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Webb Pierce

Webb Pierce was one of the most popular honky tonk vocalists of the '50s, racking up more number one hits than similar artists like Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Lefty Frizzell, and Ernest Tubb. For most of the general public, Pierce -- with his lavish, flamboyant Nudie suits -- became the most recognizable face of country music, as well as all of its excesses; after all, he boasted about his pair of convertibles lined with silver dollars and his guitar-shaped swimming pool. For all of his success, Pierce never amassed the reputation of his contemporaries, even though he continued to chart regularly well into the '70s. Webb's weakness for gaudy ornaments of his wealth, as well as his reluctance to break away from hardcore honky tonk, meant that he had neither supporters in the industry, nor the ability to sustain the ever-changing tastes of a popular audience. Nevertheless, he remains one of the cornerstone figures of honky tonk, both for his success and his artistic achievements.

As a child in West Monroe, LA, Pierce became infatuated with Gene Autry films and his mother's hillbilly records, particularly those of Jimmie Rodgers and various Western swing and Cajun groups. He began to play guitar before he was a teenager. At the age of 15, he was hired as a singer by Monroe's KMLB. During World War II, Pierce enlisted in the Army. While he was in the service, he married Betty Jane Lewis; their wedding was in June of 1942. After he was discharged, Webb and his wife moved back to Monroe, but by 1944 he moved to Shreveport. Getting a job at Sears Roebuck, Pierce began singing on radio stations, nightclubs, and dances with Betty Jane. At first, they were featured on an early morning radio show on KTBS, while they would perform in the evening at clubs. It took them five years before they were noticed by the industry. In 1949, the California-based 4 Star Records signed the duo under separate recording contracts. Webb signed under his own name, while his wife was signed for duets with her husband under the name Betty Jane and Her Boyfriends. However, success didn't come to the duo -- it only came for Webb; in the summer of 1950, the couple divorced.

In late 1949, Pierce accepted a spot on the Louisiana Hayride, a radio program on KWKH that was instrumental in launching the careers of many country artists. Webb began to assemble a band of local Shreveport musicians, which included recruiting pianist Floyd Cramer, guitarist/vocalist Faron Young, bassist Tillman Franks, and vocalists Teddy and Doyle Wilburn. The Wilburns and Franks all wrote songs, which provided the basis for Webb's initial set list. Pierce also founded a record label called Pacemaker and Ark-La-Tex Music, a publishing company, with Horace Logan, the director of the Louisiana Hayride. On Pacemaker, Pierce made several records between 1950 and 1951. They weren't designed to be big sellers -- they were created with the intent of attracting radio play around Louisiana. In 1951, he was able to get out of his 4-Star contract and Decca Records signed him immediately. Webb's second single, "Wondering," became his breakthrough hit, climbing to number one early in 1952. After the single became a hit, Pierce left Louisiana for Nashville, where he met and married his second wife, Audrey Greisham. In June of 1952, he had his second number one single with "That Heart Belongs to Me." The following September, the Grand Ole Opry needed to fill the vacancy left by the firing of Hank Williams, so they invited Pierce to join the cast. After Williams' death, Pierce became the most popular singer in country music. For the next four years, every single he released hit the Top Ten, with a total of ten reaching number one, including "There Stands the Glass" (1953), "Slowly" (1954), "More and More" (1954), and "In the Jailhouse Now" (1955).

Pierce and Opry manager Jim Denny formed Cedarwood Music, a music publishing company, in 1953; later, the pair would invest in radio stations together. Their business ventures were not looked upon kindly by the Opry superiors, and they began pressuring the duo to cease any outside interests. At the same time, Pierce was growing tired of being confined to the Grand Ole Opry -- he thought he wasn't being treated with the respect a star of his stature deserved, and he wanted to be able to partake in the lucrative financial rewards that came with touring. Pierce left the Opry in 1955 and began appearing on Ozark Jubilee, a television program on the ABC network. He left Ozark Jubilee in 1956 and returned to the Opry but left for good the following year.

