Just North of Texas!

  • 2012: A Year Of George Strait, Pt. 12

    This is the final blog installment of our year-long look at the music of George Strait, who turned 60 in May. MERRY CHRISTMAS STRAIT TO YOU  (1986) George's first foray into holiday music.  It would peak at #17 in 1986.  While Strait was becoming established as a rising star at the point of this release, his familiar flair didn't equate as well to Christmas music (and, frankly, still doesn't).  The three best tracks here are the title cut, "When It's Christmas Time In Texas," and "What A Merry Christmas This Could Be."  It would be the most successful of his three Christmas releases, eventually going double platinum. 1. White Christmas2. There's A New Kid In Town3. Winter Wonderland4. Merry Christmas Strait To You5. Away In A Manger6. For Christ's Sake, It's Christmas7. Frosty The Snowman8. When It's Christmas Time In Texas9. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town10. What A Merry Christmas This Could Be MERRY CHRISTMAS, WHEREVER YOU ARE  (1999) Peaking at #10, I felt this was the best of his three Christmas releases.  There were five originals on this song, as well as five standards.  As is usually the case with country Christmas albums, the best songs are the originals.  His choices for the five standards left much to be desired.  "All I Want For Christmas?"  Really?  "Noel Leon" is probably the most notable song on the album, though the opener "I Know What I Want For Christmas" is also rock solid. 1. I Know What I Want For Christmas2. Old Time Christmas3. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!4. Jingle Bell Rock5. Merry Christmas (Wherever You Are)6. All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)7. The Christmas Song8. Noel Leon9. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer10. Santa's On His Way FRESH CUT CHRISTMAS  (2006) His most recent collection of new Christmas recordings quickly went platinum (most of Strait's music usually does).  This is an album of entirely Christmas standards.  Strait was in his mid-50s at the point of this album's release, but his voice isn't the issue.  It's the material that can raise eyebrows.  EVERYONE releases these songs.  A little originality might've been nice, but clearly this was an album meant to appeal to the masses, featuring his own take on these standards. 1. Joy To The World2. We Three Kings3. Silent Night4. Jingle Bells5. O Come, All Ye Faithful6. Up On The Housetop7. We Wish You A Merry Christmas8. O Christmas Tree9. Hark, The Herald Angels Sing10. Deck The Halls www.georgestrait.com   ...

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    by Mike A
    Saturday, 24 November 2012
  • Featured Artist - ANNE MURRAY

    If you were to only review Anne Murray's accomplishments in terms of awards, you'd certainly still have plenty to chat about.  She's been honored with four Grammy Awards, 24 Juno Awards (the most awarded artist), 3 AMA's, 3 CMA's, and Canadian CMA's.  She's a member of the Canadian Country Music Hall Of Fame, the Juno Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  There's more.  That's just a start.  She's certainly a decorated artist, who's four-decade+ career has had many more highs than lows.  An amazing 76 singles and 32 studio albums.  A whopping 15 compilation albums.  But among all these amazing attributes and accolades, it's her far-reaching influence on the next generation of Canadian musicians that probably comes to mind when most people speak of Anne Murray.  Alanis Morrisette, Nelly Furtado, Celine Dion, Sarah McLaughlin, and Shania Twain can all list Murray as a major influence on their careers. Her first big hit, "Snowbird," came in 1969, reaching #8 in the U.S. and #1 in Canada.  It became her signature song, and the piece that would launch her career.  To that time, no Canadian artist had enjoyed a gold record.  During the 1970s and early 1980s, many of her songs charted both the pop and country charts.  She has always had a big place on the charts in her own country, but success on the U.S. charts would follow.  1972's "Cotton Jenny," which she has re-recording on recent projects, reached the #11 spot.  "Danny's Song" gave her her second U.S. Top Ten.  1973's "A Love Song" would peak at #5.  "He Thinks I Still Care," the cover of the huge George Jones smash from a decade earlier, became her first U.S. #1.  "Son Of A Rotten Gambler" would follow in 1974, peaking at #5. It would be four years before Murray would find the U.S. Top Ten again, with two big #4 smashes in "Walk Right Back" and the worldwide smash "You Needed Me," the latter of which would become a major song at weddings, a distinction it holds to this day.  1979 was a particularly strong year for Anne Murray, with all three singles released that year reaching the top of the U.S. Billboard charts: "I Just Fall In Love Again," "Shadows In The Moonlight," and "Broken Hearted Me."  1980 would continue her string of successes, with the #3 cover of the Monkee's "Daydream Believer," the #9 "Lucky Me," and the chart-topping "Could I Have This Dance," which would also become a staple of weddings everywhere.  Early 1981 saw "Blessed Are The Believers," another U.S. #1 hit.  1982 saw Murray chart three Top Tens in "Another Sleepless Night," "Hey! Baby!," and "Somebody's Always Saying Goodbye."  The next four years saw her chart six top U.S. Top Tens, including "Just Another Woman In Love," (#1), "Nobody Loves Me Like You Do" (a duet with Dave Loggins), (#1), the #2 "Time Don't Run Out On Me," the #7 "I Don't Think I'm Ready For You," and 1986's "Now And Forever (You And Me)," which reached the top of the charts.  1990's #5 "Feed This Fire" would be her last U.S. Top 10, but she would chart regularly in the 1990's on the Canadian charts. http://annemurray.com/ ...

