Thursday, October 14, 2010

He wrote a song called "You Can't Wynn, Stewart"

There was considerable excitement (at least with me) during the Ravens game the other afternoon when a new Volkswagen Jetta commercial came on, and the music in the commercial was the great Wynn Stewart singing his great hit "Another Day, Another Dollar," which he recorded in 1962.  You can see the commercial here.

I am going to try to find some way to write to the ad executive from VW - someone who, I'm pretty sure, was born after 1962 - and thank them for saluting one of the best country singers ever.  I hope his family gets a nice payday from this, because Wynn (born Winford Lindsey Stewart in Morrisville, MO, in 1934) never quite got the big payday he deserved.  By the time he reached his teens, his family had moved to California, and young Wynn did the usual route - smalltown radio shows, talent contests, small-label record deal - until he signed with Capitol Records in 1956.  That big break didn't pan out, so he went with Challenge Records for a few years and cut hit after rockabilly hit there.  This was the genesis of what's called the Bakersfield Sound, a grittier sound for Country music than what was coming out of Nashville.  Nashville was veering more toward what they called a "country-politan sound," meaning that they wanted city folks to buy country music. If only they had realized that we city folks would be happy to buy any real country sound, such as what Wynn Stewart, Buck Owens and others were making out west.

One of the others was a former jailbird named Merle Haggard, who showed up looking for work and was hired to play bass in Wynn's band.  Always more generous with others than with himself, Wynn wrote Merle a sad song to sing.  It was called "Sing A Sad Song," and it became the first of Haggard's several hundred country hits, while Wynn had to wait a while for his ship to come in.

Ironically, that ship docked when Wynn moved his sound more to the east.

I'm sorry, but the online radio station to which I am listening - KYMN in Northfield, MN - just did a PSA for an all-you-can-eat waffle breakfast at St Anne's Church this Saturday.  If ever two phrases blended in perfect harmony - "all you can eat" and "waffle breakfast," those are the two best, I'd say.  Sorry for the interruption.

Pardon me.  Wynn Stewart moved his sound more to the east - a little more country-politan, if you will - and hit with the Record Of The Year in 1967 with "It's Such A Pretty World Today," which was used in a K-Mart commercial a few years back.  After that came a few more hits, but as the 70s came along, more and more country artists were doing the rougher-hewn style that Wynn had pioneered twenty years earlier, and Wynn, Buck Owens and others were relegated to cast-off status, prophets without honor in their own hometown, as it were.  He only lived to be 51, dying of a heart attack in the middle of an attempted comeback in 1985.  I saw him perform here in Baltimore in the late 60's  and he was great.  I'm glad you get to hear him now.  Please, go buy a Volkswagen, would you?  Tell 'em Wynn sent you!


Popisms said...

Great post. Thanks for the link to (the site you point to for the video of the commercial). I love this ad too and am a fan of the real, old-time country music like Wynn Stewart, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings.

Mark said...

Thanks, Popisms! I checked out your site and I'm glad I did - it's cool!