Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

One plus one equals everything

There's little I enjoy better than a country duet, and the 1960s and 70s gave us the best from several classic pairings.  I've picked up a few examples at car boot sales this year, all for next to nothing.

The duo on the Porter Wagoner Show
Dolly Parton joined the long-running Porter Wagoner Show in 1967 aged 21 after being invited by the country star. She replaced Norma Jean, who'd also been a relative unknown when she joined in 1961.  Jean left when she married (although there are rumours of a broken romantic entanglement with Wagoner).

She'd been well loved by the loyal audience of "Mr. Grand Ole Oprey" and it took Dolly some time to win them over.

Although Jean had appeared on the show for many years, she'd never performed duets with him.  As part of Wagoner's plan to ingratiate her with his viewers, Dolly performed many, and during the 60s and 70s they recorded a total of 139, 21 of which made the Billboard Country chart.

Their first album of duets was Just Between You & Me (1968) and was followed by 12 others up until 1980.  It was the second of these that I bought for £1 in the summer:

Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton - Just The Two Of Us
(1968) [1971 in the UK]

It's a wonderful album of songs mainly about love and various heartaches, with a couple of darker songs thrown in for good measure (Wagoner recalls a fan at a concert asking "Ain't you killed enough dogs 'n' kids in your songs?") and a lovely cover of Dark End Of The Street. It made no.5 on the country album chart.

The album was released in the US in 1968 and the same year the pair were awarded the Country Music Association (CMA) for Vocal Group of the Year, as well as the Music City News Award for Duet of the Year which they went on to win twice more.

Once Dolly's solo career began to take off she made the move to leave Wagoner's TV show.  This led to a breakdown in their friendship, although they continued to make albums together until the mid-70s.  Famously, her no.1 smash I Will Always Love You was written about Wagoner, and although some legal wrangling ensued once Dolly really hit the big time, they eventually reconciled and remained close friends until Porter's death in 2007, aged 80.

If you have a spare £70-ish you could do worse than spend it on this box set of their complete recordings that was released a few months ago:  Looks lovely!

Former rock 'n' roll singer Conway Twitty (real name Harold Jenkins) switched to country in 1965 and finally hit the no.1 spot in '68 with Next In Line.  This marked the beginning of a long and successful career that included a staggering 55 no.1 singles as well as 21 top twenty solo albums in the 1970s alone (US Country charts).

In 1971 he teamed up with Nashville star Loretta Lynn.  By this time Lynn was already a member of the Grand Ole Oprey, country music's biggest-selling female artist and the first of those credited with writing a no.1 single (You Ain't Woman Enough in 1966).

Their first album as a duo was We Only Make Believe (1971) which raced straight into the top three, and it was their fifth album Feelins' (1975) which I got for £1 earlier this year:

Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty - Feelins' (1975)

Including a cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet's She's About A Mover and the title track (their first no.1 single), their characters as a fictional couple give the impression of a husband and wife who drive each other crazy in more ways than one (see Dyn-O-Mite and You Done Lost Your Baby), with a deep-seated love and shared humour unlikely to fade.  It makes for a great listen; Conway had a beautiful clear baritone and I just love the way Loretta's overbite makes her pronounce her 'S's.

The pairing of Loretta and Conway remains the most successful in country music, with eight of their 11 albums reaching the top ten, four of these going to no.1, as well as multiple awards and chart-topping singles.  Sadly Twitty died aged just 59 in 1993.  Lynn is still going strong aged 82.

A similar warmth and humour is apparent in the duets of Johnny Cash and June Carter, although of course in their case the love is the real thing.  The pair married in 1968 (his second marriage, her third) 13 years after they originally met, remaining together until their deaths just months apart in 2003.   I got a copy of their 1973 album Johnny Cash & His Woman a few weeks ago, also for £1:

Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash - Johnny Cash & His
Woman (1973)

Although billed as an album of duets, in fact June only gets to share lead vocals on three tracks, my favourite being The Color Of Love, a funny, touching look at the realities of married life.  June performs backing vocals on another four songs, including some laughing and screeching on their cover of Chris Gantry's Allegheny.  She is entirely absent from the remaining three tracks as far as I can tell, which is a shame as the duets here are by far the best songs on the album.  I'd highly recommend their Duets album (2006), which contains their best work together, including bit hits like Jackson and It Ain't Me, Babe

'First Lady of Country' and two-times divorcee Tammy Wynette married fast-living country superstar George Jones in 1969.  George's talents as a songwriter and performer were matched by his appetite for alcohol and eventually cocaine, and this sadly contributed to his and Tammy's split some six years later.  Despite this they continued to work together, releasing a further three albums post-divorce to add to the six they made during their married life.

I bought a copy of their 1977 Greatest Hits for just 50p last weekend:

George Jones & Tammy Wynette - Greatest Hits (1977) 

It does just as it promises, presenting their ten biggest hits, such as the chart-topping We're Gonna Hold On, Golden Ring and Near You.  It's a short LP, but very sweet indeed. George's phrasing is impeccable, and his and Tammy's remarkable voices blend perfectly.

A song each from the first three records featured here appear on the Car Boot Vinyl Diaries Cloudcast Episode 7, as well as a host of other boot sale-sourced vinyl introduced by me, your inept car boot DJ.   And no doubt a George 'n' Tammy tune (or two) will pop up in future episodes.

(Title of post refers to "In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything, and two minus one equals nothing" - Mignon McLaughlin)

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