Radio Faux Show Volume 2, Number 21 (June 19, 2022):  Country Crossover Hits

Radio Faux Show Volume 2, Number 21 (June 19, 2022): Country Crossover Hits

This Week’s Theme: Country Crossover Hits

It has been a while since I have put together a fully-formed Faux Show, but this week sees the return to the research and thematic elements that led me to start doing this blog in the first place. The shows will start to be weekly again, and will cover topics that demand research and discussion, starting with this week’s theme of Country Music crossover hits.

Since the creation of radio (actually since the creation of music, but I’ll keep it simple), music has been subcategorized in order to allow listeners to focus in on the music they enjoy the most. This led naturally to the creation of singles and album charts to track the popularity of songs across those subcategories.

For the purposes of this week’s theme, we’ll focus on music since the creation of the Billboard Top 40 charts in 1955. This let’s us use Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits as the ultimate reference. Readers of the Faux Show know my love of this book, so I am excited to get to use it in this return to fully developed shows.

I find the topic of crossover hits to be extremely interesting. The most interesting type of crossover hits, in my opinion, are R&B crossovers, but Country Music crossovers are just as intriguing. In both cases, there is a simple, unanswerable question: what qualities of a song give it the ability to appeal to a wider audience than most other songs of its subcategory? This week’s show takes a look at some Country crossovers, along with some birthday wishes and a trip around the world, and attempts to provide some possible answers to that question.

Welcome to Radio Faux Show Volume 2, Number Twenty-One.

First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.


Amazon Music

Why Do Only Some Songs Crossover On The Charts?

If there was an easy answer to that question then more songs would be able to make the jump. Most songwriters and producers share the same goal, no matter what type of music in which they work. That is, to create art that will be enjoyed by others. There are obvious differences across the subcategories in which they work, but even though no one would mistake a song by Faith Hill or Shania Twain as rap or a song by N.W.A. or Jay-Z as metal, a song is a song and can be interpreted in many ways, produced with different sounds, and recorded for different audiences. Jazz artists have been interpreting pop songs since the beginnings of jazz, rock artists have turned traditional blues and folk music into rock and roll since the ’50s, and there are tens of thousands of examples out there of songs being recorded in a variety of genres.

I believe this gets at one of the possible answers to the question. Simply put, a great song is a great song and great songs can be produced in a variety of ways that appeal to a variety of audiences. For this reason, some recordings of great songs by a single artist in a single style can transcend subcategorization and appeal to a variety of audiences in the same form. This can happen through great storytelling, such as “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” great melodies, such as “Crazy,” great songwriting, such as “9 to 5,” or any other intangible qualities of a great song.

Another possible explanation is that the classification of the charts is often not based on the music but on the artists. For example, Willie Nelson’s “Always on my Mind” is a pop song more than a country song, but Willie Nelson is a country artist so that song became a #1 country hit even though it sounded like nothing else on the country charts at the time.

Another possible answer is that there are certain qualities of a song that make it popular at the time it is released. In other words, being recorded and released at the “right place, right time” can sometimes pay huge dividends to a song that otherwise may not seem like it should have received so much mass appeal. Some examples of this include popularity due to television, such as “The Theme From Dukes of Hazzard,” and popularity due to pop culture, such as “Convoy.”

A final possible answer is that there are indefinable qualities that transcend genre. When one hears songs such as “Devil Went Down To Georgia,” “The Gambler,” and “Elvira” now it is difficult to imagine how they could have taken over the airwaves so much during their release, but they did so to the point that any radio listener of their time still knows all of the lyrics and melodies to those songs.

In the end, I lean toward the idea that there is no way to objectively determine what makes a song a hit, especially a #1 crossover hit. The best that an artist can do is write the best songs they can and hope that they have struck gold.

This week’s theme selections

All of the songs selected for this week’s theme were not only country crossover hits, but were also #1 country hits. There are several artists with multiple songs selected, along with some of the most memorable country crossover hits ever recorded.

Patsy Cline “I fall to pieces” (#12 7/24/61) and “Crazy” (#9 11/6/61)

Buck Owens “Tiger By The Tail” (#25 2/13/65)

Roger Miller “King of the road” (#4 2/6/65)

Glen Campbell “Wichita Lineman” (#3 11/16/68)

Jeannie C. Riley “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (#1 8/31/68)

Lynn Anderson “Rose Garden” (#3 12/19/70)

Charley Pride “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” (#21 12/18/71)

Charlie Rich “Behind Closed Doors” (#15 6/9/72) and “The Most Beautiful Girl” (#1 10/27/73)

Merle Haggard “If We Make It Through December” (#28 1/5/74)

Tom T. Hall “I Love” (#12 1/19/74)

Billy Swan “I Can Help” (#1 10/26/74)

Glen Campbell “Rhinestone Cowboy” (#1 6/21/75)

Freddy Fender “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” (#8 7/19/75)

Willie Nelson “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” (#21 10/11/75)

C.W. McCall “Convoy” (#1 12/13/75)

Crystal Gayle “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” (#2 9/24/77)

Kenny Rogers “The Gambler” (#16 12/23/78)