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    by Mike A
    Saturday, 04 May 2013
  • Featured Artist - SKIP EWING

    Christian country songwriter Skip Ewing's brief run on the country music charts began in the late 1980s.  He has enjoyed far greater success as a songwriter, however, with more than 300 of his songs finding their way onto albums by the biggest names in the recording industry the past two decades or so.  More than a dozen of those compositions would reach the top of the charts.  His best known solo work was without question his first effort, 1988's The Coast Of Colorado.  This debut saw the release of five singles, all of which made their way into the top 20.  These singles included "Your Memory Wins Again" (#17), "I Don't Have Far To Fall" (#8), "Burning A Hole In My Heart" (#3), the sensational "The Gospel According To Luke" (#8), and the equally impressive titlt cut, which peaked at #5.  His next release, 1989's The Will To Love, also saw the release of two singles, including the #5 single "It's You Again" and the less-successful #70 "If A Man Could Live On Love Alone."  Try as he might, however, his remaining releases simply never matched up to the promise of these first two albums.  A stellar Christmas album simply didn't resonate with music buyers, in spite of two very sold offerings in "Christmas Carol" and "It Wasn't His Child." Ewing is still active today, and he hosts songwriting workshops for aspiring singers from time to time.  Here is a small sampling of some of the work he's had a hand in writing: Randy Travis' "The Hole," (#9), "If I Didn't Have You," (#1), and "Stranger In My Mirror," (#16). Diamond Rio's "I Believe," (#1). Bryan White's "I'm Not Supposed To Love You Anymore," (#4), "Rebecca Lynn," (#1), and "Someone Else's Star," (#1). David Kersh's "If I Never Stop Loving You," (#3). Kenny Rogers' "If You Want To Find Love," (#11). Doug Stone's "Little Houses," (#7). Collin Raye's "Love, Me," (#1). Kenny Chesney,'s "Me And You," (#2), and "You Had Me From Hello," (#1). Tracy Byrd's "Put Your Hand In Mine," (#11). Clint Black's "Something That We Do," (#2). Mark Will's "Wish You Were Here," (#1).   ...

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    by Mike A
    Wednesday, 16 January 2013
  • Seasonal Artist Preview: THE BELLAMY BROTHERS

    Florida-born David and Howard Bellamy, professionally known as The Bellamy Brothers, began their stellar musical odyssey in the late 1960s.  They were largely ignored, at first.  It wasn't until David wrote Jim Stafford's biggest hit, the two million-selling #3 smash "Spiders and Snakes," that they were truly noticed.  Howard became Stafford's road manager.  They were signed to Curb Records in 1975, and shortly thereafter recorded "Let Your Love Flow."  The catchy pop single scored the duo their first #1 smash.  It remains a song with cross-genre appeal, and perhaps their most recognizable song.  "Slippin' Away" became a minor hit, reaching the #19 spot on the country charts, but were still considered a pop act. It wasn't until their 1979 release, "If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me?)" off the album The Two And Only that they started having real success as a country act.  The play on words struck an immediate chord with audiences worldwide.  1979 proved to be a great year for the Bellamys.  They followed this strong release with "You Ain't Just Whistlin' Dixie."  The song, with its sweet southern flavor and distinctive lyrics, also found success, peaking at #5. The duo's successes kept coming as the 1970s transitioned into the 1980s.  The Bellamys, it seemed, were to be the pattern for the rest of the genre for the upcoming decade.  "Sugar Daddy" and "Dancin' Cowboys" both immediately shot to number one.  Their music was sexy, rhythmic and smart.  "Lovers Live Longer" came next, peaking at #3, and "Do You Love As Good As You Look" returned them to number one.  They were now playing to increasingly larger crowds.  Others singles followed.  "They Could Put Me In Jail," "You're My Favorite Star," and "For All The Wrong Reasons" all became big hits.  "Get Into Reggae Cowboy" would become a dance hall favorite, and was a hit several times over, and "Redneck Girl" would also find its way to the club scene.   Both are now considered dance hall standards.  A greatest hits compilation followed.  But the hits didn't stop there.  In fact, they were just getting warmed up. "When I'm Away For You," "I Love Her Mind," "Strong Weakness," "Forget About Me," "World's Greatest Lover," "I Need More Of You," "Old Hippie," "Lie To You For Your Love," and "Feelin' The Feelin'" all wound up with a place on the duo's second greatest hits release.  All were top 15 smashes, with most peaking at #1 or #2.  "Old Hippie," in particular, was a rallying cry for all the baby boomers, as was "Kids Of The Baby Boom," released in 1987.  The Bellamys kept a longstanding relationship with the Forester Sisters, and the two acts got together on several occasions.  Their best-received collaboration, 1986's "Too Much Is Not Enough," earned them yet another chart-topper, their 10th on the Billboard charts, and their 8th on the country charts.  By this point, the Bellamys had been on top of their game for more than a decade.  Their music would take a bit of turn as the decade came to a close, but they were still churning out top 10 singles like "Crazy From The Heart," "Santa Fe," "I'll Give You All My Love Tonight," "Rebels Without A Clue," and "Big Love," "You'll Never Be Sorry," and "I Could Be Persuaded."  The duo's last trip into the top 25 was 1992's "Cowboy Beat," but they have continued to chart as recently as 2010's "Swan," (#26).  They continue to tour to this day, and their vocals have lost none of their edge.  www.bellamybrothers.com ...

