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Retro Redux: Jeanne Black Had The Answer

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I've always enjoyed finding examples of a peculiar practice that seems to occur most often in country music — singers hitting the studio to record "answer" songs. For the uninitiated, that's a type of song that follows a big hit by another singer, and either answers a question posed by the original, or just presents a different viewpoint.

I've written about answer songs before — most recently in a piece about Kitty Wells, who followed up Hank Thompson's "Wild Side Of Life" with her retro-feminist offering of "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels." But Kitty is a country music legend herself, with a long list of classics to her credit. For a few singers, an answer song would end up being their one and only hit. Jeanne Black was one of those.

Gloria Jeanne Black grew up in Pomona, California, and first began to attract some attention in the Fifties by appearing on local radio, eventually earning a regular spot on the Hometown Jamboree TV show. Within a few years she'd managed to make some appearances in Las Vegas and had also married guitarist Billy Strange (who would later make a name for himself by working with everybody from Elvis Presley to the Beach Boys).

For her breakout record in 1960, Jeanne performed the answer to a song that had been a number-one hit for crooner Jim Reeves, "He'll Have to Go." The song was sad and soulful, and Jim's smooth and mellow delivery turned it into a country music classic. Jeanne's answer didn't beat around the bush — it was titled "He'll Have to Stay."

Jeanne's recording did very well, making its way into the top ten on the charts and earning her a gold record (based on world sales) but she was never able to duplicate its success. She eventually retired from active recording and performing, but can currently be found helping with Billy Strange's website.

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