Picks and Pans Review: The Legend and the Legacy
Long before Dolly, Loretta and Tammy, or Johnny, Willie and Kenny, there was Kitty and Ernest. When C&W was not even vaguely chic, both were working hard at it, and they're already in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Today, Wells, 60, and Tubb, 65, still sing so well that on these two new LPs their voices barely show a trace of age. Born Muriel Deason in South Nashville, Kitty took her stage name from a folk song in 1943 and had her first hit, the peerless It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels (written by J.D. Miller), in 1952. This album includes a re-recording of that classic and such other Wells hits as Left to Right, Thank You for the Roses and Lonely Street, all sung in her untutored but clear, pure voice and produced by Johnny Wright, Wells' husband for 42 years. Tubb's LP is gimmicky. As a birthday present, producer Pete Drake last year got an all-star roster—Lynn, Jennings, Cash, Nelson, Haggard, Rich, among others—to record famous Tubb hits. Then he gave the tapes to Ernest to overdub his own choruses during a rare Nashville stopover from his tour schedule, which keeps him on the road 300 nights a year. The result is sterile in spots. But it's delightful to hear Nelson share Waltz Across Texas with Tubb, or have Johnny Cash do Jealous Loving Heart or Ferlin Husky duet on Set Up Two Glasses, Joe. Ernest, who as a baby in Crisp, Texas no doubt cried in that nasal drawl, seems to be having the wonderful time he has so richly earned. Both these albums are on personal, obscure labels. Wells' is on Ruboca Records of Madison, Tenn. Tubb's two-LP set is available through Tee Vee Records or Ernest's own record store, both in Nashville, but one album of highlights is being marketed nationwide.