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    by Mike A
    Saturday, 02 February 2013
  • Featured Artist - MOE BANDY

    Moe Bandy, born Marion Franklin Bandy, Jr., turned 69 last month, but he really hasn't slowed down since he broke into the country scene in the early 1970s.  Like so many of his contemporaries, Bandy came from a musical family.  The Mississippi-born Bandy's father played in a country band called the Mission City Plowboys, and taught him at a young age to play guitar.  He played sparingly with his father's band, but he grew interested in rodeos with his brother, so much so that they competed in events throughout Texas in his teenaged years.  Eventually, the lifestyle (and the injuries) would wear on him, and he returned to pursue a career in country music. It really wasn't until 1973 that Bandy found himself in Nashville, where he recorded "I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs Today."  It entered the charts the following year, reaching the #17 spot.  "Honky Tonk Amnesia" followed, and peaked at #24.  Overall, it was a solid debut album.  The follow-uo to I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs was 1974's It Was Always So Easy.  The title cut, officiailly named "It Was Always So Easy (To Find An Unhappy Woman)" reached the top 10, peaking at #7.  The next single, "Don't Anyone Make Love At Home Anymore," reached #13.  While the first two albums had now produced four Top 20 singles, Bandy hadn't had the signature song that would define who he was and what he represented as a singer.  That would change in 1975. Lefty Frizzell and Whitey Shaffer would write Bandy's most recognizable hit, "Bandy, The Rodeo Clown."  It would reach the #7 spot and be the only hit from his third album, the last for GRC Records.  But it would become Bandy's favorites and one of his most popular songs.  The other hits that followed (and there would be many) would be compared to this one.  Later in 1975, following the release of Bandy, The Rodeo Clown, Moe released Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life, his first album for Columbia Records.   Bandy was influenced by William's music and that of fellow contemporary Lefty Frizzell.  The song rocketed all the way to #2, and proved he could be a regular on the charts.  The album peaked at #13.  A second single, "The Biggest Airport In The World," reached #27.  His next album for Columbia, 1976's Here I Am Drunk Again, would peak at #17, and spawn two #11-charting singles, including the title cut and its follow-up, "She Took More Than Her Share."  The rest of the 70s would see him continue his chart success, with the hits "I'm Sorry For You, My Friend" (#9), "Cowboys Aren't Supposed To Cry" (#13), "She Just Loved The Cheatin' Out Of Me" (#11), "Soft Lights And Hard Country Music" (#11), "That's What Makes The Jukebox Play" (#11), "Two Lonely People" (#7), "It's A Cheatin' Situation" (a #2 duet with then up-and-comer Janie Fricke), and "Barstool Mountain" (#9).  His last hit of the 1970s, 1979's "I Cheated Me Right Out Of You," would become his only Billboard #1 hit as a solo artist.  In fact, 1979 would become Bandy's biggest year.  Bandy was teamed with Joe Stampley, and the partnership would prove instantly noteworthy.  Over the next six years, the duo would chart a whopping nine singles, including 5 top 10s and the #1 hit "Just Good Ol' Boys," also in 1979.  The most successful of these singles included "Holding The Bag" (#7), "Tell Ole I Ain't Here, He Better Get On Home" (#11), a remake of the classic "Hey Joe" (renamed "Hey Joe (Hey Moe))" (#10), and "Honky Tonk Queen" (#12).  1984's "Where's The Dress," a parody of Boy George and Culture Club, got them into copyright hot water, as they used the opening introduction to "Karma Chameleon" in their song and were summarily sued.  It remains popular when the two get together for reunions, such as 2000's Live At Billy Bob's Texas.  Other minor hits followed, and the two still reunite from time to time.&n ...

