Showing posts with label Dwayne Crews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dwayne Crews. Show all posts

Jun 9, 2022

Music Gone Missing

By Bobby Peacock

In the process of making my best and worst lists, I consulted Joel Whitburn's Top Country Singles 1944-2017. For those not familiar, these are part of a series of books which catalog every artist who has ever made it onto a Billboard chart. These include Hot 100, Hot Country Songs/Country Airplay, and the R&B charts among others. I intentionally wanted to find a few lost treasures (Mickey DiMichele, Helen Darling) and rightly-forgotten trash (Marlow Tackett) to give my lists more character. And so, I thought I'd do a little feature on all of the songs from 1990 onward -- that is, the point that Billboard changed to Nielsen SoundScan, to make things a little easier -- for which I could not find a recording anywhere online. Most of these are due to one of two reasons: either the album was a very small indie release, or it was not released at all.

The first and most obscure is Dwayne Crews with "Selfish Man." Whitburn tells me he was born in 1956 in Dallas, and I've seen pictures of this single on 45, so it is out there somewhere. While there's little to say about him, he is interesting in that he was one of the few artists to make the charts for the first two weeks of 1990, and suddenly disappear once Billboard shrank the country music charts from 100 to 75 spaces (they would shrink again to 60 in late 2000) without ever re-appearing. (Note: Billboard did not introduce Nielsen SoundScan until the same week the charts shrank to 75 spaces, but it felt odd to leave out just two weeks of the year.)

Curiously, the other absentee from 1990 is a charity single. "Tomorrow's World," a multi-artist collaboration released on Warner Bros. to honor the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. Among the artists featured are Pam Tillis and Kix Brooks (both of whom wrote it), as well as Vince Gill, Lynn Anderson, Dan Seals, Foster & Lloyd, and Shelby Lynne, to name a few. I actually found a podcast reviewing the single, but they didn't play any of it (likely for copyright reasons). I've even found the lyrics, and they honestly seem reasonable enough -- no better or worse than Alabama's "Pass It On Down," but not as inspired as John Anderson's fantastic "Seminole Wind." Given this was a major-label release with a ton of notable names, I'm surprised no one has ever seen fit to include it anywhere.

We then go to 1992 for "One Like That" by JJ White, a sister duo signed to Curb. I included their fantastic cover of John Hiatt's "The Crush" on my best of the '90s list because they reminded me of a looser version of The Judds. While there is 1992 concert footage of this fine song, I've decided to include it since the studio version does not seem to have any presence. And it's a shame, because I love the lyric "nothing wished for, nothing gained," the beach influence in the lyrics, and of course the groove. I also seem to have a very vague memory of this slipping onto WKJC's playlists at least once.

Surprisingly, 1992 to 1998 is smooth sailing for songs that made the country charts; no matter how obscure, I've been able to procure every single one (even if I did have to dip into my own collection for a few). Although as an aside, I would like to note that contemporary news articles about Steve Vaus' atrociously polemic "We Must Take America Back" quote different lyrics than appear in the recording I found, so I wonder if he re-did it at some point. If that is the case, then the original recording gets on this list with an asterisk. And if I'd been able to find it sooner, Cooter Brown's "Pure Bred Redneck" (#71, 1995) definitely would have made one of the worst-of lists.

Our next bump in the road is courtesy of Ricochet. Known almost entirely for the infectiously catchy "Daddy's Money," they made up for an uninspired musical image with consistently above-average songs. Unfortunately it came unraveled with their third album, which had three singles in a row fail to make top 40. First up was a cover of Billy Yates' "Honky Tonk Baby," a little cotton-candy honky-tonk number that you can probably predict every lyric of just from the title. And the only reason I can say that is because I can find Yates' version, but not Ricochet's. Either way, it's not hard to picture in my mind what their version would have sounded like. They followed up with a cute proto-version of "Beautiful Mess" titled "Can't Stop Thinkin' 'Bout That" and a decent cover of "Seven Bridges Road" that pushed their harmonies to the forefront, but radio didn't bite and they shed some members. While the album was eventually re-titled and released in 2000, it was far too late. Perhaps if they'd led with one of those instead of "Honky Tonk Baby" -- a song so forgettable in Yates' original that I honestly can't see how Ricochet's version could have possibly been an improvement -- then they might have had more staying power.

