- When commissioned to compile and annotate a 3cd set of reggae covers of Country songs, my first thought was "no brainer". Surely hundreds of Country tracks have been versioned by Jamaican artists down the years? Putting together 50 would be no more difficult than making tea or doing the weekly shop...

However, the paths of Country and Reggae have not crossed as often as one might think. It's inevitable, given that 50,000-watt clear channel radio stations beamed their signal all over the Caribbean during the 60s and early 70s, that many American Country hits got heard throughout Jamaica as new releases, and there are, in fact, many fine Country covers dotted throughout the history of Jamaican music. But 'dotted' is the word. for every reggaefication of a Country song, there are perhaps 50 of soul and pop hits. All the more ironic then, that many of the biggest international reggae crossovers (Nicky Thomas 'Love Of The Common People', John Holt's 'Help Me Make It Through The Night', Boris Gardiner's 'I Want To Wake Up With You', for instance) were recorded first by Country singers.

This, the latest in Trojan's ongoing series of CD boxes brings you those songs and 47 other that were Country before they were anything else. The truth is that, in all probability, some of these songs came to reggae through soul music. It's unlikely that Nicky Thomas would have been familiar with Jeannie Steeley's 1966 original of 'Don't Touch Me' - a 1969 soul hit for Bettye Swann - or David Isaacs and Lee Perry would have known the Gosdin Brothers' first take on Joe Simon's soul smash '(Just Enough To Keep Me) Hanging On'. But how these songs made their way to reggae is not really important. The quality of these recordings is enough that we should just be glad that they did!

We kick off in fine style with the Skatalites' immortal 'Occupation'. Basing it's main riff on the Mariachi horns from Johnny Cash's 1962 chart-topper 'Ring Of Fire', it represents a rare occasion  where ska and Country crossed paths. (Tommy McCook must have liked those horns, as he revived the arrangement as 'Music Is My Occupation' in 1967 and again, as 'Ring Of Fire' in 1971). But before we have chance to draw breath, it's fast forward a couple of years to the rocksteady era...

Ewan McDermott and Maytal Jerry Matthias take a credible stab at the much recorded 'Tennessee Waltz', one of the biggest songs of the late 1940s, thanks to Patti Page's big hit rendition. It's likely that E&J would have been familiar with Patti's record, rather than the original Country hit by the song's writers, Frankie 'Pee Wee' King and Redd stewart. It's equally likely that they would have known Sam Cooke's 1963 revival of 'TW'. But turning a waltz into rocksteady is no mean achievement, and they carry it off sublimely.

Sue Thompson's 'Sad Movies' was written by John D Loudermilk, author of classic songs including 'Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye' - versioned famously by Slim Smith as 'If It Don't Work Out'. It was recorded in 1960 in Nashville, issued on a Nashville label and Ms Thompson herself hails from a particularly rural part of Oklahoma. But 'Sad Movies' was pushed as a pop record and that's where it found its biggest success. None of this bothered Gloria Crawford when she stepped up to the mic in 1966 to deliver her sweet version. Sue Thompson is alive and well, and still performing the occasional show at the age of 80. Ms Crawford, by comparison, fell off the radar immediately.

Hazel Wright was one of a number of girls that Edward 'Bunny' Lee recorded in 1967 and 1968. Her version of Hank Locklin's 'Please Help Me I'm Falling' is nice, although it might have been rather more appropriate for her to have recorded Skeeter Davis' answerback 'I Can't Help You, I'm Falling Too' instead. Skeeter's early career was almost entirely based around versioning earlier hits - among others, she also added a lyric to Floyd Cramer's big 1960 instrumental hit 'Last Date', resulting in ';My Last Date (With You)'. TT Ross' 1970s version is well known as an early example of the lovers' rock genre. Less familiar, but better, is Alton Ellis' late sister Hortense's fine take, from the late 60s.

Locklin was also behind the original of 'Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On', a song he wrote and recorded several times before finally getting a top 5 hit with it in 1958. after Leo graham and the Bleechers had a go in 1969, it was recorded by their former Upsetter label mate Trevor 'Jimmy London' Shaw - as were at least 20 other Country songs that we can't feature here, for contractual reasons - and, in the mid 1970s by Jackie Brown for Joe Gibbs.