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    by Mike A
    Thursday, 21 March 2013
  • Featured Artist - JOHN CONLEE

    John Conlee was a consistent charting country singer throughout the 1980s.  He had a colorful background, including stints as a licensed mortician and a disc jockey.  His singing career really didn't take off until around 1976.  Then thirty years of age, he signed a contract with ABC Records.  A short time later he would record his signature song, "Rose Colored Glasses," which would peak at #5.  The single served as the title cut to his debut album.  It is still a staple of traditional country stations to this day.  Two later singles would each reach the top of the country charts, "Lady Lay Down" and "Backside Of Thirty." When ABC Records merged with MCA Records, he released his second album, Forever.  The first single, 1979's "Before My Time," reached the #2 spot, and proved he wasn't a fluke.  The follow-up, "Baby, You're Something," reached the #7 spot.  The following year, Conlee released his third album, Friday Night Blues, which generated three singles: the title cut and "She Can't Say That Anymore," both of which peaked at #2, and the #12 "What I Had With You."  Shortly thereafter, Conlee became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and has been one ever since.  1981's With Love saw the release of two additional singles, "Could You Love Me (One More Time)," (#26), and the ubiquitous but good-natured "Miss Emily's Picture," which also peaked at #2.  1982's Busted saw a whopping four more singles, including the title cut which peaked at #6, "Nothing Behind You, Nothing In Sight," (#26), and "I Don't Remember Loving You," (#10).  "Common Man" would become his 3rd #1 single, and first #4 in four years. 1983's In My Eyes would become Conlee's sixth album, and easily his most successful, peaking #9 on the country album charts.  The first three singles would be among the biggest hits of his entire career.  "I'm Only In It For The Love," the title cut, and "As Long As I'm Rockin' With You" would all reach the top of the country singles chart.  A fourth single, "Way Back," would peak at #4.  1984's Blue Highway would contribute three more singles to his impressive resume: "Years After You," which peaked at #2, "Working Man," (#7), and the title cut, which would find its way to the #15 spot.  Conlee would release another single in 1985 from his second compilation album, the #5 "Old School."  1986's Harmony saw three more Top 10 releases: the title cut, which peaked at #10, "Got My Heart Set On You," which would be Conlee's last charttopper, and "The Carpenter," which topped out at #6. 1987's American Faces would see Conlee's chart appeal begin to wane, as the industry began to change in favor of younger, more neotraditional artists.  "Domestic Life" reached the #4 spot, his last venture into the Top 10.  "Mama's Rockin' Chair" peaked at #11, while "Living Like There's No Tomorrow" only found its way to #55.  Conlee released four more singles before the 1990s dawned, none of which broke into the Top Forty.  Conlee continues to appear often on the Grand Ole Opry. www.johnconlee.com ...

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    by Mike A
    Saturday, 08 June 2013
  • Spotlight Artist: PATSY CLINE