Another forgotten '90s band produces the next entry on this list. Specifically, the awesomely-named Smokin' Armadillos, who had already notched a couple chart entries with the catchy if lightweight "Let Your Heart Lead Your Mind" and "Thump Factor." Like Ricochet, they seem straight out of the '90s formula of forgotten bands by having a mildly memorable lead singer and a few hooks, but little else due to an over-reliance on session players (if you have a fiddle player, why are there three others credited on the album?). I don't know if their 1998 single "I Don't Want No Part of It" (from their never-seen second Curb album Plan B) would have gotten the Armadillos out of the burrow, or if it would have joined the ranks of "I'm a Cowboy," but I would have loved to see this band rise in the ranks by merit of a cool name alone.

I've already dragged South 65 quite a bit for being a mostly uninspired take on the "country boy band" formula, but they weren't entirely without merit. I still stand by the joyous ear worm "Baby's Got My Number" being one of the most overlooked gems of the '90s, and the idea to redo Charlie Rich's "The Most Beautiful Girl" for the boy band era wasn't a bad choice even if the results weren't fully realized. So it's hard to say where a song with a title like "Love Bug (Bite Me)" would have fallen upon its 2000 release. Would it have been more toward "Baby's Got My Number," or would it have been uninspired mush like "A Random Act of Senseless Kindness"? Only the few people who have this recording hiding somewhere in Atlantic Records' vault may ever know.

Speaking of country boy bands, there was also Marshall Dyllon. As far as I know, they were one of the only other acts ever signed to Kenny Rogers' Dreamcatcher label after his "Buy Me a Rose" became a sleeper hit. "Live It Up" is lightweight but enjoyable enough in its positivity, but "You" was a ballad as boring as its title. Their third and final single -- which, like many on this list, never made it onto an album -- was a cover of Canadian country singer Joel Feeney's "She Ain't Gonna Cry." Feeney's version of the song is a breezy mid-tempo about a failing relationship that I can totally see either working or not working, depending on how much polish any of the six billion producers behind Marshall Dyllon's only album applied to it. Still, it's not hard to see why they never caught on.

Also from 2001 is a curiosity and a half -- and another Dreamcatcher release. "Keep Mom and Dad in Love" got the "Butterfly Kisses"/"How Do I Live" treatment in that two versions were out at the same time. And curiously, it's the version that didn't chart for which I can find a recording: namely, by Hal Ketchum (in the midst of a creative dry spell) and co-writer Lisa Brokop. The version that I can't find is by Billy Dean, Suzy Bogguss, and a young girl who was credited as "introducing Jillian." While I find the lyrics an overly sappy take on a child pleading her parents not to divorce, the decision to put an actual child singer on the chorus is an inspired one. And for those wondering who "Jillian" was, she's now-former Big Loud artist Jillian Jacqueline (and her sisters did one single as The Lunabelles in 2011). I didn't expect that, and I'm glad she got another chance.

Kristin Garner gives us "Let's Burn It Down," which notched a single week at #59 in 2001. She got swallowed up by Atlantic dissolving its country division, which left the non-charting Dennis Linde character sketch "Singing to the Scarecrow" also MIA (although SherriƩ Austin also got to cut it). It's surprising that someone this late in the game has zero seconds of her musical career accounted for anywhere online -- and even more so that Vevo has an official karaoke version uploaded but not the original song! Another "K" name, Kortney Kayle, was a bit more successful. She had two singles for an unreleased Lyric Street album in 2001 (a time when they weren't really known for withholding albums; that wouldn't strike until Sonya Isaacs, Jessica Andrews, and Lisa Shaffer later in the decade). I can find a few other unreleased cuts, and even the other single "Unbroken by You," but not her debut. Fortunately, she's found a second career (under her married name of Wilson) flipping houses on HGTV.