Most people think of the Everly Brothers' 'Bye Bye Love' as being a Rock 'n' Roll classic, rather than a Country song. But Phil and Don, who hail from the bluegrass state of Kentucky, were Country through and through, and their Nashville-recorded breakthrough hit topped the Country charts while it was still making headway as a pop hit. 'Bye Bye Love' was covered by two of the biggest Country stars of the 1950s. Webb Pierce and Ray Price. In reggae, Alton Ellis cut it in 1968, while a fairly obscure version by the Inventors was committed to tape in 1970. As it's never been reissued before we've included that version here - a Fud Christian production that, for a change isn't a version of his 'Never Fall In Love' riddim...

Rather better known than the Inventors are the Pioneers, who took time out from voicing Joe Gibbs' digs at Lee Perry in 1968 to cut 'Sweet Dreams'. They and Gibbs probably knew it from the 1966 version by swamp-popper Tommy McClain - which was actually issued in Jamaica - but the song dates back to the mid 50s, when its composer Don Gibson first charted it for MGM records. (Gibson hit again with a remake in the early 60s). however, the song is probably most famous from the version of ill-fated Country chanteuse Patsy Cline, whose last chart record it was before a plane crash took her life in 1963.

Bob Andy is such a fine songwriter that he never needed to record covers. However, he was twice persuaded to plunder the catalogue of the excellent Atlanta-born singer-songwriter Joe South. You can hear Bob's terrific 1971 version of 'Walk A Mile In My Shoes' on CD2. CD1 offers 'Games People Play', one of the first big hits that the erstwhile Keith Anderson had after leaving Studio One. Strangely, although South would eventually rack up a few Country hits, including 'Walk A Mile', he never 'went Country' with 'Games'. Instead it was left to Freddy Weller to take the song all the way to #2 in 1969.

Someone else now thought of as a Country act,. but who wasn't then, is Glen Campbell. Hits like 'Gentle On My Mind', 'Wichita Lineman' and 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' did not score on the Country charts, and his records did not start to become Country hits until the 70s. In 1969, the appropriately named Anonymously Yours entered Treasure Isle Recording Studio to cut what surely must be one of the most obscure covers of those featured here, a version of 'Galveston's B-Side' 'very Time I Itch I Wind Up Scratching You', which they economically re-titled 'Itch'...

Jim Reeves was, of course, never anything other than a Country artist. like Patsy Cline, Reeves perished in a plane crash in the early 60s, but releases of unissued material kept him in the charts well into the later half of the decade. It's unlikely that any of the reggae acts that recorded 'He'll Have To Go' ever heard Bobby Boyd's 1959 original, which flopped just weeks before 'Gentlemen Jim' took it to the top. But they will know Jim's version (or possibly that of soul star Solomon Burke) and it will be on his version that Raphael Stewart based 'Put Your Sweet Lips', a lazy and nonsensical re-titling using the first line of the opening verse.

As well as recording 'He'll Have To Go', Solomon Burke also did  'Just Out Of reach' in the early 60s, and John holt's 1970 cut for Bunnie Lee is undoubtedly inspired by that recording, rather than the obscure, early 1950s original by the Stewart Family. interestingly, in the 70's Lee sold some riddims to Texan R&B/Country music producer (and, sadly, convicted child pornographer) Huey Meaux - one of which was 'Just Out Of Reach', onto which Meaux overdubbed the previously mentioned Tommy McClain's vocal. What goes around comes around!

Reeves also originated what sounds like a militant piece from reggae maverick Willie Francis. But behind the title 'Burn Them' is Jim's 1965 posthumous hit, 'I'm Gonna Change Everything' - all that Willie changed was the title. 'Change' was written by Alex Zanetis, who also penned Reeves' posthumous hit 'Guilty'. On CD2 you will hear one of two versions of 'Guilty' that Ken Parker cut for Bunnie Lee, this one with his high tenor as opposed to the one featuring his baritone featured on Trojan's Parker anthology. Also on CD2 are Max Romeo's version of 'Missing You' and a rare Reeves composition (and another posthumous hit), 'Is It Really Over'. 'Missing You' was first recorded by, and a hit for, Webb Pierce, but it's Jim's version that is best remembered.

On CD1 we have some songs linked by a common thread among those who originally recorded them. 'My Elusive Dreams' was an early hit for one of Country's all-time superstars - Tammy Wynette, who sang the song in duet with David Houston. Tammy was at the height of her popularity in 1969 when she topped both Country and Pop charts with 'Stand By Your Man', although versions by Hortense Ellis and - heard here - ex Tonette Merlene Webber are both inspired by Candi Staton's 1970 soul cover. One of the most famous marriages in Country was that of Wynette and the genre's greatest singer of all time, George Jones, who got stinking drunk to record the original of Doreen Schaeffer's 'Walk Through This world With Me' because he hated the song so much. For his pains he got a number one record, unlike Doreen...

