Saturday, December 16, 2000

50 years ago: Patti Page hit #1 for first of 13 weeks with “Tennessee Waltz”

Tennessee Waltz

Pee Wee King

Writer(s):Pee Wee King, Redd Stewart (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 3, 1948

Peak: 30 US, 3 CW, 13 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 0.13 video, 0.03 streaming

Tennessee Waltz

Patti Page

First Charted: November 18, 1950

Peak: 113 US, 16 HP, 16 CB, 2 CW, 19 UK, 13 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, -- UK, 10.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 12.43 video, 16.02 streaming

Awards (King):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Page):

About the Song:

Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart played in a band called the Golden West Cowboys. Stewart was a singer and fiddler while King, who was born Julius Frank Kuczynski, brought accordion and brass into his music, which helped shape the merger of country and jazz in what has been called Western swing. While riding in Stewart’s truck one day in 1947, the pair scribbled out “Tennessee Waltz”, LW modeling it after “Kentucky Waltz” by Bill Monroe.

In 1948, King’s recording of the song hit #3 on the country charts. Cowboy Copas’ recording hit the same peak and a version by Roy Acuff went to #12. However, when Patti Page, the best-selling female singer of the ‘50s, JA put her stamp on the song, it marked the moment when country went mainstream. LW With 13 weeks at #1 on the pop charts and sales of six million, it was the biggest hit of 1950 and one of the ten best sellers of the first half of the century. PM

At the end of World War II, the “Swing Era” of big-band-oriented music had given way to the “Sing Era”, which was more dominated by individual vocalists. However, record companies didn’t generally entrust the singers to find their own material. They enlisted A&R men for the task. It was Jerry Wexler, the man who later produced Aretha Franklin, who saw the song’s potential. Page was a dance band singer with a voice reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald. LW Page’s recording was significant for the use of multi-tracking. Even though audiotape wasn’t used yet in recording, Page sang four-part harmony with herselfSadowskiDavid. SA

The song’s success encouraged other performers to turn to country for cover material as well. In addition, the song inspired more state waltzes. JA King and Stewart’s composition became the official Tennessee state song in 1965. LW


First posted 11/18/2011; last updated 11/23/2022.

Tuesday, December 5, 2000

O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack released

O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack

Various Artists

Released: December 5, 2000

Peak: 12 US, 135 CW, 20 UK, 3 CN, 15 AU

Sales (in millions): 8.18 US, 0.3 UK, 10.3 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: country/folk/Americana


Song Title (ACT) (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Po’ Lazarus (JAMES CARTER)
  2. Big Rock Candy Mountain (HARRY McCLINTOCK)
  3. You Are My Sunshine (NORMAN BLAKE)
  4. Down to the River to Pray (ALISON KRAUSS)
  5. Man of Constant Sorrow (SOGGY BOTTOM BOYS/ DAN TYMINKSI) (3/17/01, 35 CW)
  6. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues (CHRIS THOMAS KING)
  7. Man of Constant Sorrow [instrumental] (NORMAN BLAKE)
  8. Keep on the Sunny Side (THE WHITES)
  10. Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby (EMMYLOU HARRIS/ ALISON KRAUSS/ GILLIAN WELCH)
  11. In the Highways (LEAH, SARAH & HANNAH PEASALL)
  12. I Am Weary, Let Me Rest (COX FAMILY)
  13. Man of Constant Sorrow [instrumental] (JOHN HARTFORD)
  14. O Death (RALPH STANLEY)
  15. In the Jailhouse Now (SOGGY BOTTOM BOYS/ TIM NELSON)
  16. Man of Constant Sorrow [alternate take] (SOGGY BOTTOM BOYS/ DAN TYMINKSI)
  17. Indian War Whoop [instrumental] (JOHN HARTFORD)
  18. Lonesome Valley (FAIRFIELD FOUR)
  19. Angel Band (STANLEY BROTHERS)

