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Album Review

Honky tonk arose in the years following World War II and reflected a hard turn in country music toward, on the one hand, the personal tale, and on the other, a shared everyman isolation in a culture full of rapid change. Ironically, as the larger culture made everyone a generic cipher before all else, honky tonk viewed everyone as a uniquely damaged angel full of very real problems. It represented the first truly modern push in country music, and its poster boy was, of course, Hank Williams. But it could easily be argued that Webb Pierce, with his Nudie suits and big cars, his 96 charting singles (13 reached the top spot on the charts — all but one of those are included in this collection), and his love/hate relationship with the Nashville music establishment, did even more to present an identifiable and long-term face for honky tonk and the modernization of country. Pierce was also a prescient and astute businessman, establishing his own record label, Pacemaker Records, as early as 1950, and also set up a prosperous publishing company, Cedarwood Publishing, and purchased several radio stations as well, creating what was essentially a one-man music conglomerate that still stands as a viable template for contemporary artists. This set covers his fruitful association with Decca Records, which began in 1951 and stretched all the way until 1972, although the sequence here breaks off in 1956. Included are his first big hit, "Wondering," a reworking of a popular Cajun waltz from the 1930s, and his fine remake of Jimmie Rodgers' timeless "In the Jailhouse Now." Pierce recorded into the 1980s, but his musical legacy rests on his 1950s sides with Decca, and the absolute high points are all present in this compilation, making it a very adequate introduction to the King of Honky Tonk.


Born: 08 August 1921 in West Monroe, LA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Webb Pierce was one of the most popular honky tonk vocalists of the '50s, racking up more number one hits than similar artists like Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Lefty Frizzell, and Ernest Tubb. For most of the general public, Pierce -- with his lavish, flamboyant Nudie suits -- became the most recognizable face of country music, as well as all of its excesses; after all, he boasted about his pair of convertibles lined with silver dollars and his guitar-shaped swimming pool. For all of his success,...
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