CD1's final entry 'Love Of The Common People' is believed to have been recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1966. However, it was to first become a hit  in 1968 for rising superstar of 70s Country, Waylon Jennings. Multiracial group The Winstons later took it into the soul charts, and that's probably where producer Joe Gibbs found it before cutting it with his protégé Nicky Thomas. Of course, Nicky's version went on to become an international chart maker, after being subjected - like many records of the period - to the overdubbing of some very jolly violins. We've included the 'no-strings' version that was issued in Jamaica, and that has only been reissued occasionally in the intervening 38 years.

CD2 concentrates on hits from the late 60s to the mid 70s - only two selections fall outside of this timeframe. The legendary Count Prince Miller had been gurning and spluttering his way through 'Mule Train' for years as his contribution to the act of Jimmy James and the Vagabonds. In 1971, Bunnie Lee finally got him to cut a version of this late 1940sa chart topper, for Tennessee Ernie Ford, which managed to capture the vim and vigour of Miller's many live renditions of this song.

Many who read these notes will not realise that 'Crying In The Chapel' is a Country song, and will know it from Elvis Presley's 1965 #1 hit or the early, and classic,  doo-wop cut from 1954 by the Orioles. But in 1953, Darrel Glenn took his father's Artie syrupy song to #3 on the Country charts before anyone else had a go at it. Ace guitarist Mikey Chung and the Now Generation made a relaxing - and rare - swing at 'Chapel' in 1972, with a little bit of humorous help from producer, Lloyd Charmers. lloydie was also in the chair, and on backing vocals, when Chung cut an equally lilting version of Ray price's 1971 chart topper 'For The Good Times', which you can hear on CD3.

'Good Times' was one of a number of wonderful songs by one who then seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of them, former recording studio janitor, Kris Kristofferson. Within a few months, Kristofferson wrote and got big hit cuts with that song, 'Sunday Morning Coming Down' (covered by Lord Creator in reggae), 'Me And Bobby McGee', 'Help Me Make It Through The Night' (heard here in Ken Parker's Joe Simon inspired recording), 'Why Me Lord' and 'Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)' - sung superbly by Lloyd Charmers in a 1972 cut for his own Spanish label. These songs are still more than enough to earn him permanent residence in any songwriter's hall of fame.

Ken Parker's Duke Reid-produced follow-up to his version of 'Make It' was 'Kiss An Angel Good Morning', originally #1 for Charley Pride. The song was written by Ben Peters, who we'll encounter again on CD3, as we will the work of Pride, one of the few African Americans ever to sustain a successful career in Country. Pride's original dates from 1971, the same year than Canadian chanteuse Anne Murray first charmed the listening world with the pretty 'Snowbird', written by her fellow Countryman Gene MacLellan. The under-recorded Denis Walks was quick to cover it that year for Montego Bay-based producer Harry Mudie - who also cut it as an instrumental with star trumpeter Jo Jo Bennett.

With the exception of Eric Donaldson's take on the Shel Silverstein song 'Sylvia's Mother' - remembered from the 1972 pop hit by Dr Hook, although Silverstein's greatest  champion Bobby Bare recorded it first, and also managed to take it to #12 on the Country charts in 1972 - the rest of the songs that are featured on CD2 were hits between 1968 and early 1970. Mac Davis' 'In The ghetto' gave Dolly Parton's career a boost, at almost the same time as it was helping Elvis Presley put his career back on track. the terminally obscure Rip & Lan did not share in this success with their 1972 version, sadly, but their melancholy spoke directly to the heart of sufferers in one of the biggest ghettoes that there has ever been - that of Kingston, Jamaica.

1969 was also the year that Waylon Jennings hit the top 10 with the original version of 'The Chokin' Kind', followed shortly thereafter by Joe Simon who topped the Soul charts with a radically rearranged take on the song. Using Simon's arrangement, Ken Parker had a big selling cut with Studio One, while John holt kept the tune and changed the words around to come up with 'Working Kind', recorded, like many of his greatest sides, for Duke Reid.. Also in 1969, Nashville based Bobby Russell compounded his song-writing success with Bobby Goldsboro's 'death hit' 'Honey' by penning a similarly twee, but altogether happier, ditty in 'Little Green Apples'. The first man to spot its potential was Roger Miller, a superior songwriter who's skills had temporarily 'dried'. Miller recorded the song first and had a hit with it when it peaked at #6. Dennis Brown recorded it around 1970, for Studio One, and then again a few years later, for Sydney Crooks, in the version you hear here. Of course, in Miller's version it was God who didn't make the LGA's rather than Jah, but you'd expect nothing less from a committed Rastafarian like Dennis.