Chad Brock had a rough time after his album III tanked, leading him to move to a then-obscure indie label known as Broken Bow Records. He released a whopping five singles between 2002-04, but no album. I didn't even know these songs existed until I first got one of the Whitburn books about a decade ago (in part because Billboard's perpetually broken website had a habit of not listing singles that never appeared on albums, regardless of how high they charted). Someone has leaked "That Was Us" online, and I've also gotten my hands on "You Are" -- previously released by John Michael Montgomery in 2000 -- and "That Changed Me." The first of the five, "A Man's Gotta Do," does not seem to exist anywhere listenable; neither does "It's a Woman Thing," the only one of the five not to chart. (Neither, for that matter, does his duet with Canadian singer Shirley Myers titled "No One," which got to #35 on the Canadian country charts but wasn't released stateside.) I've never liked Chad Brock all that much due to the utter plainness of his voice (seriously, just imagine "Lightning Does the Work" with a tougher edged vocalist), so I'm probably not missing much -- although I will say I find "That Was Us" to be his best single by far.

For some reason, 2003 saw a lot of very obscure independent acts chart for a single week. I'm wondering if sponsored play on some late-night show was the cause? I seem to recall After Midnite with Blair Garner spinning a lot of really obscure stuff in this era. Most of them disappeared so quickly that no one seems to know anything about them. One such entrant, Mickey DiMichele's "Jolene," made my best of 2000-2009 list. Another such example of a one-and-done from this era is "Cryin' Steel" by Jerry Burkhart. This was an early release by Cupit Records, which I remember also being behind Kevin Sharp's later releases and Memarie's "Cry Like Memphis" back when WATZ still played independent releases like that. In fact, Burkhart wasn't even the only indie to chart that week; so did Renee McCrary with a cover of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel." Somehow I found that, but no dice yet on Burkhart. But hey, the album's only $6 on Amazon.

We go back to Billy Yates co-writes for Shannon Lawson, the man best known for "Goodbye on a Bad Day." His second album for Clint Black's defunct Equity label was never issued despite charting two singles. Someone did find me its other single "Just Like a Redneck," but "Smokin' Grass" remains completely unaccounted for. (Apparently both used to be on iTunes, but were deleted when Equity closed.) Yates' version, with its cutesy weed-based double entendre, does float around online if you're curious what the song's about. But given this is the same Shannon Lawson who came up with such ideas as using distortion on an electric mandolin, I'm curious as to how much his version "smoked" if at all.

The first chart entry for Jerrod Niemann is our next visit. "I Love Women (My Momma Can't Stand)" was also cut by Rhett Akins, but Jerrod's version got cut short after a week at #59 due to Category 5 Records' abrupt closure. While Niemann's entire Category 5 catalog was later released as the album Yellow Brick Road, said album is currently out of stock on Amazon and I doubt it'll ever show up again. It also used to be on Spotify, as they have a lyric sheet, but the recording itself seems to have been removed.

Finally, we end the list in 2010 with "Mississippi's Cryin'" by Margaret Durante. While I've found a couple live performances, the single version seems to have gone MIA: it's not on iTunes, it's not on Spotify, and it was never on an album. Such is life when one releases songs independently. While she would later have minor success under the much more pleasing name Maggie Rose, I never cared for her material outside "Better." But hey, it's cool that she got any traction at all from such obscure beginnings.

(As an aside, when I was writing this list, Trailer pointed out that "Becky" by Haley Georgia seems to have completely disappeared from the Internet. While it wasn't a single, he and I agree that it is one of the worst country songs ever, and for this reason alone, I feel that its terribleness should be preserved for posterity.)

The entire reason I wrote this is because I'm curious as to whether anyone out there has any leads on the missing songs.


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