Saturday, 27 July 2013

Warren Smith- Big City Ways

Warren Smith is one of those artists that almost has a split personality when it comes to his recording career. Many remember him has the raucous rockabilly artist who recorded the classic Ubangi Stomp for Sun Records in 1956, if you want to hear classic rock and roll then you can't go past this cracking gem. Others remember him as the country artist who cut some great records for Liberty during the early 60's. Smith hailed form Humphrey's County Mississippi and grew up with his grandparents in Louise Mississippi, after completing service in the U.S airforce he moved to West Memphis Arkansas and began performing at the Cotton Club which was a hotbed for the development of rockabilly music. He was performing with the house band The Snearley Ranch boys which included Stan Kessler who became an engineer at American studios in the late 60's. It was Kessler who introduced Smith to Sam Phillips at Sun Records, he recorded a number of singles for the label until the end of 1958. The following year he relocated to California at the suggestion of his good friend Johnny Cash, Cash offered Smith a spot in his touring band but Smith chose to continue his own career.

Smith signed with Liberty Records and immediately hit the country charts with I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today which reached #5. He continued to hit the country charts during the early 60's but by 1964 his career was beginning to wane. Big City Ways tells the tale of a country girl who changes when she moves to the city, she becomes cold and distant, captured by the alluring charms of the big city. Smith has a great voice, like the great country singers of that period he displays real control and conveys the deep meaning of the song. Like a good country song he conveys that sense of sorrow that marks a good country record. His also ably assisted by some great musicians including the great pedal steel player Ralph Mooney.

They taught her big city ways
Big city talk, big city living
Big city walk
They took the sweetest girl and made her cold and hard
They took the sweetness from my baby's heart

Smith was produced by the great Joe Allison who had a storied career in country music, he wrote the classic Jim Reeves song He'll Have To Go. In 1959 he was hired by Liberty Records to create a country roster for the label, during that period he also signed Willie Nelson to the label. Big city Ways reached #41 on the C&W charts in 1964 it was his second last charting single. Smith was involved in a serious car accident in La Grange Texas in 1965, by the time he recovered his career with Liberty was over. He suffered drug and alcohol problems but made a comeback in the late 70's as part of the rockabilly revival, he passed away in 1979.

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