Although it may sound like the title of a greatest hits record, “Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous” is not. It is only the second album by Johnny Cash, released in 1958. “Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous” is a collection of the songs Johnny Cash was famous for performing live; the songs that got him signed to the infamous Sun record label. Johnny Cash went on to become a legend in country music and a huge influence in both country and rock and roll. His songs are still revered today as some of the greatest songs ever recorded.
A biopic movie of Cash’s early life “Walk the Line” was released in 2005. Although the movie portrays the song “I Walk the Line” – Cash’s biggest hit off of this album – to have been written about his future wife of 35 years (until his death in 2003) it was actually written as an ode to his first wife, Vivian.
Driving out to see my dad for Veterans’ Day yesterday got me thinking about Johnny Horton. I used to hear a lot of his songs when I was growing up. When I ran across this album a while back I had to pick it up for the memories, if for nothig else.
Johnny Horton’s songs weren’t just old school country ballads and rockabilly that gets stuck in your head. Some of his biggest hits, like “The Battle of New Orleans”, “North To Alaska”, and “Sink The Bismark”, were also short history lessons; truly a taste of Americana.
Although his songs are far from being forgotten, and their influence on American music can’t be denied, Johnny Horton’s music isn’t a name often thought of when people think of along with the greats like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Gene Autry, that’s only because his life was cut short in 1960 when he was killed in a tragic car accident at the age of 28; just as his career was starting to take off. But his songs and their influences live on. Songs of a legend in the making.
Sam Cooke was a pioneer of soul music, bringing it to the forefront of popular music. Once dubbed the King of Soul, without his groundbreaking songs, popular music may never have come to see the rise of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin (later dubbed the Queen of Soul); all followed in Cooke’s soulful footsteps.
I guess it should be expected that every song on a greatest hits album is great. So I’ll avoid that particular and predictable redundancy to describe Sam Cooke’s 1965 Greatest Hits album. The description I will use instead is timeless.
Unfortunately, the music world lost Sam Cooke much too soon when in 1964, he was shot and killed by the manager of a motel he was staying at. His death was ruled justifiable homicide in self-defense but that ruling was immediately brought into question. The actual circumstances surrounding Sam Cooke’s death has forever been shrouded in controversy. He was only 33 years old.
Growing up in the golden age of vinyl my main music of choice was the same as most of my friends: rock and roll. But that wasn’t the only genre I grew with up with in abundance. My dad listened almost exclusively to country music. Consequently, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Ray Price were as much a part of the soundtrack of my youth as were Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and The Who.
Even though my dad didn’t get my definition of rock and roll back then (his never went beyond Bill Hailey and the Comets, Elvis, and early Beatles) I liked a lot of the country music he listened to. Of all the country artists I grew up with, Hank Williams was by far, my favorite.
I had no Hank Williams records in my collection when I ran across this 1976 four album box set at a used record store four or five years ago. When I saw it and looked at the songs on it, I had to wonder why not.
Although considered to be one of the most influential country music artist ever, Hank’s heavy use of southern blues influences in the songs he wrote and performed made just as much of an impact on the formative days of rock and roll. Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to his music all those years ago.
Listening to The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 album “Time Out”, it’s hard to believe that their style of jazz was once considered to be inaccessibly out of the mainstream because of Brubeck’s consistent use of unusual time signatures. The quartet had a hard time getting booked to play even small clubs that seated less than fifty people because a lot of owners felt Brubeck’s style was just too complex for people to get. Music critics felt the same and totally dissed “Time Out” when it was released.
As it turned out, it was the critics and club owners that didn’t get it.
“Time Out” sold over 50 thousand copies shortly after its initial release and eventually sold over a million, making it one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. It also nearly topped Billboard’s pop album charts stopping just short at #2.
After the success of “Time Out” the Dave Brubeck Quartet no longer had to worry about filling clubs that seated fifty people. The quartet started playing venues that seated a thousand or more.
In short, “Time Out” firmly founded Dave Brubeck’s reputation as a jazz pioneer and innovator who forever changed how jazz music is played and interpreted.
1953 to 1972. If it’s 20 years into the history of rock and roll and you want to chronicle the music year by year on a double album, you better have a recognized rock and roll authority on the cover. Maybe someone like Dick Clark.
From the fifties into the eighties, Dick Clark, a former rock and roll DJ from WFIL in Philadelphia was the host of American Bandstand. In its 37 years on the air, Bandstand helped launch or excel the careers of more rock and roll bands than probably any other single show – over 8 thousand different acts.
I picked this album up at an estate sale not too long ago. Besides being excited about finding this great compilation of early rock and roll, I was really excited find it still had the 24 page yearbook and bonus record still with it. A lot of times, the extras like these get separated from the album. The yearbook was very insightful, talking about significant events of each year and how popular music both affected and was affected by them.
The bonus record is a picture disk that has Dick Clark’s brief recollections of the numerous bands that made their first appearance on one of his shows. It’s a great insight to just how influential Dick Clark and American Bandstand were during the first 20 Years of Rock n’ Roll.
What’s the first band that comes to mind when you think of the British invasion? Probably The Beatles. Now, what’s the second? The Stones? Fair enough. But you should also consider The Dave Clark Five.
The Dave Clark Five was the second band from England to appear on the Ed Sullivan show. The Beatles of course, were the first, appearing on the show three weeks in a row, marking the start of the British invasion. Right on their heels was The Dave Clark Five, stealing the spotlight for the next two weeks. They would make repeat appearances on the show more than any other band; an amazing ten times!
Combining ’50s doo-wop with pop music of the ’60s, The Dave Clark Five’s music lost popularity going into the ’70s. But with hits like “Do You Love Me”, “I Like it Like That”, “Bits and Pieces”, and “Glad All Over”, and the others on this album, their influence can still be head today.