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Webb Michael Pierce (August 8, 1921–February 24, 1991) was one of the most popular Americanmarker honky tonk vocalists of the 1950s, charting more number one hits than any other country artist during the decade. For many, Pierce, with his flamboyant Nudie suits and twin silver dollar-lined convertibles, became the most recognizable face of country music of the era and its excesses. His biggest hit, "There Stands the Glass", is considered an iconic country music song. Pierce was a one-time member of the Grand Ole Oprymarker and was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Famemarker.

Biography

Born in West Monroe, Louisianamarker in 1921, as a boy Pierce was infatuated with Gene Autry films and his mother's hillbilly records, particularly those of Jimmie Rodgers and Western swing and Cajun groups. He began to play guitar before he was a teenager and at 15 was given his own weekly 15-minute show, Songs by Webb Pierce, on KMLB-AMmarker in Monroemarker.

He enlisted in the US Army, and in 1942 he married Betty Jane Lewis. After he was discharged, the couple moved to Shreveport, Louisianamarker, where Pierce worked in the men's department of a Sears Roebuck store. In 1947, the couple appeared on KTBS-AMmarker's morning show as "Webb Pierce with Betty Jane, the Singing Sweetheart." Pierce also performed at local engagements, developing his unique style that was once described to be "a wailing whiskey-voiced tenor that wrang out every drop of emotion."

Rise to fame

In 1949, California-based 4 Star Records signed them under separate contracts, with his wife signed for duets with her husband under the name Betty Jane and Her Boyfriends. However, success only came for Pierce, and in the summer of 1950, the couple divorced.

He moved to KWKH-AM and joined the Louisiana Hayride during its first year, and devised a plan to achieve instant "stardom." Before the show, he bought tickets for several young girls in line and asked them to sit in the first row, and after each of his songs to scream and beg for more. It worked; their enthusiasm spread throughout the audience.

Pierce assembled and performed with a band of local Shreveport musicians, including pianist Floyd Cramer, guitarist-vocalist Faron Young, bassist Tillman Franks and vocalists Teddy and Doyle Wilburn. He also founded a record label, Pacemaker; and Ark-La-Tex Music, a publishing company, with Horace Logan, the director of the Hayride. On Pacemaker, Pierce made several records between 1950 and 1951 designed to attract radio play around Louisiana.

Shreveport to Nashville

In 1951, Pierce got out of his 4 Star contract and was quickly signed by Decca Records. His second single, "Wondering," became his breakthrough hit, climbing to number one early in 1952. Pierce moved to Nashville, where he met and married his second wife, Audrey Greisham. In June 1952, he had his second number one single with "That Heart Belongs to Me."

In September 1953, the Grand Ole Oprymarker needed to fill the vacancy left by the firing of Hank Williams, and Pierce was invited to join the cast. After Williams' death, he became the most popular singer in country music; for the next four years, every single he released hit the Top Ten, with ten reaching number one, including "There Stands The Glass" (1953), "Slowly" (1954), "More And More" (1954), and "In the Jailhouse Now" (1955). His singles spent 113 weeks at number one during the 1950s, when he charted 48 singles. Thirty-nine reached the Top Ten, 26 reached the top four and 13 hit number one.

Other hits included "Backstreet Affair," "Why, Baby, Why," "Oh, So Many Years," and "Finally"; the latter two being duets with Kitty Wells. His 1954 recording of "Slowly" was one of the first country songs to include a pedal steel guitar. He made regular appearances on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee including as a guest host once a month during 1956. In 1958, he recorded a rockabilly record, "The New Raunchy"/"I'll Get By Somehow" for Decca under the name Shady Wall.

On February 19, 1957, Pierce resigned from the Opry after he refused to pay commissions on bookings and for associated talent.

Pierce continued charting until 1982 with a total of 96 hits; and he toured extensively and appeared in the movies Buffalo Guns, Music City USA, Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar, and Road To Nashville.

Lavish lifestyle and later years

As his music faded from the spotlight, Pierce became known for his excessive lifestyle. He had Hollywood tailor Nudie Cohen, who had made flamboyant suits for Pierce, line two convertibles with silver dollars. He built a $30,000 guitar-shaped swimming pool at his Nashville home which became a popular paid tourist attraction—nearly 3,000 people visited it each week—causing his neighbors, led by Ray Stevens, to file suit and prevail against Pierce to end the tours.

He remained with Decca and its successor, MCA, well into the 1970s, but by 1977 he was recording for Plantation Records. Even though he had occasional minor hits, charting in a 1982 duet with Willie Nelson, a remake of "In The Jailhouse Now," he spent his final years tending to his businesses, and his legend became clouded due to his reputation as a hard drinker.

Pierce waged a long battle with pancreatic cancer, which he lost on February 24, 1991, and was buried in the Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville.

"Caught In The Webb" - A Tribute To The Legendary Webb Pierce - was released on Audium Records in 2001. Produced by Gail Davies, this album features Willie Nelson, Crystal Gayle, George Jones, Emmylou Harris, The Del McCoury Band, Charlie Pride, Allison Moorer, Dwight Yoakam, Pam Tillis, The Jordanaires and many other artists. The proceeds have been donated to The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation.

