Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Webb Pierce born 8 August 1921

Michael Webb Pierce (August 8, 1921 – February 24, 1991) was an American honky tonk vocalist, songwriter and guitarist of the 1950s, one of the most popular of the genre, charting more number one hits than any other country artist during the decade. Cash Box magazine rated him the No. 1 male country artist from 1952 to 1956 and again in 1961 to 1963.

Webb was born in West Monroe, Louisiana in 1921.  He began to play guitar before he was a teenager and at 15 was given his own weekly 15-minute show, Songs by Webb Pierce, on KMLB-AM in Monroe.

He enlisted in the US Army, and in 1942 he married Betty Jane Lewis. After he was discharged, the couple moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where Pierce worked in the men's department of a Sears Roebuck store. In 1947, the couple appeared on KTBS-AM's morning show as "Webb Pierce with Betty Jane, the Singing Sweetheart". Pierce also performed at local engagements, developing his unique style that was once described as "a wailing whiskey-voiced tenor that wrung out every drop of emotion." 

In 1949, California-based 4 Star Records signed the Webbs under separate contracts, with his wife signed for duets with her husband under the name Betty Jane and Her Boyfriends. However, success only came for Pierce, and in the summer of 1950, the couple divorced.

He moved to KWKH-AM and joined Louisiana Hayride during its first year, and devised a plan to achieve instant "stardom." Before the show, he bought tickets for several young girls in line and asked them to sit in the first row, and after each of his songs to scream and beg for more. It worked; their enthusiasm spread throughout the audience.

Pierce assembled and performed with a band of local Shreveport musicians, including pianist Floyd Cramer, guitarist-vocalist Faron Young, bassist Tillman Franks and vocalists Teddy and Doyle Wilburn. He also founded a record label, Pacemaker; and Ark-La-Tex Music, a publishing company, with Horace Logan, the director of the Hayride. On Pacemaker, Pierce made several records between 1950 and 1951 designed to attract radio play around Louisiana.

In 1951, Pierce got out of his 4 Star contract and was quickly signed by Decca Records. His second single, "Wondering", became his breakthrough hit, climbing to No. 1 early in 1952. Pierce moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he met and married his second wife, Audrey Greisham. In June 1952, he had his second No. 1 single with "That Heart Belongs to Me". 

In September 1952, the Grand Ole Opry needed to fill the vacancy left by the firing of Hank Williams, and Pierce was invited to join the cast. After Williams' death, he became the most popular singer in country music; for the next four years, every single he released hit the top ten, with ten reaching No. 1, including “In the Jailhouse Now" (1955). His singles spent 113 weeks at No. 1 during the 1950s, when he charted 48 singles. Thirty-nine reached the top ten, 26 reached the top four and 13 hit No. 1. He made regular appearances on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee including as a guest host once a month during 1956.  

On February 19, 1957, Pierce resigned from the Opry after he refused to pay commissions on bookings and for associated talent. Pierce continued charting until 1982 with a total of 96 hits; and he toured extensively and appeared in the movies Buffalo Guns, Music City USA, Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar, and Road To Nashville. 

As his music faded from the spotlight, Pierce became known for his excessive lifestyle. He had North Hollywood tailor Nudie Cohen, who had made flamboyant suits for Pierce, line two convertibles with silver dollars. He built a $30,000 guitar-shaped swimming pool at his Nashville home which became a popular paid tourist attraction — nearly 3,000 people visited it each week — causing his neighbours, led by singer Ray Stevens, to file suit and prevail against Pierce to end the tours. 

 He remained with Decca and its successor, MCA, well into the 1970s, but by 1977 he was recording for Plantation Records. Even though he had occasional minor hits, charting in a 1982 duet with Willie Nelson, a remake of "In the Jailhouse Now," he spent his final years tending to his businesses, and his legend became clouded due to his reputation as a hard drinker. Webb and his daughter Debbie recorded the ballad "On My Way Out" as the Pierces, and she was a member of the country group Chantilly in the early 1980s. 

Pierce waged a long battle with pancreatic cancer, which he lost on February 24, 1991, and was buried in the Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville. (Compiled from Wikipredia)


boppinbob said...

For “A Proper Introduction to Webb Pierce: Groovie Boogie Woogie Boy” go here:


1. Groovie Boogie Woogie Boy
2. High Geared Daddy
3. New Panhandle Rag
4. Heebie Jeebie Blues
5. Sweetheart You Know I Love You So
6. A Million Years From Now
7. I Heard Her Call My Name
8. I'm Happy You Hurt Me
9. English Sweetheart
10. I've Loved You Forever It Seems
11. Hawaiian Echoes
12. Georgia Rag
13. Lucy Lee
14. Jilted Love
15. Driftin' Texas Sand
16. I Need You Like A Hole In The Head
17. I'm Sittin' On Top of the World
18. Freight Train Blues
19. California Blues
20. Hayridge Boogie
21. I Got Religion On Saturday Night
22. Have You Ever Had The Feeling
23. In The Jailhouse
24. The Last Waltz
25. Wondering
26. Back Street Affair
27. It's Been So Long (With Helen Ward)
28. There Stands the Glass

Dig it: this may be the first single-disc Webb Pierce retrospective that really gets it. There are 28 cuts here, recorded in the 1940s and '50s, that chart Pierce's development from a country boogie proto-rockabilly wildman to being one of the greatest honky tonk blues and country ballad singers ever. The selections range from his classic "High Geared Daddy," which literally stomps and swaggers, to his deep hillbilly reading of "I'm Sittin' on Top of the World," his signature reading of Jimmie Rodgers' "In the Jailhouse Now," the weeping beer hall anthem "Back Street Affair," and the revelatory closer, "There Stands the Glass. Pierce was one of the most expressive singers ever to front a country band. This collection is most of what everyone interested needs. And the Proper price is right to boot. Just get it. (All Music)

Sir Otter said...

I went to church with Webb Pierce and his wife in the 60s and 70s, from when I was a kid up until about the time I got married. I swam in that guitar shaped pool several times. You slid down the neck into the body. It was fun. Played volleyball at his house on occasion, as well. Nice folks. Despite growing up in Nashville, I never was a country music fan, but have lately come to appreciate some of the music of those decades. Thanks for sharing this.

Pudge said...

Thanks Bob. Webb is one of my all-time favorites.

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