I don't like country music at all; the instruments used, the style of vocal delivery, even the 'look' of country artists puts me right off ….. .... … plus I have painful memories of going to the Greyhound pub in Edlington for soul nights and being confronted by loads of idiots dressed in cowboy gear & stetsons, wearing imitation colt 45 guns who thought it was their C&W night. ANYWAY, that aside, I have known that I like some country songs for many years …. the ones performed by Candi Staton, Bettye Swann, Joe Odom, Joe Tex, Moses & Joshua Dillard & the like.
But I never knew so many decent recordings started out with a simple country song .... songs like “Green Green Grass of Home, “My Elusive Dreams”, “Son Of A Preacher Man” & “Love of the Common People”, … mind you there are many such songs that, no matter which pop / soul singer tackled them, I'd always hate them (D-I-V-O-R-C-E being just one of these). Why am I wittering on about such matters, well I'll tell you.
All the above songs (excpet “D I V O R C E) and others recorded by the likes of the Daydreams plus Candy & the Kisses were all written by a combination of 3 guys who were signed to songwriting deals by Nashville's Tree Publishing Company (linked to Buddy Killen's Dial Records). The first of the trio of John Hurley, Curley Putman & Ronnie Wilkins to find success was Claude 'Curley' Putman. His song “Green Green Grass of Home” won a country music award in 1966. In 1968, his “My Elusive Dreams” won a similar award with “Love of the Common People” doing similar for John Hurley & Ronnie Wilkins.
Ronnie Wilkins was from a small town in North Carolina but he was to find success after he moved to Nashville. Initially he worked on his own, writing songs that the likes of the Buttons (Columbia), Evaline (SS7) & the Avons (Groove). He initially seemed to aim his compositions at soul acts, but Nashville soon turned him to the dark side. By 1965, he had teamed up with Hurley and they were writing for Joe Tex and the Illusions. John Hurley was a singer / songwriter and they soon hit it off. By 1967 they were a well respected team, both working for Tree Publishing, where they met up with Curley Putman. This teaming sometimes worked on songs as a trio but on other occasions it would just be Hurley & Wilkins writing together.
The team were soon having their songs selected by outside producers / acts on the soul scene. In 1966, Candy & the Kisses cut the Hurley – Wilkins song “Sweet & Lovely” with Tom Jones having an international hit with Putman's “Green, Green Grass”. Dial act, the Dreams, got into the act when they recorded “(Just to Keep On) the Lovin' Side” written by all three of them.
While down in Muscle Shoals in 67, Hurley & Wilkins were asked by Jerry Wexler to write a song for Aretha Franklin (Wilkins was playing organ on a studio session for Aretha at the time). Knowing that Aretha's father was a famous preacher, they used that link to craft the song they wrote for her. Aretha cut her version of the song but Wexler didn't think it fitted in with the otther songs on her upcoming album, so it was left in the can. Not long afterwards (early 68), Dusty Springfield traveled down to Memphis to record for Wexler. He immediately thought of the song Aretha had already cut & got Dusty to lay down her version of it. In November that year, the song was released on a 45 (Atlantic in the US, Phillips in the UK) and it went straight onto the charts in both countries.
Other artists were now picking up on songs the trio had written and it wasn't too long before other compositions of theirs were hits. “Love of the Common People” was recorded by many acts but it was a reggae version by Nicky Thomas (Trojan) that did best. This was a top 10 pop chart hit in the UK in summer 1970. By that time, loads of people were recording their songs with high profile singer / songwriters such as Elton John also joining the throng. The guys moved on, Ronnie relocating to California. New songs dried up, but new versions of their old ones (& film's using old tracks) kept the money rolling in. “Love of the Common People” returned to the charts in 1983 via Paul Young's version.
All in all then, these 3 guys who set out to write country songs back in the early 60's made quite an impression on the world outside of country music. However, it will always be the soul (& reggae) takes of their efforts that are the ones that will bring me joy.
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