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Jimmy Wakely
"The Melody Kid"

© Living Era

August 07 - 13, 2016

Year of Release: 2003
Rating:
  • Cimarron (Roll On)
  • Too Late
  • I'm Sending You Red Roses
  • You Can't Break
    The Chains Of Love
  • Song Of The Sierras
  • One Has My Name
    The Other Has My Heart
  • I Love You So Much It Hurts
  • Till The End Of The World
  • Mine All Mine
  • Someday You'll Call My Name
  • Too Bad Little Girl
  • Slippin' Around
  • I Wish I Had A Nickel
  • Wedding Bells
  • Tellin' My Troubles
    To My Old Guitar
  • Broken Down Merry-Go-Round
  • 'Neath The Purple Of The Hills
  • The Gods Were Angry With Me
  • I'l Be Faithful
  • Let's Go To Church
    Next Sunday Morning
  • Beautiful Brown Eyes
  • A Bushel And A Peck
  • Dust
  • When You And I Were Young
    Maggie Blues
  • My Heart Cries For You
  • I Don't Want To Be Free
  • The Solid South
  • At The Close Of A
    Long Long Day

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    Jimmy Wakely was one of a very select band of singing cowboys who, alongside Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Rex Allen and lesser lights, kept several generations of kids enthralled week on week at the local cinema. Like Roy Rogers, Jimmy first appeared on screen as the "musical act" to the main star, in Jimmy's case under the name of "Jimmy Wakely Trio" with Johnny Bond and Dick Reinhart.

    It soon became apparent to the studio bosses that here was a potential star in his own right. He certainly had the right credentials, he was handsome, could ride a horse and he possessed a superb singing voice.

    He was born James Clarence Wakely on 16 February 1914 and although he was born in Arkansas he spent most of his early life in Oklahoma. Even as a youngster he had dreams of becoming a professional singer, although he would have to wait a few years before forming his own outfit. Eventually after a succession of odd jobs he teamed up with another aspiring performer, Johnny Bond, and together with a third member, Dick Reinhart, formed the Jimmy Wakely Trio. The group specialized in close harmony, modeling themselves on the Sons of the Pioneers. They managed to get regular radio spots and became very successful locally. The big break came when Gene Autry visited the area while on tour, he heard the band and was impressed enough to invite them to look him up if they came to Hollywood. This was just what they were waiting for so they packed up their familes and travelled to California. On their arrival they took Gene at his word and contacted him. Autry offered them a job as regulars on his new radio programme, Melody Ranch, and this breakthrough led the group on to the next logical step, to appear as the singing group in several B westerns.

    After appearing in a number of films it was Johnny Bond rather than Wakely who was first offered a recording contract in 1941, but Wakely followed soon after and was offered a recording contract in 1942. The first recording to attract the public's attention was a cover version of Elton Britt's wartime song, There's A Star Spangled Banner waving somewhere.

    Johnny Bond finally split with Wakely to work for the Autry organization on a permanent basis and in 1944 Jimmy was offered a film contract with Monogram Pictures, Republic's main competitor in the B western field, to become a singing cowboy. His first feature, Song of the Range, was a moderate success and over the next few years he would go on to make 28 movies as the star attraction. In the meantime his recording career was going from strength to strength. As well as recording the songs that were featured in his movies, Wakely also showed that he was capable of singing mainstream popular numbers in a surprisingly sophisticated manner. The hits began to pile up with numbers such as One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)" which made No. 1 in the country charts and also featured in the top ten of the pop charts. Many of the songs Wakley recorded were written by the great Honky Tonk singer Floyd Tillman; Jimmy's version of I Love You So Much It Hurts remained at No. 1 in the Country charts for five weeks.

    In 1949, Capitol producer Lee Gillette came up with the idea of teaming Jimmy with the popular singer Margaret Whiting. Whiting [b. 1924] was the daughter of composer Richard Whiting, and had enjoyed great success as a big band vocalist since the early 1940s working with such luminaries as Johnny Mercer, Paul Weston and others. She had recently had a hit of her own with Far Away Places, and the idea to record some duets with Wakely was inspired. Their first recording together was the Floyd Tillman song Slippin' Around, and it hit the button. The perfect pairing of Whiting's bubbly style and Wakely's laid back vocal took the song to No. 1 in the country charts for five weeks and it also spent a week at No. 1 in the pop charts. Over the next couple of years the pair clocked up a further nine hits with such numbers such as Wedding Bells and When You And I Were Young Maggie Blues. They also recorded a follow-up to their first hit with I'll Never Slip Around Again. During his time with Margaret Whiting, Wakely was known as the Bing Crosby of country music -- not a bad compliment for a country boy from Oklahoma!

    After his film career came to an end and he went into television, then in 1952 was given his own radio programme, The Jimmy Wakely Show, on the CBS network. He also hosted the ABC radio show Five Star Jubliee with fellow western star Tex Ritter.

    The 1960s saw him still making records, this time for his own Shasta Record label which he distributed by mail order. He remained popular as a singer during the 1970s, but was forced through ill health and advancing years to stop touring. Jimmy Wakely rode into the sunset for the last time at the age of 68 when he died of emphysema on 23 September 1982.
    © Brian Golbery, 2003


    As the liner notes from Living Era's The Melody Kid states, Jimmy Wakely was a popular Country singer -- in the style of Gene Autry. His name may or may not have been as popular as Autry's. He had more #1 songs than Autry did. His "One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)" was on a various artists Country album I received from a garage sale as a young child. There were many other great tunes on this album, entitled Country Hall of Fame, Vol. 2. Vol. 1 on vinyl I would later find, decades later, and a used CD store. One day I attempt to find all the songs from both volumes, and convert them to CD.

    This is considered "Great Country." As the decades that followed, Country Music changed in a different direction. And even today's Country has changed since it's sound from past decades. Today's Country is by far not as great as it was when artists such as Wakely, Autry and Hank Williams Sr. dominated the early 1950s/1960s. Then it was the "Outlaw Country" of the 1970s. The 1970s Country decade would probably be considered the best decade. The 1980s and 1990s I didn't really follow; yet looking back at the 1980s, there were alot of exceptional Country music. The 1990s was good, but probably not as "great" as the decades that passed. As the 21st Century in Country music emerged, it headed towards a more "Pop" style, not really categorizing it as "real" country music.

    But Jimmy Wakely's music is outstanding. This is great Country music. Living Era's The Melody Kid compilation covers Wakely's career, from 1940 - 1951. Wakely's songs here are the peak of his career. It includes his #1 Country hits, the ones that everyone remembered -- "One Has My Name," "I Love You So Much It Hurts," and his duet with Margaret Whiting, "Slippin' Around," which hit #1 on both the Country and the Pop charts.

    After reading the liner notes, it would be interesting to hear the follow-up to "Slippin' Around," -- "I'll Never Slip Around Again." Well, part of Country music lyrics is cheating, and never "slipping around" again just isn't in the Country music vocabulary. The follow-up was recorded in 1949, but it is not included on this compilation.

    Hear what good Country music from the years gone by really sounded like. Jimmy Wakely may not have been a popular name as Autry and Williams Sr., yet his music shouldn't be overlooked. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971, and the Western Music Association Hall of Fame in 1991. He has yet to be inducted in the COUNTRY Hall of Fame... yet. And he should be.




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