Smokin' Good Country
:: The Whole Enchilada, Zippified ::
Nothing goes better together than country music and cigarettes. While the music often reflects suffering inflicted upon the artist by unscrupulous lovers, bosses and/or the government, the country music fan often inflicted suffering upon himself by enjoying a smoke while listening. But was it indeed self-inflicted suffering, or something far more sinister?
I'm old enough to remember the days of cigarette sponsored television shows, but nowadays the idea of a tobacco company packing a bunch of musicians on a bus tour seems ludicrous. The Philip Morris company is still alive and well (thank you), and a quick perusal of their website (which seems to focus mainly on things that may help keep them to stay out of litigation) revealed they no longer sponsor music tours, nor do they advertise via any medium hardly at all. They do still sponsor the Indy Racing League, although they do not display their flagship brand logo (Marlboro) on the cars or team uniforms. Good to know they still have some connection with country music, however convoluted it might be.
Back in the day, before anyone gave a second thought to cigarette related health concerns, Philip Morris teamed up with country superstar Carl Smith and a bevy of well established and up and coming country acts of the day for road trips throughout the south and southwest in 1957-58. Smith, who had been recently divorced from the already legendary June Carter, soon found himself married again to fellow Philip Morris act Goldie Hill. They remained married until just a couple of years ago when Hill succumbed to cancer. Many of the acts on this album are no longer with us such as the great Red Sovine who died of heart failure in 1980. Country-pop crooner George Morgan died of heart failure at age 51. Overlooked rockabilly pioneer Ronnie Self was overcome by alcoholism at 43. Master of ceremonies and Texas radio legend Biff Collie (who was briefly married to "Oh Yes Darling!" vocalist and future Mrs. Willie Nelson, Shriley Caddell) passed away in '92. I don't have any way of knowing if anyone who rode that bus died as a direct or indirect result of exposure to cigarette smoke, but what the hell, might as well make that leap for the good of this article.
As for the record itself, there are some damn fine performances from just about everyone involved, however absolutely none of them (with the possible exception of the comedic "Dialogue" between Red Sovine and country funnyman Bun Wilson) were actually recorded live in front of an audience. Instead we're treated to studio cuts with audience sounds and announcements mixed in between tracks (astute Record Robot fans will recognize "Little" Jimmy Dickens' renditions of "Take an Old Cold 'Tater" and "A-Sleeping at The Foot of The Bed" from a previous post). Regardless of the fauxness of the live recordings, it's a pretty good sampler, and it makes me wish I could have encountered one of the smoke-filled halls along the tour route. Wee haw (*cough*)!