, and the best players in the world are found in Nashville. Watch the Hellecasters do impossible things to their Telecasters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srcJZTE_Fjg

  5. Posted December 20, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Excerpted from: http://www.uiowa.edu/~comsci/research/stuttering/faq.html

    “Why do some people stutter when they speak, but don’t have a problem when they sing?

    There are a few reasons why people who stutter don’t do so when they sing. One is called easy onset of speech, or easy voice, or smooth speech. This describes the way you sing. Think about it – you generally use a smoother and easier voice when you’re singing versus when you’re speaking. Speech therapists actually use the easy onset strategy when helping people who stutter.

    Another reason why a person may not stutter while singing is because words are more prolonged (and less apt to be stumbled over) when they’re sung rather than spoken. Music is an activity in which you use the right side of the brain (language uses the left), so when you sing music, you’re no longer using your left brain (and probably no longer stuttering).

    The bottom line is this: Whenever a child or adult who stutters talks differently than the way he usually does, he will be fluent. That includes using a stage voice or a foreign accent or dialect, whispering, singing, speaking to a rhythmic beat, using ‘baby talk’ and speaking at a lower or higher pitch than normal. Besides sounding and feeling unnatural, however, these ‘tricks’ rarely produce long-term fluency.”

    Campbell sings Galveston beautifully–earnest but with a smooth, gentle delivery.

    • lamacher
      Posted December 20, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Could be. But, another consideration, and one that explains why speech stoppages and stuttering are more common in boys, has to do with delayed lateralization of speech in boys. As a kid, I stammered so badly that I usually avoided speech as much as possible – and I could and did sing without problem – perhaps because singing is organized earlier and in a different area.(?). My problem largely disappeared at age 14, although starting sentences with certain vowels remained an issue for a few more years. At age 74, I have no problems at all. Perhaps my brain is finally organized! (and about time.)

  6. Posted December 20, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    If you’re already in the Phoenix area in summer, going down to Tucson can actually be a bit of relief….

    b&

  7. Lars
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Gale Garnett is still around, I believe – at least someone by that name reviews the odd book for the Globe & Mail, and I assumed that she was the same person as used to write a column for the Toronto Star back in the late 60s, in which she discussed various counter-culture phenomena. Hard to believe that she’s 70 now.

    Good call on “Galveston”.

  8. Gordon
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    There are a few other New Zealanders including Tex Morton who made his name as an Australian country singer but apparently preferred to sing in an American accent. Unfortunately few of your readers will recall Garner Wayne and the Saddle Pals famous for “Love in a Fowl House” – you probably needed to come from Ashburton.


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