Saturday, August 8, 2009

Shedd's Spot Has Been on Hiatus

What do you get when you combine a lot work and some time visiting family out of state? An unfortunate, unnanounced hiatus for Shedd's Spot.

I'm sure there is a multitude of things I could write about, but let's keep it simple to begin with and talk about three men who have birthdays today, August 8th, Frank Howard, Mel Tillis, and Webb Pierce.

Frank Howard was one of the few bright spots in the history of the expansion Washington Senators. Howard came to the Senators from the L.A. Dodgers in a trade prior to the 1965 season. In L.A., Howard had been a part time player. Once arriving in D.C., he became a full time player who put up monster home run numbers in a non-steroid age, including a tear in May 1968 when he hit 10 homers in 20 at bats. Recently, there has been talk of Howard joining the Washington Nationals in some capacity and the Nationals will give away Frank Howard bobbleheads at their August 22nd game againt the Brewers. It's sort of funny they are not doing it tonight because tonight's game features an Adam Dunn bobblehead giveaway. This prior Shedd's Spot post features a link to an interview with Howard.

When most people hear the name Mel Tillis they think of a light hearted, stuttering singer who had a string of country hits in the 1970s and also did some TV and had a few roles in some Burt Reynolds movies. But prior to any of that, Tillis had a hall of fame songwriting career. The first hit he had as a songwriter was Webb Pierce's 1957 version of "I'm Tired", although not all the words were Tillis'. Prior to Pierce recording the song, Tillis had pitched the song to Ray Price at the Florida State Fair. Price took the song back to Nashville, but didn't record it. Instead, Pierce got wind of the song at the Grand Ole Opry one night as Price was singing it backstage. Pierce decided he wanted to record the song, but Price would only give him the first verse. So, Pierce took the first verse to songwriter Wayne Walker who wrote two additional verses that Pierce tacked on to Tillis' first verse. Tillis did not know about the Pierce recording of the song or the changes until he heard Pierce's record on the radio one night while still living in Florida.

"I'm Tired" was the first of many classic country hits Tillis wrote or co-wrote. Pierce recorded several more Tillis songs, inlcuding I Ain't Never", "Tupelo County Jail" and"Honky Tonk Song". (If you can believe it, the Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor, coverered "Honky Tonk Song" on her 1975 LP I've Got What it Takes.) Ray Price had hits with "Burning Memories" and "Heart Over Mind". Probably the two most famous versions of Tillis compositions are Bobby Bare's "Detroit City" and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's version of "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town". When Rogers released his version of "Ruby" in the late 60s, many thought Tillis had written the song about a soldier who had been wounded in Vietnam. Instead, Tillis had written it about a man in his hometown who had been wounded in World War II. (I'm surprised someone hasn't covered the song in the past few years, slightly changing the words for the song to be about someone wounded in Iraq.)

In 1984, Tillis released his autobigoraphy, Stutterin' Boy. The book is by no means high brow reading, but includes dozens of great stories about the golden days of Nashville in the 1950s and 1960s. Any fan of real country music history would find it an entertaining read.

Nowadays, Webb Pierce is widely remembered for his flashy style as much as his music. For years, buses ferried hundreds of tourist a day past Pierce's Nashville home to see his guitar shaped swimming pool. But, for a time from the late 1950s through the early 1960s, Pierce was one of the hottest country stars going. Maybe I'll write more about Pierce in the future, but for now you can watch him perform the afforementioned "I'm Tired" in appearance recorded prior to Pierce overdosing on rhinestones.

No comments:

Post a Comment