Total Running Time: 61:24


4.304 out of 5.00 (average of 10 ratings)

Quotable: “A powerful tribute not only to the time-honored but commercially ignored genres of bluegrass and mountain music.” – Evan Cater, All Music Guide

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“The critical consensus at the end of 2000 was that it had been one of the weakest film years in recent memory.” AMG However, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen brothers’ delightfully warm and weird Depression-era re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey,” AMG was one of the bright spots – if not for the movie, then definitely for the soundtrack. “The best soundtracks are like movies for the ears, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? joins the likes of Saturday Night Fever and The Harder They Come as cinematic pinnacles of song.” AZ “People left theaters humming the prominently featured songs, rerecordings of hymns, and old-time laments that helped the Coens evoke the ethics and beliefs of a simpler time.” TM

“In order to capture the sound of Mississippi circa 1932, the Coens commissioned T-Bone Burnett, a masterful producer whose work with artists like Elvis Costello, Sam Phillips, Joseph Arthur, and Counting Crows has earned him a special place in the folk-rock hall of fame.” AMG He tapped “an impressive assembly of old-time country veterans (Fairfield Four, Ralph Stanley, the Whites) and talented newcomers (Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris)” AMG to “re-create the country, bluegrass, folk, gospel, and blues of the era.” AMG

“There are no original compositions here (though Burnett is given a ‘music by’ credit usually reserved for composers), and the characters do not generally break into stylized song and dance numbers.” AMG However, “nearly every scene in O Brother is set to a period song, and the music frequently drives and defines the action.” AMG For example, “a significant segment of the plot hinges on the (utterly plausible) notion that Dan Tyminksi’s ebullient rendition of I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow could be a runaway hit.” AMG

In another example, “a memorable sequence involving three riverside sirens centers around an eerie version of Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby.” AMG As “the album’s spiritual centerpiece” AZ this “gospel lullaby” AZ finds Krauss, Welch, and Harris sounding “like a chorus of Appalachian angels.” AZ

The material is featured “in arrangements that are either a cappella or feature bare-bones accompaniment.” AZ “Nothing mucks up these homespun tunes” TM “which were made without the meddling clarity of digital technology” AMG but instead in a style “reminiscent of the single-microphone, wax-cylinder recordings of the 1930s.” TM They “give the film much of its power and authenticity.” AMG Every song was recorded for the film with the exception of “a stunning 1955 Alan Lomax recording of a black prison chain gang singing Po Lazarus, and Harry McClintock’s Big Rock Candy Mountain.” AMG

“Highlights range from the aching purity of Krauss’ Down to the River to Pray to the plainspoken faith of the Whites’ Keep on the Sunny Side to Stanley's chillingly plaintive O Death.” AZ a cappella performance on the latter “sets a chilling tone for a climactic struggle at a Ku Klux Klan rally.” AMG

“Throughout, Burnett’s steady guiding hand is evident.” AMG The soundtrack is “chock-full of ol’-timey fun” ZS as “a great throwback to pickin’, grinnin’, fiddling, and knee-slappin’” ZS music, all a testament to “Burnett’s remarkable skills as a producer.” AMG It serves as “a powerful tribute not only to the time-honored but commercially ignored genres of bluegrass and mountain music.” AMG “Within a year the soundtrack had sold over five million copies, renewed interest in classic bluegrass and traditional American music, and spawned an extensive concert tour and a slew of subsequent releases. For a while, any performer with a speck of bluegrass in the back catalog was opportunistically riding the O Brother bandwagon.” TM

Notes: An August 2011 reissue added 14 tracks not on the original soundtrack, including a dozen unreleased cuts from the O Brother sessions. WK

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for T-Bone Burnett
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Evan Cater
  • AZ review by Don McLeese
  • TM Tom Moon (2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, NY.
  • WK Wikipedia
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY.

First posted 3/30/2008; last updated 4/20/2022.