    There is simply no more revered female country artist in history than Patsy Cline.  Since her untimely death in a plane crash 50 years ago this month, Nashville has constantly sought after (in most cases, unsuccessfully) the next Patsy Cline.  They will never truly replace her, in large part because the Nashville music community has turned away from her successful model, and now seek a pop-oriented, get-rich-quick formula that brings shame to Cline and all those that have come before. It is ironic, then, that Cline's greatness wasn't truly recognized until after her death.  To be sure, in 1963 she was a rising star.  But Nashville didn't recognize what they had until she was gone.  Like Jim Reeves, who passed away under similar circumstances a year later, the stardom they achieved after their passing far eclipsed their star power prior to their demise, especially in the case of Cline.  At the time of her first hits in 1957, she was (along with Kitty Wells and perhaps Jean Shepard) among the very few females making inroads in country music, a genre that had long been the domain of established male counterparts.  At the start of the 1950s, country music was dominated by the likes of Eddy Arnold, Ernest Tubb, then Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell, and later Webb Pierce.  Cline was a bit of an enigma at the start.  It was clear that her voice was uncommon among the singers of her time.  She grew up admiring the work of Judy Garland, Hank Williams, Shirley Temple, Kay Starr, and Jo Stafford.  She signed with Four Star Records in 1955, where she recorded more than 50 songs over the next four years.  Four Star, a subsidiary of the much more well-known Decca Records, demanded she record only songs written by writers under their label, an arrangement that she found limiting.  Producer Owen Bradley felt she would be best served singing torch songs with a pop feel, but she resisted those notions, as her contract also required her to sing country.  It was clear that she had talent, but her music with the label really failed to make an impression.  It did allow her to make appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, which gave her exposure.  She recorded her first big hit, "Walkin' After Midnight," before moving on to Decca Records. It was Bradley who proved to be a successul influence on the rest of Cline's career, as well as many other female singers after Cline's passing.  Bradley favored the now-established Nashville Sound, a style which featured lush string arrangements and a country-pop crossover sound.  Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold were among the early stars to find success with this style, and Bradley assured Cline that her voice was best suited for torch ballads.  "I Fall To Pieces," her first single for Decca, was a major hit and a timeless classic.  Part of what made her successful was her relationships with other singers.  On the outside, she could be as gruff and crass as the next person, male or female, or a as gentle as a lamb.  She was instrumental in the development of up-and-coming country artists like Loretta Lynn, Jan Howard, Dottie West, and Brenda Lee, all of whom cited her as a major influence on their career.  Male counterparts Roger Miller, Hank Cochran, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Harlan Howard, and Carl Perkins were friends.  She could stand up to any man, verbally and professionally.  After a serious automobile accident that nearly claimed her life, Cline's recovery was slow and painful.  When she finally able to record again, she was presented with "Crazy," written by a then-unknown Willie Nelson.  She's said to have hated the song, but Bradley's insistance and several recording sessions convinced her otherwise.  It would become her signature song, and arguably the biggest recording of her career.  Nelson's songwriting career also received a much-needed boost.  Cline ...

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    by Mike A
    Monday, 25 March 2013
  • Featured Artist - JOE STAMPLEY

    Joe Stampley started his recording career in 1971 with Dot Records with his debut album If You Touch Me.  The album's first two singles barely charted, but the title cut, shot to #9, providing encouragement for the fledgling artist and spurring Dot Records to speed his second album into production, 1972's Soul Song.  The title cut of this second release gave Stampley the first of three chart-toppers he would enjoy over the course of his hit-making career.  The album spawned two other singles, the #7 "Bring It On Home (To Your Woman)" and the #12 "Too Far Gone."  Stampley's third album would come in 1974, "I'm Still Loving You".  The title cut to this third release would reach #3, while the follow-up single "How Lucky Can One Man Be" peaked at #11.  All three of Stampley's albums to this date had peaked in the country music Top 20.  He would release a fourth, also in 1974, Take Me How To Somewhere.  The title cut would reach #5, with "Penny" also reaching the Top 10.   1975's trucker anthem "Roll On Big Mama" would become Stampley's second #1 hit, spending 10 weeks on the charts that year.  It was the time for trucker-themed songs, and was one of the year's most memorable hits.  By the time the mid-70s rolled around, Stampley was a regular hitmaker for Dot and Epic Records.  Among his many hits were "Whiskey Talkin'," "Everything I Own," "There She Goes Again," "Baby, I Love You So," "Everyday I Have To Cry Some," "Red Wine & Blue Memories," "If You've Got Ten Minutes (Let's Fall In Love," "Do You Ever Fool Around?," "I Don't Lie," "Put Your Clothes Back On," "There's Another Woman," "Whiskey Chasin'," "I'm Goin' Hurtin'," "Poor Side Of Town," and "Double Shot Of My Baby's Love," all of which fared no worse than country's Top 20, many of which entered country's Top 10.  In addition, Stampley enjoyed numerous minor hits in the 1970s and 1980s.  In March, we will take a closer look at Stampley's duet career with fellow honky-tonker Moe Bandy. www.joestampley.com ...