Legacy

Pierce has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 1600 Vine Street; and in 2001, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Famemarker. In 2008 he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

His "There Stands The Glass" was featured in the 2005 documentary No Direction Home by Martin Scorsese about early influences on Bob Dylan. Pierce's song "More And More" was played in the title credits of 2006 horror film, The Hills Have Eyes.

Discography

Albums

Year Album US Country Label
1955 Webb Pierce Decca
1956 That Wondering Boy
1957 Just Imagination
1959 Bound for the Kingdom
Webb!
1960 Webb with a Beat
Walking the Streets
1961 Webb Pierce's Golden Favorites
Fellen Angel
1962 Hideaway Heart
1963 Cross Country 20
I've Got a New Heartache
Bow Thy Head
1964 The Webb Pierce Story 13
Sands of Gold
1965 Memory #1 6
Country Music Time
1966 Sweet Memories
Webb's Choice 29
1967 Where'd Ya Stay Last Night 43
1968 Fool Fool Fool
Saturday Night
1969 Webb Pierce Sings This Thing 32
1970 Love Ain't Never Gonna Be No Better 42
Merry Go Round World
1971 Road Show
1972 I'm Gonna Be a Swinger
1979 Faith, Hope and Love Skylite
1982 In the Jailhouse Now (w/ Willie Nelson) Columbia


Singles

Year Single Chart Positions
US Country US
1952 "Wondering" 1
"That Heart Belongs to Me" 1
"Back Street Affair" 1
1953 "I'll Go on Alone" 4
"That's Me Without You" 4
"The Last Waltz" 4
"I Haven't Got the Heart" 5
"It's Been So Long" 1
"Don't Throw Your Life Away" 9
"There Stands the Glass" 1
"I'm Walking the Dog" 3
1954 "Slowly" 1
"Even Tho" 1
"Sparkling Brown Eyes" (w/ The Wilburn Brothers) 4
"More and More" 1
"You're Not Mine Anymore" 4
1955 "In the Jailhouse Now" 1
"I'm Gonna Fall Out of Love with You" 10
"I Don't Care" 1
"Your Good for Nothing Heart" flip
"Love, Love, Love" 1
"If You Were Me" 7
1956 "Why Baby Why" (w/ Red Sovine) 1
"Yes I Know Why" 2
"'Cause I Love You" 3
"Little Rosa" (w/ Red Sovine) 5
"Any Old Time" 7
"We'll Find a Way" flip
"Teenage Boogie" 10
"I'm Really Glad You Hurt Me" flip
1957 "I'm Tired" 3
"It's My Way" flip
"Honky Tonk Song" 1
"Oh' So Many Years" (w/ Kitty Wells) 8
"Someday" 12
"Bye Bye Love" 7 73
"Missing You" 7
"Holiday for Love" 3
"Don't Do It Darlin'" 12
1958 "One Week Later" (w/ Kitty Wells) 12
"Cryin' Over You" 3
"You'll Come Back" 10
"Falling Back to You" 10
"Tupelo County Jail" 7
1959 "I'm Letting You Go" 22
"A Thousand Miles Ago" 6
"I Ain't Never" 2 24
1960 "No Love Have I" 4 54
"(Doin' the) Lover's Leap" 17 69
"Is It Wrong (For Loving You)" 11 93
"Drifting Texas Sand" 11 108
"Fallen Angel" 4 99
1961 "Let Forgiveness In" 5
"Sweet Lips" 3
"Walking the Streets" 5
"How Do You Talk to a Baby" 7
1962 "Alla My Love" 5
"Crazy Wild Desire" 8
"Take Time" 7
"Cow Town" 5
"Sooner or Later" 19
1963 "How Come Your Dog Don't Bite Nobody But Me" (w/ Mel Tillis) 25
"Sawmill" 15
"If I Could Come Back" 21
"Sands of Gold" 7 118
"If the Back Door Could Talk" 13
"Those Wonderful Years" 9
1964 "Waiting a Lifeitme" 25
"Memory #1" 2
"Finally" (w/ Kitty Wells) 9
1965 "That's Where My Money Goes" 26
"Broken Engagement" 46
"Loving You Then Losing You" 22
"Who Do I Think I Am" 13
"Hobo and the Rose" 50
1966 "You Ain't No Better Than Me" 46
"Love's Something (I Can't Understand)" 25
"Where'd Ya Stay Last Night" 14
1967 "Goodbye City, Goodbye Girl" 39
"Fool Fool Fool" 6
1968 "Luzianna" 24
"Stranger in a Strange, Strange City" 26
"In Another World" 74
"Saturday Night" 22
1969 "If I Had Last Night to Live Over" 32
"This Thing" 14
"Love Ain't Gonna Be No Better" 38
1970 "Merry-Go-Round World" 71
"The Man You Want Me to Be" 56
1971 "Showing His Dollar" 73
"Tell Him That You Love Him" 31
"Someone Stepped In (And Stole Me Blind)" 73
1972 "I'm Gonna Be a Swinger" 54
1975 "The Good Lord Giveth (And Uncle Sam Taketh Away)" 57
1976 "I've Got Leaving on My Mind" 82
1982 "In the Jailhouse Now" (w/ Willie Nelson) 72


Guest singles

Year Single Artist US Country
1985 "One Big Family" Heart of Nashville 61


Notes

  1. Sachs, Bill "Pierce Takes Leave of WSM and 'Opry'" (March 2, 1957), The Billboard, p. 22


References



External links




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