1-CD-Album deluxe with 72-page booklet, 31 tracks. Playing time approx. 79 mns.
As the simmering political divide between the South and Everywhere Else became more apparent, it was inevitably reflected in music. Anti-Civil Rights songs didn't make the country charts, but that doesn't mean they didn't sell. The most noxious came from Jay Miller's studio in Crowley, Louisiana. Miller had written It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels (see 1951), produced Jimmy C. Newman (1954) and somehow acquired a share of several other songs, including Diggy Liggy Lo (see 1961). In the late 1940s and early '50s, he produced state-of-the-art Cajun recordings profiled on Bear Family's 'Acadian Special' box, and by the mid-1960s he was producing swamp blues singers like Slim Harpo for Nashville's Excello Records. But on the side he was producing venomously racist records for his Reb-Rebel imprint, and those records were at least as easy to find in the South as pro-Civil Rights records. But then, in a classic instance of paradoxicality, the first African American country star, Charley Pride, emerged in 1965.
The Vietnam War was, if anything, even more divisive. A couple of country records bemoaned the loss of life, but most were rabidly jingoistic. A couple of them, Hello Vietnam (included here) and What We're Fighting For, gave Tom T. Hall his first serious break as a songwriter.
Nineteen-sixty-five also marked the beginning of slow march of rockabillies back to country music. The reason was that rock music wasn't what it used to be. The first to make the switch was Conway Twitty, who hadn't seen a Top 10 pop hit since early 1960, and hadn't seen any kind of hit since early 1962. He had, though, scored a Top 10 country hit as a writer when Ray Price recorded his song, Walk Me To The Door, in 1963 and Price's record was probably Twitty's epiphany. He deserves all the credit in the world, though, for recognizing that times had irreversibly changed, and for having the courage to follow his heart back to country music. During the spring of 1965, he walked out half-way through a show at Tony Mart's club in Somers Point, New Jersey. The other act on the bill was Levon & the Hawks, who soon became The Band. The writing on the wall could not have been clearer. Twitty went home to Oklahoma City, and began booking himself into country nightclubs at two hundred dollars a night. In June, he signed with Decca Records as a country singer. His first country hit as a performer came early in 1966.
And 1965 was the year that Johnny Cash self-destructed. He kicked in the footlights at the Grand Ole Opry or, according to Don Reid of the Statler Brothers, dragged the mic stand across the footlights. Either way, it was his last Opry show. He wrecked a car belonging to June Carter and lost a Cadillac that belonged to his supporting act, Johnny Western. He messed up an appearance on 'Shindig,' and set fire to 508 acres of desert in June 1965, leading to a lawsuit from the government to recover the cost of fighting the blaze, estimated at $125,127. And then, on October 2, he was arrested in El Paso, Texas with 475 Equanil and 668 Dexedrine tablets. In the era before superstar dalliances and failings were plastered over the front pages, fans only thought that Cash looked a little thin and sounded a little hoarse.
The best country songs of 1965 drew a line in the sand between country and pop. As always, Buck Owens was on top of the trend that saw country music distancing itself from every other kind of music. In the March issue of Faron Young's 'Music City News,' he made his Pledge to Country Music: I Shall Sing No Song That Is Not A Country Song. I Shall Make No Record That Is Not A Country Record. I Refuse To Be Known As Anything But A Country Singer. I Am Proud To Be Associated With Country Music. Country Music And Country Music Fans Made Me What I Am Today. And I Shall Not Forget It. That same month, he recorded the Coasters' Charlie Brown, a country song if ever there wasn't one, but it was an LP track and his singles couldn't be mistaken for anything but country.