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Retro Redux: Crankin’ Out The Classics – Country Style

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Listening to the classics is something that people have been doing for a long time, and for many it might evoke thoughts of Mozart and Beethoven. For others it might mean something like classic rock, but the simple truth is that musical classics are any great songs from past eras — and that includes country classics.

Even if you're not particularly a fan of country music, it's impossible to let your thoughts travel back to previous decades and not think about some of the country songs. Performers such as Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and others were big stars in the 1960s and 1970s, and their hits would certainly qualify as country classics.

A little further back – in the 1950s – a lot of country stars had a stake in the burgeoning rock and roll movement, while others stuck mostly to the traditional stuff. Hank Williams was a force, Tennessee Ernie Ford hit it big with "Sixteen Tons," and Ferlin Husky rocketed to stardom with his first number one hit, "Gone."

The 1940s were the heyday of Tex Ritter, Bob Wills and few others, but one of the most interesting was a guy who was not only a big country star for many years, but was also a very successful politician. His performing career encompassed everything from traditional country music to gospel, and he was elected governor of Louisiana twice!

Jimmie Davis was something special. Although he was part of a family of sharecroppers, he managed to earn multiple college degrees and even worked as a college teacher for a while. However, he also soon began aiming toward a singing career, first on the radio and later on recordings.

Although he tried hard and had some success, it was the Depression so he wisely kept working, beginning to feel his way through the convoluted traditions of Louisiana politics. Over the next few years, he worked in various government jobs including a stint as Shreveport chief of police.

His musical career kept pace, and in 1940 he introduced a song that would be his first big hit, "You Are My Sunshine." It would later be recorded by many other singers too, but it made Jimmie a star. Apparently it helped his other career too because by 1944 he'd been elected governor.

He retired from politics after his term expired in 1948, devoting himself full-time to music for the next decade or so, but made a political comeback in 1960 when he was elected governor again. Although he'd campaigned on a segregationist platform, he proved to be a moderate leader and is given credit for helping lead the state during some troubled years.

He continued performing and recording country music both during and after his term, generating a number of popular hits. In later years found himself moving more to gospel music, and continued to be popular with listeners. He was actively performing even into the early 1990s – his eighth decade in music – and died in 2000 at age 101. He left behind one of the most colorful life stories around — and a country classic.

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About Big Geez

  • Linda

    Hi,

    Thanks for sharing this very interesting story about Jimmie Davis. 101 – Wow!!!

    Another “country classic” who is gone, but not forgotten, is Faron Young. I just finished a biography about him called “Live Fast, Love Hard” by Diane Diekman that I couldn’t put down. As you say about Davis, another colorful life story that gave me a new apppreciation for Faron Young’s music.

    Cheers,
    Linda

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/big_geez Big Geez

    Thanks for the info, Linda. Faron Young was a great performer but came to a sad end. I wrote about him in a previous Retro Redux article.