George Strait – 60 #1 Hits and Counting

George Strait

 

George Strait was born on May 18, 1952, in Poteet, Texas and recently celebrated his 62nd birthday.

Strait may not be mentioned nearly as much as country singers like Hank Williams, George Jones, Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard, but he leads them all in #1 hits. Hank Williams had 11 #1 hits, if you include posthumous #1’s in Your Cheatin’ Heart and Kawliga.

George Jones had 14 #1 hits, but five of those were duets with female country singers. Conway Twitty had 40 #1 hits, while Merle Haggard had 38 #1 hits.

However, George Strait has outdone them all, when it comes to #1 singles with 60 songs reaching the top of the charts.

Only Elvis Presley and the Beatles have had more gold and platinum albums, than Strait. He won his first Entertainer of the Year Award in 1989 from the Country Music Association and won it again, as recently as 2013 showing his popularity has not waned since he recorded his first album in 1981, which was 33 years ago.

Just found out today, that George Strait was stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii during the Vietnam War and may have been in the same unit I was, since he was a finance clerk and the finance clerks I knew were in our 25th Administration Company as part of the 25th Infantry Division.

George Strait and wife Norma

George Strait married his wife Norma Voss on February 23, 1972. They have now been married for 42 years.

George Strait Jr.

George Strait has collaborated with his son George Jr. on some of his songwriting projects.

Jenifer Strait and her dad

 

Tragedy struck the Straits when their daughter Jenifer was killed in an automobile accident on June 25, 1986 in San Marcos, Texas. She was 13 years old.

 

 

This 72 song collection of George Strait music is the only George Strait music in my collection. It was released in 1995 and yet is now obsolete, since he has recorded another 19 years of music since then. However, it has all his early hits like Amarillo By Morning, Unwound, Cowboy Rides Away, All My Ex’s Live in Texas, You’re Something Special To Me, The Fireman and too many others to name them all.

George Strait and Alan Jackson singing Murder on Music Row

A lot of the names of songs in the box set may not be instantly recognizable, but that doesn’t matter, since any song George Strait sings is something special. 112 Amazon reviewers gave the box set 5 stars and only one gave it 1 star.  You will want these songs on your MP3 player as soon as possible. Amazon is currently selling the box set new for $29.88, but can be bought used for as little as $8.79 for the 4 CD box set.

His first hit song was Unwound which climbed to #6 on the country music charts. His first #1 song was Fool Hearted Memory in 1982. 1983 would see Strait release two more #1 songs in A Fire I Can’t Put Out and  You Look So Good in Love.

George Strait singing Cowboy Rides Away on December 31, 1986 at Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas.

Strait went from one #1 song in 1982 to two #1 songs in 1983, then had four #1 songs in 1984, with Right or Wrong, Let’s Fall To Pieces Together and  Does Fort Worth Cross Your Mind all going to #1. The Chair would be his only #1 song in 1985, but 1986 would start a streak of 11 consecutive #1 singles starting with Nobody In His Right Mind Would Have Left Her and ending with Ace in the Hole in 1989.

George Strait closing out his New Year’s Eve concert with Marina Del Ray and Unwound. A woman comes out of the audience and runs on stage and hugs Strait at the 5:08 mark in the video.

River of Love was his last #1 song in 2008. That is a 26 year stretch from his first # 1 song till the last one.

George Strait is in the last days of his Cowboy Rides Away farewell tour which ends June 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas.

 

George Strait is the best role model ever for a country music singer in my book.

 

 

             

                                                                                   

Merle Haggard: From Prison to Country Music Hall of Fame

 

 

Merle Ronald Haggard was born on April 6, 1937 in Oildale, California. Merle’s parents James Francis and Flossie Mae Haggard had moved from Oklahoma three years earlier, when their barn burned during the Great Depression in 1934.

The album pictured above is one of the first Merle Haggard albums in my LP record collection.

Haggard lived out a lot of the songs he wrote and sang. He was a very prolific writer and wrote most of his major hits alone, but did collaborate on a few like Okie From Muskogee.