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    by Mike A
    Wednesday, 13 February 2013
  • Featured Artist - JOHNNY RODRIGUEZ

    It may seem strange that Johnny Rodriguez has only six number one singles, considering he dominated the American country music charts for most of the seventies and half of the eighties.  Rodriguez, the first Latin American country singer to hit it big, had tremendous control over his voice, and at 61, continues to tour throughout the world, recently appearing on shows like RFD-TV's Tru Country.  Things started auspiciously for Rodriguez.  Rodriguez was a troubled teen in the late 1960s.  After one incident which involved jail time, Rodriguez was singing in his cel when he was overheard by a local concert promoter who then hired him to perform at his tourist attraction.  While singing there, he drew the attention of country greats Tom T. Hall and Bobby Bare, who both encouraged Johnny to come to Nashville.  Johnny would soon front for Hall's band, shortly after arriving in town.  Rodriguez would sign with Mercury Records a short time later. His first album for Mercury was released in 1973.  Introducing Johnny Rodriguez reached the top of the album charts, and seemingly overnight Rodriguez found himself a country music star.  His first single, "Pass Me By (If You're Only Passing Through)," would become his signature song, peaking at #9.  It was his next single, however, "You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)," that would give Rodriguez his first #1 single.  His second album, All I Ever Meant To Do Was Sing, was released the following year.  Both singles, "Ridin' My Thumb To Mexico" and "That's The Way Love Goes" would reach the top of the charts as well.  In fact, Johnny's first fifteen singles would all find the country music Top Ten, including six chart-toppers.   A cover of the classic Beatles' tune "Something" reached #6, "Dance With Me (Just One More Time)" reached #2, and "We're Over" reached #3.  In 1975, all three of Johnny's singles made the top of the charts:  "I Just Can't Get Her Out Of My Mind," "Just Get Up And Close The Door," and "Love Put A Song In My Heart."  Over the next six years, Rodriguez would chart a whopping eighteen times, with all but one release reaching the top 30.  1983 was Johnny's last big year on the charts, with "Foolin'" reaching #4 and "How Could I Love Her So Much" reaching #6.  His last top 20 came with 1988's "I Didn't (Every Chance I Had)."  He was a chart presence throughout the 1980s, though by 1983, most of the big hits had dried up. At the time of this posting, "Desperado: His First Twenty Hits," a hits compilation chronicling his early years, was selling for over $100 on Amazon.  http://johnnyrodriguezmusic.com/shows.html ...

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    by Mike A
    Saturday, 08 June 2013
  • SPOTLIGHT ARTIST - JOHNNY CASH

    71 years is a long time.  But not when it should be 81.  Or 91.  Or 101.  Johnny Cash did more for music (not just country music) than just about any other artist.  To relegate his immense body of work to just four songs a playlist, once a week for 10 months simply does not do it justice.  The famed Man In Black recorded an astounding 96 albums from 1954-2003, released a whopping 153 singles, while recording more than 1,500 songs in all.  Those numbers baffle the mind.  His music can be found on more than 500 different albums spanning many different labels.  In this case, the word "legend" simply doesn't say enough.  He is a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock Music Hall of Fame.  His music transcended time, and covers many different types of genres, most notably rockabilly, folk, country, gospel, and Americana.  48 singles charted on Billboard pop charts.  In 1969, he was selling more albums than any other musical act in the world, around 250,000 albums per month.  Even after his death, music sales skyrocketed and long-lost recordings were being found and released. Johnny Cash was a conflicted human being, but his faith was never in question.  His music was a reflection of the contradiction in his personal life, but even as he fought addictions and heartache, there was always his music.  He was an inspiration to thousands of artists, and he was known for assisting new acts and helping promote their work.  Entire books have been written about his life, and Academy Award-winning movies have honored him as well.  I would encourage you to research him, as we will not go into his lengthy backstory and history in this blog posting.  It wouldn't do justice anyway.  Like Elvis Presley, Cash's early work came with Sun Records.  His first single was 1955's "Cry! Cry! Cry" and the public reception was immediate; the song reached #14.  The follow-up, "So Doggone Lonesome," reached #4.  It was 1956's "I Walk The Line" that really catapulted Cash into the stratosphere, though.  The train-like Chickaboom sound that he pioneered became the rage in country music throughout the next decade and a half, but no one sounded like Cash, then or now.  "There You Go," also from 1956, would find it's way to the top of the charts also.  Every single Cash released for the remainder of the 1950's seemed to find success.  Among them, some of his best-known work:  "Home of the Blues" (#3), "Big River" (#4), "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" (#1), "Guess Things Happen That Way" (#1), "Don't Take Your Guns To Town" (#1), "Folsom Prison Blues" (#4), and "I Got Stripes" (#4).  Cash loved to sing songs about prison life, and some of his biggest hits reflected his respect for those serving time. 1963's "Ring Of Fire" and 1964's "Understand Your Man" both sent Cash to the top of the charts, but it was his two live albums recorded at the end of the 1960s that saw Cash's popularity soar: Live at Folsom Prison and Live at San Quentin.  Both are considered among the most important recordings in country music history.  Cash's live versions of "Folsom Prison Blues" and "A Boy Named Sue" are legendary #1 singles that are classics, played on country stations even today. As the 1970s dawned, Cash had lost none of his popularity.  His live shows, which featured his wife June Carter, Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers among others, were events.  His music was tailor-made for a world tearing itself apart in Vietnam and other conflicts.  "What Is Truth" and others released about this time were reflections of Cash's attitudes at the time.  It was around then that he gave a huge boost to fledgling songwriter Kris Kristofferson, when he performed "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down."  The song was a smash, going straight to the top of the charts and elevating Kristofferson into the ...

