Nashville Sound

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The Nashville Sound is a blend of pop and country that developed during the 1950s. The music in this era was an outcropping of the big band jazz and swing of the '30s, '40s and early '50s, combined with the storytelling of honky-tonkers.

Originally a stone country singer, smooth-toned Jim Reeves from Texas reached amazing heights as a pop balladeer and since his death in an air crash his fame has burgeoned into cult proportions. Born in 1923 in Galloway, Panola County, Texas, Reeves was just as interested in sport as in music and became the star of the Cathage High School baseball team, although he still performed at local events. He entered the University of Texas in Austin, and his baseball prowess as a pitcher soon attracted the attention of the St. Louis Cardinals scouts who signed him to a contract. An unlucky slip gave him an ankle injury that halted one career and gave rise to another.

In 1947, after marrying a schoolteacher, Mary White, Jim moved to Shreveport and ended up with a job as announcer on KWKH, the station that owned the Louisiana Hayride. It was one of Reeves' jobs to announce the Saturday night Hayride show and he was even allowed to sing occasionally. One night in 1952, Hank Williams failed to arrive and Jim was asked to fill in. In the audience was Fabor Robinson, owner of Abbott Records, who immediately signed Reeves to a contract. After a number one record with "Mexican Joe" (1953), RCA signed him in 1955 amid considerable competition. That same year, he joined the Grand Ole Opry at the recommendation of Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow.

The February, 1957 release of "Four Walls" proved the real turning point in Reeves' career. In 1959, Reeves recorded his all-time greatest hit, "He'll Have to Go." The theme was familiar enough. Some years earlier it might have been called a honky-tonk song. But the treatment, with Reeves' dark, intimate, velvet tones gliding over a muted backing, was something different again. The result brought him instant stardom. During the early 1960s, he also continued to dominate the US country charts, with hits including Guilty (1963), and "Welcome to My World" (1964). (83k thumbnail) (677k longer version).

Tragically, on a flight back to Nashville from Arkansas on July 31, 1964, Jim and his manager ran into heavy rain just a few miles from Nashville's Beery Field and crashed, killing both men. Voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967, Reeves continued to log hits posthumously as recently as the 1970s and '80s.

Patsy Cline (real name Virginia Patterson Hensley) was born in Winchester, Virginia, on September 8, 1932. Winner of an amateur tap-dancing contest at the age of four, she began learning piano at eight and in her early teens became a singer at local clubs. In 1948, an audition won her a trip to Nashville, where she appeared in a few clubs before returning home -- but her big break came in 1957 when she won an Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show, singing "Walking After Midnight." .

Her Decca single of the contest-winning song then entered the charts, both pop and country. In 1961 came "I Fall to Pieces," on of her biggest hits. (198k thumbnail) (759k longer version)

That chart-topper was followed in quick succession by "Crazy,", "Who Can I Count On?," "She's Got You," "Strange," and "When I Get Through With You," most of them being massive sellers.

During the same period she became a featured singer on the Opry, soon attaining the rank of top female country singer. Such hits as "Release Me," "Imagine That," "So Wrong," and "Leavin' On Your Mind," continued to proliferate until, on March 5, 1963, Patsy died in an air disaster at Camden, Tennessee. She had been returning home from a Kansas City benefit concert with Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, both of whom were also killed in the crash.

But even after her death, Patsy's records continued to sell, "Sweet Dreams (Of You)." and "Faded Love," being top hits during '63. Patsy has continued to be a major influence on singers like Loretta Lynn, who recorded a tribute album in 1977, Reba McEntire and Sylvia. In 1973, she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and her recordings and those of Jim Reeves were spliced together to produce a duet effect resulting in hits with "Have You Ever Been Lonely," and "I Fall to Pieces." Renewed interest in Cline has also produced the second highest selling greatest hits release, with over 4 million copies sold to date.

A country crooner with a smooth, very commercial voice, Arnold has probably sold more records than any other C&W artist, with few exceptions. Born in Henderson, Tennessee, in 1918, Arnold first learned guitar from his father -- an old time fiddler -- teaching him guitar at the age of ten.

Arnold left high school during the early '30s to help his family run their farm, occasionally playing local barn dances. After his radio debut in Jackson, Tennessee during 1936, his big break came as singer/guitarist with Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys providing exposure on the Grand Ole Opry.

As a solo act he signed for RCA in 1944, sparking off an amazing tally of hit records with "It's a Sin," and "I'll Hold You In My Heart" in 1947, the latter becoming a million-seller. This achievement was matched by later Arnold recordings, including one of his trademark "stories in song" -- The Streets of Laredo, as well as "Bouquet of Roses," "Anytime," "Just a Little Lovin' Will Go a Long, Long Way" (1948), "I Wanna Play House With You" (1951), and "Cattle Call" (1955), while many others sold nearly as many.

Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966, Arnold's records sold to people who normally bought straight pop, so his TV appearance were not confined to just the Opry and other country shows; he guested on programs hosted by Perry Como, Milton Berle, Arthur Godfrey, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, Spike Jones, and other personalities. Arnold also had his own syndicated TV series, Eddy Arnold Time, plus other shows on NBC and ABC networks.

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