He grew up in a refrigerated box car, that had been converted into a house and was raised there, after being born in Kern General Hospital in Bakersfield, California according to his biography.

Left Home At Eleven

It was a jolt for Haggard when his father died, when he was only nine years old. Two years later he left home. His mother sent him to live with his great-uncle and great-aunt in Modesto, California.

He said that he really was 21 and in prison, but the part about life without parole was only used to fill out the line.

Haggard was not the kind to stay in one place long and talked two girls into hopping a freight train, that was headed to Los Angeles. They only had $5 so he bought what food he could to feed himself and the two girls.

Then they left the train and he stole a car by hot wiring it. Only problem was that the car traveled only five miles, before running out of gas, so they had to start walking. However, they were soon picked up by policeman in a squad car and Haggard refused to give his name, but the girls gave their names.

Ironically, when all three returned home they were kept from attending school, for three days by their parents.

Merle and some of his friends attempted a burglary of a Bakersfield bar in 1957 and he was meted out a sentence from six months to 15 years. At first he was a real troublemaker in prison, by being very uncooperative. This landed him in solitary for his 21st birthday. His time in solitary gave him the time he needed to get his act together and afterward he was a model prisoner. He was paroled at the age of 23 and then began his road to being a country music star. Governor Ronald Reagan would later give Haggard a full pardon.

A more recent photo of Merle Haggard.

Merle Haggard’s Music

His first Top 10 song would be (My Friends Are Going to Be (Strangers) in 1964, which went to #10 and is one of my favorite Merle Haggard songs. His first #1 hit was I’m A Lonesome Fugitive” in 1966. That would begin a string of 38 #1 hits from 1966-1987.

Even the great George Jones only had 14 #1 hits, so Haggard having 24 more songs reach the #1 spot tells me, that Haggard was even more popular than I had thought.

Surprisingly Swinging Doors, one of his biggest hits only climbed to #5 on the country music charts.

Branded Man would be his second #1 hit in 1967. He had too many #1 hits in his career, to mention all of them individually, but some of my personal favorites were Sing Me Back Home, Mama Tried, Mama’s Hungry Eyes, Workin’ Man Blues, Okie From Muskogee, Fightin’ Side of Me, If We Make It Through December, Big City (a song I never get tired of) and his last #1 hit Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Star.

His discography can be seen at this web page and when you scroll down to his list of singles, then you can see how successful he was during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in particular.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merle_Haggard_discography

 

Personal Life

His personal life was not an easy one with four marriages, that lasted from 1956-1991. His second wife was country singer Bonnie Owens ex-wife of Buck Owens and she was a maid of honor, when he married his third wife. Haggard married another country Leona Williams in 1978 and they were divorced in 1983. He married Theresa Ann Lane on September 11, 1993 and they are still married 21 years later.

Haggard started smoking marijuana at the age of 41 and admitted buying $2,000 worth of cocaine in 1983. Part of his lung was removed in November of 2008, after he was discovered to have lung cancer.

Entered Country Music Hall of Fame

Twenty eight years after his first #1 hit I’m A Lonesome Fugitive Merle Haggard would be admitted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. The following link takes readers to his page at the Country Music Hall of Fame website:

http://countrymusichalloffame.org/Inductees/InducteeDetail/merle-haggard

 

Summary – Merle Haggard wrote a lot of songs, that had to do with his life experiences, probably more than any other country singer, since Hank Williams did in the 40’s and 50’s. Like Williams he wrote a lot of his music by himself. He wrote songs about what life was like for transplanted Oklahomans, that moved to California and songs about how it was to be hungry. He wrote songs about his time in prison and how it was difficult to be a part of society again, after being released and his songs about patriotism, Okie From Muskogee and Fightin’ Side of Me and songs like Big City and Workin’ Man Blues that told the plight of people working for a living. He is now recording for an obscure record label Epitaph, but it doesn’t mean we have heard the last of Merle Haggard. He showed us all that being in prison isn’t always a bad thing, as he said he was one of those that prison helped and he is a testament, of how someone can change and be successful, even after being in prison.