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    by Mike A
    Saturday, 12 October 2013
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Hearts on Fire

On Wednesday, June 4th, Cowboy Mike of Just North Of Texas! had a chance to catch up with recording artist Mike Archer.  

COWBOY MIKE of JNOT - We're here with recording artist Mike Archer.  Just curious, what are your musical influences?  Is there someone in particular that shapes your music?

MIKE ARCHER - Well, I always kinda liked singer-songwriter types.  One that comes to mind out of Texas, I always liked Waylon Jennings a lot.  From my home state, John Mellencamp, and a guy from years ago by the name of Jim Croce.  People like that.

JNOT - Sure, I can see some of their influence in your music.  Shoulda Coulda Woulda is a great album.  That song, in particular, I'd put against anything we hear on the radio these days.  When you set out to do a project, is there a type of music that you're drawn to?  Is there a mindset that you take into the recording sessiomns?

MA - Maybe; well, if there is, it's completely natural.  First of all, thanks for supporting the album Shoulda Coulda Woulda.  Whenever I hear those songs, obviously my mindset for what we're doing in the studio is each one of them is competely different just in the whole process, so for me to try to describe it would probaby be impossible.  I wish I had a better answer for that, it's just whatever hits you or wherever you're going that particular day, or whatever that song brings out of you.  It's just what's there.

JNOT - Well, there is a lot of diversity on that album.  It's wonderful.  I was thinking, too, that "Thunderbird Night" is a catchy beat.  I just love that song.  What kind of things do you draw inspiration from when you're sitting down to write a song?

MA - Oh, gosh, I don't know!  There's a number of things.  Like someone actually said to me, "Hey, write a song about this," or "Write a song about that," and my mind goes there, but to just kinda sit down and come up with an idea, I'm not sure I do that well, just sit down, look up in the air, and try to find ideas...But "Thunderbird Night," that particular song, we ran out of money, but we were gonna try to shoot a music video with a country line dance.  It actually reminds me of my grandfather.  My grandfather always used to watch those country music video channels where they were dancing around.  I mean, he was hard of hearing, so he would've had it cranked, so every time I hear that song I see that, so I kinda wanted to make a video of that, as a tribute to my late grandfather.  

JNOT - I see from your website that you enjoy playing some of the smaller venues because of the interaction you're able to get with your fans.  I've always kinda appreciated artists who take the time to reach out to their fans.  Do you get a chance to play outside Kentucky or Indiana very often?  

MA - All the time.  I actually am a Disney entertainer, not sure if that's out there on the website or not, but I play for Disney on their cruise line.  So I play the Carribean, all over Florida, around San Diego.  I've been all over the Southern U.S., the islands, Central America, certainly Mexico, so yeah, I play all over the place.  But I love the small venues because that is my strong point, is interacting with the crowd that's there.  The one thing you probably don't know about me is that I'm a wealth of trivial information when it comes to music.  Just abnormal, crazy stupid things!  So, I use that as a means to interact with the audience.  Like, for example, I mentioned Waylon Jennings.  A lot of people don't know that he was a bass player for Buddy Holly.  The truth about the matter is I know a lot about the things I'm interested in, but if I knew as much about mathematics or algebra as I do about music trivia, I could probably solve some of the world's economic problems!  

JNOT - You've spent some time on cruise ships.  I see from your website that you've been into a number of different ports. Cozumel, etc.  Cozumel's great!  Do you have a favorite port of call, or do you get to explore much in between shows?

MA - Oh yeah.  Cozumel plays my music on the radio station.  I've been there so much, that I kid you not, Mike, when I walk down the streets, there's a number of people that call out, "Hey, Archer! Hey, Archer!" stuff like that.  But favorite ports?  I'd have to say its a three-way tie.  I really do.  Cozumel, obviously.  St. Thomas, I don't know if you're been there but it's absolutely incredible...

JNOT - Actually, that's where my wife and I went on our honeymoon.  

MA - ....and the other would be St Maartin...

JNOT - Haven't been there yet.