Pierce continued to have hits until the end of the '50s, but he did take a significant dip in popularity after rock & roll's arrival in the late '50s. Nevertheless, Pierce stayed on the charts, primarily because he kept in close touch with DJs across the country, which meant that he was able to keep his streak of 34 consecutive Top Ten hits running into 1957. For a while, Pierce tried to keep up with rock & roll, covering the Everly Brothers and recording pseudo-rockabilly numbers. Once those proved unsuccessful, he stuck with honky tonk and continued to rack up Top Ten hits right through 1964.

By 1965, the country-pop leanings of the Nashville Sound had pushed honky tonk from the top of the country charts. Pierce remained a star, but he simply didn't have many big hits in the latter half of the '60s -- the most notable was "Fool Fool Fool" in 1967. Since his music had faded from the spotlight, he became known for his excessive lifestyle. Instead of indulging in intoxicants, Webb indulged in material items. Pierce had Nudie Cohen, a Hollywood tailor famous for his custom-made flamboyant clothing, line two Pontiac convertibles with silver dollars. He built a guitar-shaped swimming pool at his Nashville home. The swimming pool became a popular tourist attraction -- nearly 3,000 people visited it each week -- causing his neighbors, led by Ray Stevens, to file a legal suit against Pierce in order to prevent visitors from coming into their neighborhood.

Throughout the '70s, Pierce continued to record, but most of his income came from his highly lucrative financial investments. Pierce left Decca Records in 1975, making a handful of records for Plantation Records that didn't experience much chart success. His last hit came in 1982, when his duet on "In the Jailhouse Now" with Willie Nelson scraped the bottom of the country charts.

Despite all of his success, Pierce was never inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during his lifetime; it's likely that the members never forgave him for his rejection of the Grand Ole Opry and the Nashville industry. Pierce died of pancreatic cancer on February 24, 1991. Just months before his death, he didn't receive enough votes to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, his career stands as one of the most successful in the history of country music. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Fallen Angel/Cross Country

1. Fallen Angel

2. A Rose And A Thorn

3. Let Forgiveness In

4. So Used To Loving You

5. There's More Pretty Girls Than One

6. Forgive Me

7. Truck Driver's Blues

8. Is My Ring On Your Finger

9. My Rough And Rowdy Ways

10. A Walk On The Wild Side Of Life

11. No One But Me

12. Last Night

13. Heartaches By The Number

14. You Are My Life

18. I'm Letting You Go

19. Take Time

21. Alla My Love

22. Crazy Wild Desire

25. Drifting Texas Sand

x

Track List: High Geared Daddy - Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight

1. High Geared Daddy

2. New Panhandle Rag

3. Heebie Jeebie Blues

4. Georgia Rag

5. Freight Train Blues

6. Hayride Boogie

7. Have You Ever Had The Feeling

8. Drifting Texas Sand

9. You Scared The Love Right Out Of Me

10. I'm Gonna See My Baby

11. I Just Can't Be True

12. California Blues

13. In The Jailhouse Now

14. Sneakin' All Around

15. Love, Love, Love

17. Any Old Time

19. I'm Tired

20. Honky Tonk Song

21. Bye Bye Love

22. Who Wouldn't Love You

23. New Panhandle Rag

24. Holiday For Love

25. The New Raunchy

26. English Sweetheart

27. You'll Come Back

28. Tupelo County Jail

29. After The Boy Gets The Girl

30. Pick Me Up On Your Way Down

31. I Ain't Never

x

Track List: More And More

1. Drifting Texas Sands

2. Wondering

3. That Heart Belongs To Me

4. The Last Waltz

5. I Haven't Got The Heart

6. Back Street Affair

7. I'll Go On Alone

8. That's Me Without You

9. It's Been So Long

10. Don't Throw Your Life Away

11. There Stands The Glass

12. I'm Walking The Dog

13. Slowly

14. Even Tho'

15. Sparkling Brown Eyes

16. You're Not Mine Anymore

17. I'm Gonna Fall Out Of Love With You

18. More And More

19. In The Jailhouse Now

20. I Don't Care

21. If You Were Me, And I Were You

22. Love, Love, Love

23. Why, Baby, Why?

24. Yes, I Know Why I Want To Cry

25. 'cause I Love You

26. Little Rosa

27. Any Old Time

28. Teenage Boogie

29. Oh, So Many Years

30. I'm Tired

x

Track List: The Complete 4 Star & Pacemaker Recordings

Disc 1

1. High Geared Daddy

2. Heebie Jeebie Blues

3. Sweetheart You Know I Love You So

4. I'm Happy You Hurt Me

5. English Sweetheart

6. The Darkest Hour

7. A Million Years From Now

8. I Heard Her Call My Name In Prayer

9. Groovie Boogie Woogie Boy

10. New Panhandle Rag

11. Georgia Rag

12. I Saw Your Face In The Moon

13. I've Loved You For Ever It Seems

14. Hawaiian Echoes

15. It's All Between The Lines

16. Jinx In Love

17. Jilted Love

18. Lucy Lee

Disc 2

1. Drifting Texas Sand

2. You Scared The Love Right Out Of Me

3. I'm Watching The Stars

4. I Need You Like A Hole In The Head

5. I'm Sitting On Top Of The World

6. Freight Train Blues

7. California Blues

8. Hayride Boogie

9. I Got Religion On A Saturday Night

10. Have You Ever Had The Feeling

11. In The Jailhouse

12. The Last Waltz

x

Track List: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Webb Pierce

1. Wondering

2. Back Street Affair

3. It's Been So Long

4. There Stands The Glass

5. Slowly

6. More And More

7. In The Jailhouse Now

8. I Don't Care

9. Love, Love, Love

10. Why Baby Why

11. Honky Tonk Song

12. I Ain't Never

x

Track List: The Wondering Boy (1951-1958)