 

Great Character Actors of the Past: Gale Gordon

 

 

 

Gale Gordon 1906-1995

 

Gale Gordon was February 20, 1906 in New York City, New York as Charles T. Aldrich Jr. He changed his stage name to Gale Gordon, at some point in his career, but never legally changed his name, so he was still Charles T. Aldrich Jr. at the time of his death.

Prolific Radio Actor

Gordon was one of the most prolific radio actors having acted in 1,352 radio programs according to radiogoldindex.com. He was first heard on radio in 1932 and was heard on radio into the 1970’s.

His first regular role on a radio series was when he was heard on Tarzan and the Apes from 1932-1933.

He would begin portraying Flash Gordon on radio on May 4, 1935 and would also be heard on several other radio programs.

The following list of radio shows he was in during a short period of time shows how much in demand he was as a radio actor:

MAY 24, 1948 – CAVALCADE OF AMERICA

MAY 25, 1948 – FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY

MAY 26, 1948 – THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE

MAY 27, 1948 – MAXWELL COFFEE HOUSE TIME

MAY 28, 1948 – OLD GOLD TIME

MAY 29, 1948 – MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (Movie re-enacted for radio)

JUNE 1, 1948 – FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY

Gordon had one day off in an eight day stretch.

1948 would also be the year, that he began being heard on Our Miss Brooks, in which he portrayed the principal Osgood Conklin.

He would also be heard on My Favorite Husband, which also starred Lucille Ball.

Movie Career

Gordon made his first credited movie appearance in 1942 in Here We Go Again. He appeared in the movie version of Our Miss Brooks in 1956.

His movie career flourished in the years from 1958-1961 with seven movie appearances.

He would make his last movie appearance in The ‘Burbs in 1989, after a 21 year absence from the big screen, after he appeared in Speedway.

Television Career

Gale Gordon focused on regular roles on television shows, for the most part during his career.

It is no surprise, that one of his first appearances on television was Lucille Ball’s I Love Lucy in 1952. Ironically, he was offered the role of Fred Mertz on the show, but was already in line to play Osgood Conklin on Our Miss Brooks.

He also appeared in 130 episodes of the television version of Our Miss Brooks, which ran from 1952-1956. I don’t recall this show being in reruns the last few years on any network.

One of his better known roles was as John Wilson in Dennis the Menace, in which he portrayed John Wilson in 44 episodes, after the death of Joseph Kearns, who had played George Wilson.

His association with Lucille Ball was renewed when he appeared in 109 episodes of The Lucy Show from 1963-1968 and then appeared in 109 episodes of Here’s Lucy from 1968-1974.

Lucille Ball would try once more to capture her magic on the small screen, in 1986 with Life of Lucy show that lasted only 13 episodes. This was the last regular role for Gordon on television.

We will never forget Gordon portraying Mr. Theodore Mooney on The Lucy Show. He would become exasperated with the actions of Lucy, which led to many funny situations.

There was no doubt about the respect that Lucille Ball had for Gordon. He appeared in every radio or television series, in which Ball appeared since 1940.

He would make his last television appearance on the New Lassie series in 1991.

Gordon traveled 160 miles one way to appear in the different television series with Ball, which shows the appreciation he had for her help, in obtaining those roles for him.

Addenda

Gale Gordon was married to Virginia Curley from 1937-1995, until the time of her death. She died about a month before Gordon died in the same facility.

He died of lung cancer on June 30,1995 at the age of 89 in Escondido, California.

Among his honors are his enshrinement in the Radio Hall of Fame and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his radio acting. That seems strange that he wasn’t awarded a star for his work in television.

Summary

Gale Gordon was a perfect foil for Lucille Ball’s comedy and made Here’s Lucy and The Lucy Shows classics, that will endure for many years to come.

His portrayal of blustery Theodore Mooney the bank president will never be forgotten, by those who saw those shows back  then or in the future.