On our third CD. we move through decades of song writing, the common factor here being that the majority of these recordings were made in the mid-late 70s. The oldest song on this set would have to be 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', which dates back to the 19th century and which was 'collected' by A.P. Carter of Country's most famous 'Family' in the early 1920s. Ken Parker, who obviously loved Country music, gives this funeral song the suitably mournful rendition it deserves.

Related by marriage to the Carter family was Johnny Cash, who hit #1 in 1958 with the self-composed cautionary tale 'Don't Take Your Guns To Town'. Hopeton Lewis cut it in 1974, following turmoil on the Jamaican street and the coming to prominence of the nefarious Gun Court and sentences of 'indefinite detention'. Sadly, the events of the time show how little Cash's words were heeded. Hopeton did better with 'Drift Away', the Mentor Williams song that gave Narvel Felts a #8 Country hit in Summer 1973, after it had been a pop success - ironically, in a somewhat more Country version than Felts' - for Dobie Gray.

Considering how important a songwriter and artist like Hank Williams was, his catalogue has remained virtually untouched by reggae. Pluto Shervington's 'calypso-lite' version of his 1951 hit 'Jambalaya' - which was probably inspired by the Carpenters' 1974 hit remake - may in fact be a 'one off' where Hank is concerned. Unlike John Denver who, somehow in 1973, managed to convince some people that he was a Country artist, and enjoyed several Country hits over the next couple of years. Thankfully, others were on hand to take his songs and make better versions. Toots & The Maytals' classic recording of 'Tale Me Home Country Roads' and Pat Kelly's winsome take on 'Sunshine On My Shoulders' both outstrip Denver's anaemic originals in every department.

At around the same time as Merle Kilgore had helped June Carter write 'Ring Of Fire', he also co-penned the tale of a lusty young man's attempts to charm the humourless and violent father of the girl who lived on 'Wolverton Mountain'. The song's co-composer, Claude King, took the tale to #1 in 1962. Twelve years later - and possibly inspired by a version by another 'King, Nat King Cole - Roman Stewart cut it for Karl Pitterson and sold many copies to Jamaicans of all ages. Maybe the youths who bought it identified with the man who was 'mighty handy with a gun and knife'...

 Some big 1960s Country hits more readily associated with UK MOR singers are 'Green Green Grass Of Home', 'Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings' and 'She Wears My Ring'. The first two were, of course, top 20 hits for Tom Jones. Tom thought that Jerry Lee Lewis had cut 'Green Green Grass' first, however, it was the luckless Johnny Darrell whose original was ignored before Porter Wagoner and then 'The Killer' scored with it. (Darrell also flopped with his original of 'Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town' before the song kick-started the career of Kenny Rogers in 1969). FFFF was written by another of Country's most inspired tunesmiths, Mickey Newbury. His song writing peer Don Gibson took the song to #8 in 1967, a dozen years before Pat Kelly put his imitable spin on things.

'She Wears My Ring' had been around since the 1950s. Solomon King had made a UK hit of it in 1967, and it was successfully revived a few years later as part of Ray Price's early 1970s run of hits, but I'm guessing that Cornell Campbell would have been familiar with Solomon's version, which was released in Jamaica on a 45.

Talking of Porter Wagoner, he and his protégé Dolly Parton had a Top 10 hit in early 1968 with folksinger Tom Paxton's wistful 'The Last Thing On My Mind'. Delroy Wilson cut it in the mid 70s for his landmark 'Sarge' album, while Dennis Brown re-voiced it, on the same rhythm and along with the rest of the 'Sarge' album, for Lloyd Charmers in the late 1980s. We've used Denis's' version here. It's one of the few good things from a set that many regard as a disappointing chapter in the prolific career of D. Brown.

In '68, Jack Greene was the hottest name in Country music He followed up the chart topping success of 'There Goes My Everything' with another #1 in 'Statue Of A Fool', taken back to the top in the early 1990s by Ricky Van Shelton. Jimmy Riley may have known Greene's version, but a more likely scenario is that he'd come across a rather unexpected 1978 revival by former Temptations' front man David Ruffin, and taken his interpretation from that.

