Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tex Ritter

Most country music is not cowboy music, and, if you ask Ian Tyson, he will tell you that cowboy music is not country music. Tex Ritter, though, was a country singer who did cowboy music. Make no mistake. And he is as corny as they come.

He did dozens of movies and TV besides making records. His son was John Ritter, who was the guy in the TV show Three’s Company.

This is a collection called High Noon & Other Hits; it’s a prerecorded cassette and it was only ever released in that format, at a budget price besides. I don’t remember where I got it; maybe it was Sears, maybe it wasn’t Sears. Maybe it was Country Music Centre. Who knows. There are nine tracks, including two of the three of the top 100 chart singles he had after 1955. Missing is The Americans (A Canadian’s Opinion) from 1974, a song (narration really) written, if I’m not mistaken, by the late Canadian TV journalist Gordon Sinclair.

Tex Ritter:

High Noon – The ultimate ballad of personal conflict. The lyrics at face value are over the top, and obviously so, but just under the surface anyone who has had any conflict with, say, a mean boss, can relate. There is a lot at stake here; not only is he fighting for his life, but he is doing so on his wedding day, thus providing the subtheme of emotional support in the most trying of circumstances. The song is from the movie High Noon, released in 1952, and it was a hit for Ritter, who sang it at the first ever televised Oscars, and I have versions by Frankie Laine, and by Walter Brennan.
Jingle, Jangle, Jingle – From about 1942, a ballad of the happy bachelor cowboy life. I don’t think that this is the original recording; it is too stereo for the 40s.
The Wayward Wind – A song of restlessness, and hit for Gogi Grant. Ritter’s version found itself on the charts in the fall of 1956.
Just Beyond The Moon – A song of love and loss and coping. This was from 1967. It was number 13 on the country chart.
There’s A New Moon Over My Shoulder – The original version of this is from 1944, but this version is a rerecording, very obviously, with female chorus and all. It’s a song of longing and disappointment.
I Dreamed Of A Hill-Billy Heaven – One of those country music tributes that seem to turn up regularly (think To Be A Country Star by The Statler Brothers). This was specifically about departed country stars, but at the end he sees himself. In fact, Ritter died in 1974. This record reached number 20 on Billboard in the summer of 1961.
Growin’ Up – A song about, well, growing up. One of those spoken / narrated song. From 1969.
Rye Whiskey – Originally recorded in 1935, and originally rerecorded in 1948. A semi-humorous ode to alcohol addiction.
Daddy’s Last Letter – Subtitled “Private First Class John H. McCormick.” Hokey but sad all the same. A soldier writes home. The record features Tex’s narration accompanied solely by an church-like organ. This is from 1950, when the Korean War was all the rage. Words to keep: “…so I have to help fight these men and keep them from coming where you and Mommy live.”

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