MA - There's this beach.  If you look it up on YouTube, it's called Airport Beach.  There's actually a cove there, and the airport is right across the street from the beach, and the planes just come in all day long, and land overtop your head.  That's beautiful enough, but what's very fun and when a plane takes off and goes the other way, the engines kick up that sand and people start to scatter when that sand gets blown around!  I'm telling you, those three ports, I go there every chance I can.

JNOT - You've had a couple of albums out now.  Do you have any plans to record again soon, and if so, what can we expect from your next project?

MA - Well, we're thinking about it.  We're trying to make Shoulda Coulda Woulda work a little better in the States.  It's really frustrating.  I say frustrating, and I wanna thank you for playing my music, and having me on.  But it's weird that my music does so well in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan...Japan!  Who would think?  I just have so much trouble getting airplay here in the United States.  It's so frustrating trying to break through.  I really believe if I would get some major airplay..I mean, don't think I don't appreciate the independent radio stations that are playing it, but I really think we could do a lot better.  That's why I'm taking some time off this summer.  To perform a little bit here, on land, and try to work harder on getting my music some more airplay.  I just really believe it's as good as the stuff being played.  It's kinda a long-winded answer, but I really just wanna work on this and try to get this going before I worry about the next album.

JNOT - How often are you on cruises?

MA - Well, you negotiate your contract, so you go out for however many months at a time.  My last contract was two months. So the house where I am right now here in Danville, Kentucky, it's been almost a year now, and I'll bet of that year, I've been here, like, two months total.  So you go back, you're here for a while, then go back out.  I really haven't made the certain effort to get out and play my music live as much as I would've liked.  Believe me: I love the ship life and I was hoping it would've done better for me in getting my music out there.  So this summer I'll be around here playing festivals, small venues, whatever the case may be, I'll come to your home and play, I dont care!

JNOT - One of the things I'm most impressed about you is your willingness to give credit to your family.  It's clear that they've had a big impact on your music.  Are they involved in the actual recording process when you do go in?

MA - No, not much, other than moral support, and I certainly don't want them there when I'm recording.  As you know, we make mistakes, and I don't like people seeing me make mistakes, especially people I'm close to.  I try to keep as few people as possible in the studio when I do record.

JNOT - You've opened for some really good acts.  Your website mentions Joe Diffie, B.J. Thomas, Billy Joe Royal to name a few.  All of them have had great success in the industry at one point or another.  Did they impart anything to you, that you woud incorporate into your music, either for your recordings or for your live shows?

MA - Billy Joe Royal, I knewof him because my parents listened to him.  I knew his song "Down In The Boondocks."  He had a couple hits.  He had a song I didn't know he did called "I Knew You When."  I liked that song when I was a kid, I just didn't know it was Billy Joe Royal.  But anyway, the point is, Billy Joe Royal was very, very generous with his time.  Very, very generous with his advice.  He's just a good man, gave a lot of good advice.  One of which I tell a lot of young people who ask me:  The only real justification of your music is if people continue to hire you.  That's all you need.  If somebody says "Your voice stinks," well, that's their opinion, but hey, I keep getting hired, so I must not be that bad!  And that was great advice, I thought.

JNOT - Where do you see yourself down the line?  Are there any artists that you say to yourself: "Gee, I'd like to work with this person, him or her?"  Or do you prefer just the solo thing?

MA - I'm a huge admirer of Zac Brown, for one.  I'm a huge admirer of Jimmy Buffett.  And I know he's a big star.  Well, so's Zac Brown, for that matter.  As far as just on the grass roots level, there's a girl nearby to where I live, in Lexington, Kentucky, and her name is Laura Bell Bundy.  She's fantastic.  Because she's here, you get to hear a lot about her career and I'd certainly like to perform with her someday if she ever deemed me worthy of performing at that level.  

JNOT - And then, finally, it looks like you've had some great experiences with the Disney company, working with their cruises and that.  Is recording with them a consideration down the road?  They've influenced the recording careers of a number of artists. (John Denver comes to mind, for one.)

MA - Are you kidding? Of course I'd consider it.  I'd have to get them to consider taking on my story.  My story starts with being an athelete growing up, not even knowing how to play guitar until 27 years old, then a few short years later, being a Disney entertainer.  I think that would be a great story.  If I could get their marketing department to get behind that!  They could make all MY dreams come true.  So, would I consider it?  Of couse, I gotta get THEM to consider helping me and pushing me forward.  

JNOT - Well, Mike, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us, and you are our featured artist here for the month of June on the station, so we'll playing cuts off both of these albums.  We appreciate your time, thank you so much!

MA - Great!  Thank you so much for the listeners out there.  I certainly appreciate your time, and their time listening to me!