I have to thank commenter “disinterested 3rd party” for taking note of my Red Sovine-related tag the other day and giving me an excuse to post about one of my favorite artists of all time. The baritone-voiced Sovine wasn’t an exceptionally talented singer, but through persistence and being in the right place at the right time he managed to make for himself a quality career with stretches of some of the most entertaining country songs I’ve heard.
Sovine is best known these days for his songs about trucking—fair, considering those were his biggest hits—but he had a decent career before that late-’60s resurgence, performing with Hank Williams on the “Louisiana Hayride” and eventually taking Hank’s place on the show and recording a number of semi-popular singles before his career stalled out during Nashville’s Countrypolitan days.
From Sovine’s pre-spoken word days, “I Know You’re Married (But I Love You Still)”:
Then, somehow even before the trucking phenomenon hit popular culture with C.W. McCall in 1976, Sovine hit it big on the country charts in 1965 with “Giddy-Up Go”, the story of a father who reconnects with his estranged son through the magic of citizens band radio. Sadly, YouTube seems to have missed that single, but thankfully, a number of his follow-up tracks working the same trucker’s tears theme are on the site.
and the sequel, “Little Joe” (the kid can walk again!):
Still, Sovine wasn’t married to the trucker genre. He could turn any theme into a spoken-word tearjerker. “Little Rosa” features a character of unknown ethnicity telling the story of his daughter, who was killed by a train, in broken English.
Also, Sovine made a bit of a side career out of Christmas music, including “Faith in Santa,” which tells the story of a runaway’s conversation with Santa Claus.
They just don’t make them like this these days.
Sovine died of a heart attack in 1980, somewhat appropriately while on the road, but throughout the ’80s, his music was plugged on late-night TV ads, including one my father must have seen; Sovine’s music was in regular rotation in the pickup truck during my elementary school days. There’s certainly a heavy schtick factor to Sovine’s spoken-word era, and there’s probably an ironic element to my enjoyment of his catalog, but I truly appreciate how uniquely bizarre these songs are. It just amazes me that for several years, Sovine telling the story of a disabled child addicted to CB radio or a ethnic stereotype weeping over his dead daughter would actually make it on the airwaves.
Red Sovine [Official site]