It’s been a long time – months – since our last edition of Diamonds in the Rough, the Special Feature that points folks to some of our favorite posts from the past.
Of course, there’s a reason that we haven’t done one of these for a while, and it’s something I’ve mentioned before. The simple fact is that we’ve gradually worked our way through all the older posts and had almost caught up to the more recent ones. But now some time has passed, so once again I have a larger pool and more fish to go after.
Hopefully you’ll like some of the catches below.
John Barry Orchestra – “Diamonds Are Forever”
Ken Curtis – Crooner Turned Cowboy
One of my all-time favorites, and definitely holds the record for videos.
The Fallacy Of The Famous Dueling Banjos
I’ve always been fascinated by things like this.
Did Gene Pitney Sing For Los Bravos?
Either way, the legend persists.
Elvis Has Achieved A Type Of Immortality
Remember, I said ‘a type’ of immortality.
The Singing Side Of Clint Walker
One of the most popular recent posts. Lots of fans.
The Persistence Of Wesley Tuttle
An amazing story in many ways.
The Shocking Of America
The title could mean a lot of things, but it is all about music.
The Lost Voice Of Ann Richards
Another one of those head-scratchers.
The Crooning Side Of Dick Powell
Not only did he croon, he was famous for it.
In Appreciation Of The Amazing Viola Smith
Couldn’t resist adding this one, even though it’s very recent.
(Note: I had originally intended to write about the passing of Lesley Gore, but it was about then that the flu bug hit me. By now there have been tons of good articles posted about that talented lady, so I’ll just salute her and move on to another subject.)
Sometimes confused with bandleader Ina Ray Hutton, her older sister (or half-sister according to some sources), June Hutton was a fine singer whose career included several high points. She worked as a big band songbird, spent some time as the lead singer in a famous ensemble, and found a lot of success as a soloist before eventually fading.
A Chicago native, she was born as June Marvel Cowan, but began calling herself June Hutton as a teenager in the late 1930s. Not coincidentally, it was about when she began singing with the all-girl band led by Ina Ray Hutton (born Odessa Cowan). It was a good start for her career, and after building her experience in a couple of other jobs she moved on to a spot with Charlie Spivak’s band, mostly as the centerpiece of his singing group, the Stardusters. (See video below.)
Spending the early years of the war with the band was great experience for the young singer, and when Jo Stafford left Tommy Dorsey’s Pied Pipers to pursue a solo career, June was able to step into her place in the much-admired group. In fact, she remained with the ensemble for several years, singing on some of its biggest hits. But by the end of the 1940s she was ready to take the next step — a solo career.
During the 1950s, she was able to score hits on several records, including “No Stone Unturned” and “Say You’re Mine Again,” no doubt helped along by her new husband. Axel Stordahl was a talented composer and arranger who’d already found a lot of success himself by then, including working with Frank Sinatra for an extended period. That in turn probably helped June make frequent appearances on Sinatra’s TV show, although she also popped up on a few others. Unfortunately the 1950s began the incursion of rock and roll into pop music, and singers like June soon felt the pinch. Within a few years she retired from performing. She was only 52 when she died in 1973 (although another source puts her two years younger).
June Hutton – “No Stone Unturned”
Today’s edition of Country Catalyst, our periodic attempt to bring new fans to country music, spotlights a song that has been recorded many times, both with and without lyrics. But it’s as an instrumental that it reaches its full impact, making “Sugar Foot Rag” a classic challenge for virtuoso guitarists in its more than sixty years of existence.
Written by Hank Garland and Vaughn Horton, it made its debut in 1949 when the amazing Garland topped the country charts with the song, throwing down the gauntlet for every guitarist who came along after him. Although few would be able to match his precision picking, there were always plenty who were ready to try, and some of them employed different styles.
A lot of singers recorded the version with lyrics, depending on someone else to do the picking. In fact, Red Foley recruited Garland himself to do the honors, while guys like Jerry Reed — who was a guitar wizard too — did both the singing and the playing. Chet Atkins had no problem handling the tough picking, but his ‘pop country’ version softened the song and added a chorus of singers.
But it seems to me that the pure instrumentalists are the biggest risk-takers, because they’re measuring themselves against the legendary Garland. In the video below you’ll find Hank doing his song, and you might want to watch it first for reference. Then you can try two different versions. One by modern virtuoso Junior Brown, whose bold play on his dual guitar takes the song in a new direction. The second is by a cult favorite, Jimmy Bryant, a contemporary of Garland who was sometimes billed as ‘the fastest guitarist in the world’ — listen and you might agree.
Junior Brown – “Sugar Foot Rag”
Jimmy Bryant – “Sugar Foot Rag”