Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fred Crawford on Starday 272

Fred Crawford - I Learned Something From You / Lucky In Cards (Starday 272)

Fred Crawford on Starday -- does '50s country get any better than this? (The answer is no. It was a rhetorical question.)

The irony of Fred's career is that, when he's been remembered at all, it's for the two worst sides he made for Starday -- the utterly inane novelty "Rock Candy Rock" and the dreadful "country doo wop" that is "By The Mission Wall." I don't know why people think these songs are worth listening to, but having heard them once, I can safely say that once is all that's necessary. At country music Fred excelled; at trendy pop styles he failed -- badly. These songs are trifles next to the classics that are "You Gotta Wait," "Never Gonna Get Married Again," "Me and My New Baby," "You're Not the Same Sweet Girl," and all the rest, all of which demand repeat listening, and never let you down. Many of these are just now being reissued for the first time, so thankfully it's no longer necessary to scrounge for original copies to hear the best of Fred Crawford.

"I Learned Something From You" b/w "Lucky In Cards" was Fred's eighth single for Starday -- he would have only one more. It was recorded at Gold Star Studios in Houston with probably the usual crew -- Ernie Hunter on fiddle, Herb Remington on steel, and Doc Lewis on piano -- in late 1956. Eddie Noack wrote "Lucky In Cards," and while both sides are up to Fred's high standards, this must have been another poor seller because it's even harder to find than his other Starday singles.

Fred's career as a singer went into freefall after Starday dropped him in 1957. For some reason, he was not among the artists that Pappy Daily graduated to Mercury from Starday that year, nor was his contract renewed when Don Pierce became the sole owner of the label in Nashville in 1958. Fred instead went back to that old standby for frustrated musicians -- disc jockeying, in Fred's case for a variety of small West Texas stations. He made a few more singles in the '60s and, near the end, put out a cassette entitled "Life of an Old D.J." Like other worthy singers such as Bill Mack and Smokey Stover, who never really had a hit, he came to identify himself as a disc jockey first and a singer second. Which is too bad, because there's thousands of disc jockeys, but few singers like Fred Crawford.