March 31 – This Day in Country Music


Born on this day in Corsicana, Texas, was Lefty Frizzell (born William Orville Frizzell). The American country music singer and songwriter of the 1950s, became an influence on later stars including Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Jones, John Fogerty and Roy Orbison, (who as a part of the Traveling Wilburys chose the name “Lefty Wilbury” to honor his musical hero). Frizzell died on July 19, 1975.

Born on this day in Durham, North Carolina, was songwriter John D. Loudermilk. His hits include “Indian Reservation,” by Paul Revere & The Raiders; “Abilene,” by George Hamilton IV; and “Tobacco Road” (a hit for The Nashville Teens in 1964). He died on September 21, 2016 aged 82.

The first 45-rpm disc, “Texarkana Baby” by country & western singer Eddy Arnold, was issued by RCA in the US. It was made of green vinyl, as part of an early attempt to color-code singles according to the genre of music they featured. Others included red for classical music and yellow for children’s songs.

The final Johnny Cash television music variety show hosted by Johnny Cash was aired. The Screen Gems 58-episode series ran from June 7, 1969 to March 31, 1971 on ABC; it was taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The show featured many folk-country musicians, such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Merle Haggard, James Taylor and Tammy Wynette.

Glen Campbell was at #1 on the US country charts with “Southern Nights”. Written by Allen Toussaint it was the first single released from Campbell’s 1977 album, Southern Nights. The lyrics of “Southern Nights” were inspired by childhood memories Toussaint had of visiting relatives in the Louisiana backwoods which often entailed storytelling under star-filled nighttime skies.

Kenny Chesney was at #1 on the country charts with “How Forever Feels.” Chesney told Billboard magazine that he almost didn’t get to release the song because Tim McGraw had also cut it.