March 20 – This Day in Country Music

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1937
Born on this day in Atlanta, Georgia, was Jerry Reed, country music singer, guitarist, songwriter, and actor who appeared in more than a dozen films. His signature songs included “Guitar Man,”, “A Thing Called Love,” (both of which were covered by Elvis Presely), “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” “Ko-Ko Joe”, “East Bound and Down” (the theme song for the 1977 blockbuster Smokey and the Bandit, in which Reed co-starred), and “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)”. Reed died on Aug 31st 2008.

1971
Janis Joplin started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart with her version of the Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster song “Me And Bobby McGee.” Joplin, who was a lover and a friend of Kristofferson’s from the beginning of her career to her death, changed the sex and a few of the lyrics in her cover. Kristofferson states he did not write this song for her, but the song is associated with her – especially, he has said, in the line “Somewhere near Salinas, Lord, I let her slip away.” Joplin died of a drug overdose the year before on 4th October aged 27.

1978
Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson had “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” at #1 on the country charts. The song was first recorded by Ed Bruce, written by him and wife Patsy Bruce. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the song.

1989
Ricky Van Shelton was at #1 on the Country charts with his own version of “From a Jack to a King.” Shelton’s version became his fifth consecutive #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles charts. Originally the song was a crossover hit for artist Ned Miller, first released in 1957 and was also recorded in 1962 by Jim Reeves and Elvis Presley.

2020
American country music legend Kenny Rogers died aged 81. Rogers topped pop and country charts during the 1970s and 1980s, and won three Grammy awards. He was known for his husky voice and ballads including “The Gambler”, “Lucille” and “Coward Of The County”. Rogers charted more than 120 hit singles across various music genres, and topped the country and pop album charts for more than 200 individual weeks in the United States alone. He sold over 100 million records worldwide during his lifetime, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.