Barbara Mandrell “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” (#31 5/12/79)

The Charlie Daniels Band “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” (#3 7/21/79)

Kenny Rogers “Coward Of The County” (#3 12/1/79)

Waylon Jennings “The Dukes Of Hazzard Theme” (#21 1/1/80)

Johnny Lee “Lookin’ For Love” (#5 8/28/80)

Willie Nelson “On The Road Again” (#20 9/27/80)

Dolly Parton “9 to 5” (#1 12/12/80)

Ronnie Milsap “Smoky Mountain Rain” (#24 1/24/81)

The Oak Ridge Boys “Elvira” (#5 6/6/81)

Eddie Rabbitt “Step By Step” (#5 8/8/81)

One Hit Wonders

Some of the artists on this week’s show are the most popular and successful country artists of all time and some of them only enjoyed a short time of success. In either case, though, there are several who share the distinction of catching lightning in a bottle and breaking the crossover barrier just this one time.

Lynn Anderson “Rose Garden” (#3 12/19/70)

Merle Haggard “If We Make It Through December” (#28 1/5/74)

Tom T. Hall “I Love” (#12 1/19/74)

Johnny Lee “Lookin’ For Love” (#5 8/28/80)

Barbara Mandrell “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” (#31 5/12/79)

C.W. McCall “Convoy” (#1 12/13/75)

Buck Owens “Tiger By The Tail” (#25 2/13/65)

Charley Pride “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” (#21 12/18/71)

Jeannie C. Riley “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (#1 8/31/68)

Billy Swan “I Can Help” (#1 10/26/74)

Double Chart Toppers

A few of the selections on this week’s show own the rare achievement of being #1 hits on both the Country and Pop charts. To put this in perspective, since the end of the Country Crossover heyday of the mid ’70s/early ’80s forty years ago, only four songs have hit #1 on both charts. Those are Billy Vera & The Beaters “At This Moment” in 1986, Lonestar “Amazed” in 1999, Taylor Swift “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in 2012, and Lil Nas X “Old Town Road” in 2019. I would argue that only the Lonestar song is actually a Country Crossover hit as the others seem more like Pop Crossovers into the Country Charts. For that reason, there is certainly something special about these six songs and others like them.

Glen Campbell “Rhinestone Cowboy” (#1 6/21/75)

C.W. McCall “Convoy” (#1 12/13/75)

Dolly Parton “9 to 5” (#1 12/12/80)

Charlie Rich “The Most Beautiful Girl” (#1 10/27/73)

Jeannie C. Riley “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (#1 8/31/68)

Billy Swan “I Can Help” (#1 10/26/74)

Theme Highlights

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson is arguably the most successful Country crossover artist of all time. His crossover appeal spanned from Patsy Cline’s 1961 recording of his song “Crazy,” through his 1975 old school Western cover of “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” followed almost immediately by his 1976 duet “Good Hearted Woman” with Waylon Jennings, then his 1980 ode to touring “On The Road Again,” followed by his genre-defining love song “Always On My Mind,” and concluding with his pop duet “To All The Girls I’ve Love Before” with Julio Iglesias. Not only were all of these songs Top 40 hits, but they were ALL #1 Country hits. In other words, in addition to his dozens of Country hits, he placed Crossover hits on the Billboard charts for almost twenty-five years. That is songwriting mastery.

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

If you don’t agree with Willie Nelson as the king of Country crossovers, then you have to go with Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton. Although they did not produce their crossover material for as long a period as Nelson, there was a six-year span (from 1977 to 1983) in which Rogers and Parton defined the role of Country crossover artist. Starting with the Rogers classic “Lucille,” the two of them were responsible for eighteen #1 Country hits that crossed over to the Billboard charts (five for Parton and thirteen for Rogers), plus seven other less successful chart hits, all culminating with the Parton/Rogers classic “Islands In The Stream” in September 1983. It is doubtful that anyone will ever come close to controlling both charts at that level again. Shania Twain was a hit-maker, but pales in comparison. Rogers and Parton were legendary in this regard.

Charlie Rich

Rich created the Countrypolitan sound with his album Behind Closed Doors in 1973. It’s mature sound, with lush orchestration and a connection to Frank Sinatra as much as to Hank Williams, paved the way for all Country music to come by any artist willing to advance into the Adult Contemporary market. The album won multiple awards, including Grammy and CMA, and is now seen as one of the most important Country albums ever recorded. Known in his later years as The Silver Fox, Rich’s career spans a variety of styles, but he will always be best-remembered as the guy who lost the Most Beautiful Girl In The World.

Television and Hollywood Movies

The Country crossover explosion of the mid-70s/early 80s spread out from radio to television and Hollywood. Some examples include:

Convoy: C.W. McCall’s hit was a massive pop culture phenomenon that culminated with the 1978 film Convoy, starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw, Ernest Borgnine, and Burt Young, and directed by a past-his-prime Sam Peckinpah. It did not win any Oscars.

I love how the trailer is just the song with a scene from the movie.

The Gambler and Coward of the County: Both of Kenny Rogers’ hits were turned into tv movies. Both films starred Rogers, and The Gambler even spawned four more sequels!.

