(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Willie Nelson turned 85 on Sunday. He has a new album out, Last Man Standing, I'll be reviewing Friday on the "Believe Your Ears" music podcast. 43 years have passed since his first megahit: his remake of the 1947 Roy Acuff ballad "Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain" (penned by Fred Rose, Hank Williams's mentor) from the Red Headed Stranger concept album that established his Outlaw beachhead, taking him to stardom after over a decade of frustration making records that didn't present him as he thought he should be.
Jack Greene was one of the great honky-tonk singers you probably never heard of. He had only a few big hit singles, the first ones 47 years ago. A veteran of the Grand Ole Opry, the tall, rangy Greene eventually fell into relative obscurity beyond the Opry, a far cry from his days when dubbed the "Jolly Green Giant" (a play on the Green Giant ads) he was a true Nashville luminary.
What set him apart from the start was a masterful, emotional approach to ballads, earning him a too-brief period of fame and in 1967, the CMA's first-ever Male Vocalist of the Year award. Sadly, he never achieved a massive breakthrough beyond the core country audience, though it never seemed to bother him much. He died Thursday in Nashville at 83, having been diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011.