Disc 1

1. Drifting Texas Sand

2. If Crying Would Make You Care

3. California Blues (Blue Yodel, No. 4)

4. You Scared The Love Right Out Of Me

5. New Silver Bells

6. Wondering

7. You Know I'm Still In Love With You

8. I'm Gonna See My Baby

9. That Heart Belongs To Me

10. I Just Can't Be True

11. So Used To Loving You

12. I Haven't Got The Heart

13. Slowly

14. The Last Waltz

15. Bow Thy Head

16. Country Church

17. I Haven't Got The Heart

18. I'll Always Take Care Of You

19. Back Street Affair

20. I'm Only Wishin'

21. I'll Go On Alone

22. That's Me Without You

23. Broken Engagement

24. We'll Find A Way

25. It's Been So Long

26. Don't Throw Your Life Away

27. Too Late To Worry Now

28. There Stands The Glass

Disc 2

1. There's A Better Home

2. Mother Call My Name In Prayer

3. I'm Walking The Dog

4. You Just Can't Be True

5. Slowly

6. Broken Engagement

7. Slowly

8. Even Tho'

9. Sparkling Brown Eyes

10. Bugle Call From Heaven

11. Thank You, Dear Lord

12. Kneel At The Cross

13. Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

14. You're Not Mine Anymore

15. I'm Gonna Fall Out Of Love With You

16. You Good For Nothing Heart

17. Just Imagination

18. I Love You Dear

19. More And More

20. I Found Someone That's True

23. In The Jailhouse Now

24. Sneakin' All Around

25. I Don't Care

27. Yes I Know Why (I Want To Cry)

28. Little Rosa

Disc 3

1. Call Me Your Sweetheart

2. If You Were Me (And I Were You)

3. Love, Love, Love

4. Why Baby Why

5. Yes I Know Why

6. I Found A True Love

7. 'Cause I Love You

8. Little Rosa

9. Let Forgiveness In

10. Any Old Time

11. You Make Love To Everyone

12. We'll Find A Way

13. Teenage Boogie

14. I'm Really Glad You Hurt Me (I Found Someone That's True)

15. Teenage Boogie

16. Oh, So Many Years

17. One Week Later

20. Crying Over You

21. I'm Tired

22. It's My Way

23. Someday

24. Honky Tonk Song

25. I Care No More

26. Don't Be The One

27. Bye Bye Love

28. Missing You

29. Let Forgiveness In

30. Who Wouldn't Love You

Disc 4

1. New Panhandle Rag

2. I Know It Was You

3. Don't Do It Darlin'

4. Holiday For Love

5. How Long

6. The New Raunchy

7. I'll Get By Somehow

8. English Sweetheart

9. Down Panama Way

10. Foreign Love

11. You'll Come Back

12. A New Love Affair

13. Falling Back To You

14. Sittin' Alone

15. I'm Letting You Go

16. Tupelo County Jail

17. Waiting A Lifetime

19. I Think Of You

21. I Owe It To My Heart

22. The Violet And The Rose

23. After The Boy Gets The Girl

24. You Make Me Live Again

25. Crazy Arms

26. Pick Me Up On Your Way Down

27. Life To Go

28. My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You

Comments

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A real cool dude straight from the heart
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Always (for a long time) enjoyed his singing!
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Webb was my all time favorite and still is. That's what I like about Pandora I get to hear those old singers that are true country music. There's some in today's country music I like but not some of the newer ones. The ones of today are more like rock and roll.
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Webb was a good ole honky tonker!
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loved his music takes me back sixty two years ago music was great then
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" There Stands The Glass", is a Webb Pierce trademark! Would love to hear " In The Jailhouse Now "!! Love his music. The fact that he was tacky at times, makes him unique! Besides, tacky is in the eye of the beholder!!
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Webb was & is a legend ... Real, real country!!!
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God loves real country music, or Hank Sr. would have lived to a ripe old age and written more down here.
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Sometimes these guys are wrong. There are really no real similar artists, these guys were each unique and had their own style. Hank and George Jones were so diverse, because George tried to copy Lefty until he came up with his own fan and enough experience to be his own singer/song writer. Ray Price was kind of like Eddy Arnold/not honky tonk or tavern singer, city boys. More apt to sing at the Copa or Madison Square Garden.
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Webb Pierce was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
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Wish more of his songs were played on the radio stations that are truly country. He has a great voice.
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I don't know much about Webb Pierce but hey I got to say he is great singer to from what I heard of his music. Webb Pierce ur a great country singer. Wow awsom.
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bobjacobs90
Webb Pierce represented country music to the max and if the Country Hall of Fame doesn't reconize that they do not belong on the voting panel. Let them match his recording success to those already voted in??????
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hayesglh
I hope he is in the truly "great hall of fame in Heaven" I love his music. God bless Webb.
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Webb belongs in the hall of fame as much as any that is there now.Shame on the hall of fame for not voting him in years ago.
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denhop7
Grew up listening to Webb Pierce-one of my favorites. Thanks Webb, I hope you are inducted into the hall of fame, you deserve it.
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One of the greatist country stars there everwas.
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Amazing singer!
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marclicht
This man, along with Hank Williams and Farron Young, is the very best.
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dawabigdaddy
no that sorry hall won't take webb but they will take some sweat hog like reb m, thats all.
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r2brnow
This type of music brings back a lot of memories of the 50's
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LOVE Webb Pierce!!!! Def one of my faves!
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I just Met Jim "Cotton" Brannon at my work, here in Conroe, Tx on 6/10/2010. He was one of the original members of Webb Pierce's band! I can't even believe this cool old man just walked into my place of business!!! :o)
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Webb Pierce is one of the greatest honky tonkers to ever live.
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webb was one of the greatest country singers ever
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i just found your station wonderful to hear old music again.blpete r s
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as a teenager i enjoyed webb pierce and still do today
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philandjen54
He was simploy wonderful! GOO needs to get over itself. He deserves the honors they denied him.
cwhite
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tonyandmary
i used to come across spider webbs as a boy. nothin' like a good webb.
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I cut my teeth on this kind of music. I remember the disc jockey of that time on KIKK radio Station saying....te l l em ol tater sent ya
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I used to drive my mom nuts in the 50's, running around the house waling "Wonderin'" I sing that song at some of our Jam sessions for our Seniors group, everyone has a lot of fun with it. He was my first taste of country, along with Ray Price, and Ernest Tubb. which I have seen in person a few times. I love this Pandora's Box Sharon
Report as inappropriate
GREAT STAR very underated & that's sad
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b21d22
Simply the # 1 County Star of the decade of the 50s. Classic Honky Tonk. He had 11 #1 hits in the 50s alone. More than any of the great ones, and there were many. Had a voice that makes people who hate Country music recoil, and people who love Country Music say, "That's pure Country." Was known for coming out and meeting the Nashville tour busses passing his house and bringing the tourists into his backyard to see his guitar shaped swimming pool. Known for his colorful sequined outfits.

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