This is the entire film in all of its amazing 1980 tv movie-level splendor
The entire film, with Rogers as the preacher. Classic tv movie glory!

Harper Valley P.T.A.: Tom T. Hall’s song about a single mom who wreaks havoc on the elitist, hypocritical leaders of her town spawned a 1978 cult classic movie starring Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie) and a less-than-classic tv show from 1981, also starring Eden.

Artist of the Week: All of Them

It’s not easy to appeal to such a varied audience, so let’s give some love to all of these Country artists.

Happy Birthday (June 19)

Paula Abdul is famous.

Mark DeBarge was a founding member of R&B group DeBarge.

Nick Drake died tragically young, released three of the greatest albums ever recorded, and influenced multiple generations and counting with his style of solo folk music.

Lester Flatt was the Flatt in Flatt and Scruggs. Many of the songs on this week’s show would not have existed without the pioneering bluegrass of this duo.

Paula Koivuniemi was a Finnish pop singer who found initial success in her country during the ’60s and then had an amazing resurgence in ’80s. This led to her becoming one of the most successful pop stars in her nation’s history.

Ernest Ranglin was a session guitarist for Studio One and Island Records in the early days of ska and reggae. He was one of the originators of the rhythm guitar style that is now synonymous with reggae music. He was also a talented jazz guitarist, and he worked with many legends during his career, including Jimmy Cliff, The Skatalites, and Bob Marley.

Al Wilson was an R&B artist who was most popular in the ’70s. His song “Show and Tell” was a #1 Pop and R&B hit in 1973.


All of the Theme selections

Paula Abdul “Straight Up” (#1 12/24/88)

Millie Small “My Boy Lollipop” (#2 6/6/64)

Al Wilson “Show and Tell” (#1 11/24/73)

2 for “Two”Day

Willie Nelson, Charley Rich, Glen Campbell, Patsy Cline, Tom T. Hall, and Kenny Rogers all have more than one song, as artist and/or songwriter, on this week’s show.

Ernest Ranglin has two songs on the show, one as a solo artist and one as the guitarist on Millie Small’s 1964 hit “My Boy Lollipop.” Millie Small’s #2 hit (6/6/64) is arguably the first reggae song ever heard on American radio by most people around at the time.

Let’s Take a Trip Around the World

ATW: Jamaica, Finland, Ukraine (Eurovision Winner in case you haven’t heard it), Toure and Diabete


Paula Koivuniemi “Perhonen”: This was the first Finnish hit for one of the country’s most successful pop artists.


Millie Small “My Boy Lollipop” and Ernest Ranglin “Green Dolphin St.”: Both of these songs feature guitar by Ranglin. In addition to his influential recordings during the early days of ska/reggae, Ranglin was a skilled jazz guitarist, as heard in the very nice version of the jazz standard.

Mali (x2

Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabete “Sabu Yerkoy”: This 2010 song finds two of the most talented musicians from Mali recording together.


Kalush Orchestra “Stefania”: In case you haven’t heard it, this is the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest winner. The judges did not give much love to Ukraine, but the people’s vote showed overwhelming support to Ukraine in the middle of this senseless war, and the band won the contest easily. It definitely isn’t the best song of the contest, but it is still pretty good.

Thanks for listening (and reading)!

Track List

TrackArtistSong Title
1Willie NelsonBlue Eyes Crying In The Rain
2Dolly Parton9 to 5
3Kenny RogersThe Gambler
4Kenny RogersCoward of the County
5Waylon JenningsTheme From “Dukes of Hazzard”
6Merle HaggardIf We Make It Through December
7Buck Owens & His BuckaroosI’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail
8Charlie Daniels BandThe Devil Went Down To Georgia
9Flatt & ScruggsFoggy Mountain Breakdown
10Ali Farka Toure and Toumani DiabateSabu Yerkoy
11Kalush OrchestraStefania
12Paula KoivuniemiPerhonen
13Millie SmallMy Boy Lollipop
14Ernest RanglinGreen Dolphin St.
15Glen CampbellWichita Lineman
16Glen CampbellRhinestone Cowboy
17Barbara Mandrell(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right
18Al WilsonShow and Tell
19Johnny LeeLookin’ For Love
20Ronnie MilsapSmokey Mountain Rain
21Crystal GayleDon’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue
22Charlie RichBehind Closed Doors
23Charlie RichThe Most Beautiful Girl
24Nick DrakeThe Thoughts of Mary Jane
25Tom T. HallI Love
26Charley PrideKiss An Angel Good Mornin’
27Eddie RabbittStep By Step
28DeBargeStay With Me
29Paula AbdulStraight Up
30Lynn AndersonRose Garden
31Patsy ClineI Fall To Pieces
32Patsy ClineCrazy
33Roger MillerKing Of The Road
34Billy SwanI Can Help
35Freddy FenderWasted Days and Wasted Nights
36Jeannie C. RileyHarper Valley P.T.A.
37Oak Ridge BoysElvira
38C.W. McCallConvoy
39Willie NelsonOn The Road Again

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