Thursday, November 03, 2005


Webb Pierce, It's Been So Long.
Webb Pierce, Slowly.

Webb Pierce
was the humble, flamboyant face of country music in the '50s, perhaps the last of the line of country standard-bearers, certainly one of the last to be unaffected by rock & roll. He possessed the sort of classic high, nasal voice that by '53 was going out of fashion with the smoother, professional Nashville sound, instead becoming confined to traditional bluegrass. Over the years, Pierce has often fallen out of style--he can be a bit corny, he dressed like Liberace's Louisiana cousin and his ostentatious ways--guitar-shaped swimming pools, silver-dollar-studded Pontiacs--earned him disdain from purists and neighbours alike. (Ray Stevens, one such neighbour, went to court in the '60s to stop tourists from flocking around one of Webb's guitar-shaped pools.)

From his peak, here is Pierce's "It's Been So Long," in which Webb baldly nicks the melody of Ted Daffan's "I've Got Five Dollars and It's Saturday Night" (listen to a sample of George Jones' and Gene Pitney's version of "Five Dollars" here) to make a fine up-tempo track, while "Slowly" features both an exquisite vocal by Pierce and Bud Isaacs' then-radical use of a pedal to quickly change tones on his steel guitar. (Gram Parsons' pedal steel player Neil Flanz flipped when he first heard it).

"It's Been So Long" was recorded on March 25, 1953, in Nashville, and released as Decca 28834 (c/w "I'm Walking the Dog"); "Slowly", which Pierce co-wrote with Tommy Hill, was recorded on November 29 and released as Decca 28991. Find both on King of the Honky-Tonk.

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