Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 25 Feb. '32, Shreveport LA; d 10 Dec. '96) Country singer, songwriter; one of the top ten biggest country stars of all time. Formed band still in high school, joined Shreveport's important Louisiana Hayride radio show, then Webb Pierce travelling show; signed with Capitol '51; his first records were favourably received, he was drafted during the Korean War, came back with first top ten hit, his own song 'Goin' Steady' '53; went to the Grand Ole Opry. There was hardly a week when one of his records was not found in the Billboard country chart for 20 years, and he was still going strong for another decade. First no. 1 hit was 'Country Girl' '59; second was 'Hello Walls' '61 (also no. 12 pop hit and a big break for its author, Willie Nelson); he helped a bellhop named Roger Miller, hiring him to play drums although Miller had never played drums in his life. He switched to Mercury '63, had duet hits with Margie Singleton '64, eight top ten hits in a row '69--71 incl. remake of 'Goin' Steady' and huge international hit with no. 1 'It's Four In The Morning' (made pop Hot 100, top 30 in UK). Among his own compositions in country top ten were 'All Right' '55, 'I Miss You Already' '57, 'Alone With You' '58 (also made pop chart), 'Your Old Used To Be' '60, 'Backtrack' '61 (also pop hit), 'Three Days' '62, 'Wine Me Up' '69. Also a good businessman, interests incl. Nashville magazine Music City News for many years, also publishing, recording studio, commercials (for Ford, BC Headache Powders, etc), films (Country Music Holiday, with Ferlin Husky and Zsa Zsa Gabor), TV (Daniel Boone), and one of the best-loved attractions on the state/county fair circuit. Switched to MCA late '70s. Constant pain due to ill health led to gunshot suicide. CD compilations incl. Live Fast, Love Hard ('52--62 tracks) from the Country Music Foundation, five-CD The Classic Years '92 boxed set on Bear Family.