A couple weeks ago we explored the improbably wacky world of country tango and rhumba songs, which functioned as a follow-up to a previous post about hillbilly mambos. We now turn our attention to country twist songs.
The Twist officially came to life in January 1959 when King records released the song as a Hank Ballard & The Midnighters B -side. The A-side, Teardrops On Your Letter, reached #4 on Billboard's R&B charts. The Twist also managed to claw its way onto the R&B charts, stalling out at #16. Chubby Checker's version of the song, recorded about a year and a half later, was given a colossal boost by Dick Clark who gave it considerable airtime on his American Bandstand program, resulting in a #1 song on the pop charts in 1960. It eventually faded from sight only to return to #1 again in early 1962, making The Twist the only recording to ever accomplish the feat of reaching #1 twice.
As a bona fide case of twist fever swept the world, countless twist-sploitation records were released in an effort to capitalize on the craze. Not surprisingly, some of those efforts were country 45's and those are the ones we're saluting today.
Hardrock Gunter & Buddy Durham - Hillbilly Twist (2:07) This masterpiece came to my attention via the LP compilation Twistin' Time Vol. 2 (Knight Records). Not everyone enjoys it though: in Nick Tosches' Unsung Heroes Of Rock 'n' Roll, he dismisses it as a truly singular atrocity. Normally, I'd probably hold a grudge, but elsewhere in the Hardrock Gunter chapter he describes another failed effort as follows: "Even though it was a bad record, it failed to sell," which is pretty damn funny.
Al Sherron & The Blue Sky Rangers - Twistin' Is A Funny Thing (1:37) Al Sherron takes care of business quite efficiently here, in just over a minute and a half. And he works in some yodels so what's not to like?
8 more hillbilly twist excursions after the jump...
Rex Allen - Rodeo Twist (2:03) In the 1950's Allen, a cousin of Glenn Strange (Sam the bartender on Bonanza), was an extraordinarily busy actor, appearing in dozens of westerns. In addition, he did a great deal of voice-over work for a variety of Walt Disney nature films and TV shows. His rich and soothing voice was used to great effect when he served as the narrator of Hanna-Barbera's 1973 film Charlotte's Web. If you'd care to see him perform Rodeo Twist live, then by all means check out the YouTube video, featuring a complete array of haywire cowboy twist maneuvers. As the poster (pappyredux) notes, "Worlds collide as cowboy crooner Rex gets with what all the kids are doing nowadays."
Bob Wills - Buffalo Twist (2:10) Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing, cut a twist record? He sure did and here's the proof. This appeared on Twistin' Time Vol. 1, which is probably where I was first hipped to the crazy world of country twist records.
Lou Colburn - Cowboy Twist (2:46) Here's another country-flavored twist outing from Twistin' Time Vol. 1. Whoever compiled those records was a genius.
Charlie & Bill - Country Twist (2:08) Charlie Moore and Bill Napier recorded this in 1963 for the Bethlehem label, a subsidiary of Cincinnati's King label, which released the original version of The Twist by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters.
June Carter - Mama Teach Me
(2:37) Carter, a member of the musical Carter Family, had a lengthy
career as a singer, who sidelined with some acting gigs from time to
time. She was married Johnny Cash from 1968 until her death in 2003.
Early in her singing career she frequently served as comic relief,
experience which proved useful on this entertaining piece of nonsense.
Thanks go out to the Lonestar Stomp blog for bringing this one to my attention.
Claude Brownell with The Country Cousins - Twist And Yodel (2:10) As with the Al Sherron record above, this tune combines twist lyrics with yodels, a combination that I find deeply satisfying for some strange reason.
Chuck Dallis - Moon Twist (2:25) This rockin' 1962 effort was released on the Glenn label, of Hammond, Indiana. This probably strays a little closer to rockabilly than straight county, but who cares?
Ray Kannon - Muleskinner Twist (2:11) I have no idea who Ray Kannon was, but combining the 1930 Jimmie Rodgers song Muleskinner Blues with twist lyrics was clearly a stroke of genius.