The 'overnight success' of Freddy Fender in 1974 was 20 years in the making, as he'd been recording in his native Texas since the mid 50s, where he turned out Spanish versions of Rock 'n' roll hits for the Chicago market. In '74, his producer Huey Meaux convinced him to sing, half in English, half in Spanish, a Ben Peters song that had been lurking for years with several unsuccessful versions to its credit. 'Before The Next Teardrop Falls' caught the mood of its times so much that it also hit the top of the Pop charts and crossed over to R&B , as well as being the biggest Country hit of the year. It was also issued in Jamaica on a 45, so the prospect of a local version was inevitable. It fell to John Holt to maintain the Bunny Lee- Huey Meaux 'connection', with a good rendition that was soon followed up by a do-over of Fender's follow up hit 'Wasted days And Wasted nights', a song that Freddy had written and recorded originally in 1959 with none of the success that greeted his 1975 remake.

As Reggae entered the 1980s, Country covers no longer came along quite so frequently. When they did, they were largely confined to albums of 'big people music' made by older artists for a market that had grown up with them. Jackie Edwards' recording of Charley Pride's 1978 chart topper 'Someone Loves You Honey' - which June 'JC' lodge had massive Reggae success with in 1982 - is a good example of these recordings. But in the late 80s, Country and Reggae had one last hurrah together, when Boris Gardiner took another Ben Peters song 'I Want To Wake Up With You' to the top of the UK charts. Like 'Before The Next Teardrop Falls', 'Wake Up' had been kicking around the Peters catalogue for some time with no big hit versions to bring it to anyone's attention. It's probably Mac Davis' take that inspired the legendary Reggae bass player/vocalist when it came to making his recording.

In the wake of Boris' success. Peters placed 'Wake Up' with Johnny Rodriguez, who had a Top 50 Country chart hit with it in 1988 - surely the only known example (to date, at least) of Reggae influencing Country music! Ending our set with a number 1 hit seems to be as fine a way to exit as anyone could wish for and, as a committed fan of both genres, I hope that you will enjoy the contents of this box as much as I have enjoyed listening to and writing about them.

It's not such a leap from the blue mountains of Jamaica to the bluegrass of Kentucky after all...

Chris Bolton
'Country Music People' Magazine




Occupation (Ring Of Fire)
The Skatalites
Tennessee Waltz
Ewan & Jerry with the Carib Beats
Sad Movies
Gloria Crawford
Please Help Me I'm Falling
Hazel Wright
Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On
The Bleechers
Sweet Dreams
The Pioneers
Bye Bye Love
The Inventors
My Last Dance
Hortense Ellis
Games People Play
Bob Andy
Every Time I Itch I Wind Up Scratching You
Anonymously Yours
I'm Gonna Change Everything (Aka Burn Them)
Willie France
Stand By Your Man
Marlene Webber
My Elusive Dreams
Ernest Wilson
He'll Have To Go (Aka Put Your Sweet Lips)
Raphael Stewart & The Hot Tops
Walk Through This World With Me
Doreen Scheaffer
Love Of The Common People (Jamaican Mix)
Nicky Thomas
Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)
John Holt

Mule Train
Count Prince Miller
Help Me Make It Through The Night
Ken Parker
Walk A Mile In My Shoes
Bob Andy
Dennis Walks
Working Kind (Chokin' Kind)
John Holt
Just Enough (To Keep Me Hanging On)
David Isaacs
Missing You
Max Romeo
Don't Touch Me
Nicky Thomas
Kiss An Angel Good Morning
Ken Parker
In The Ghetto
Rip & Lan
Sylvia's Mother
Eric Donaldson & The West Indians
Is It Really Over
Max Romeo
Crying In The Chapel
Mikey Chung & The Now Generation
Ken Parker
Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)
Lloyd Charmers
Little Green Apples
Dennis Brown

Take Me Home Country Roads
Toots & The Maytals
For The Good Times
Mikey Chung & The Now Generation
Wolverton Mountain
Roman Stewart
Don't Take Your Guns To Town
Hopeton Lewis
Sunshine On My Shoulders
Pat Kelly
Pluto Shervington
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Ken Parker
Drift Away
Hopeton Lewis
She Wears My Ring
Cornel Campbell
Before The Next Teardrop Falls
John Holt
Green, Green Grass Of Home
Delroy Wilson
Wasted Days And Wasted Nights
John Holt
Last Thing On My Mind
Dennis Brown
Statue Of A Fool
Jimmy Riley
Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings
Pat Kelly
Someone Loves You Honey
Jackie Edwards
I Wanna Wake Up With You
Boris Gardiner

Time - 46:17

Time - 49:29

Time - 56:17

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