"There's thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers in Nashville;
And they can pick more notes than the number of ants on a Tennessee ant hill."
"Nashville Cats" by The Lovin' Spoonful

Country music was always looking for a broader audience.  While a hit country song produced profits, a hit on the pop chart always generated more money.  The music industry of the early 1960’s was dominated by rock and roll, and many wondered if country music could survive.  “The Grand Ole Opry” played to half-filled seats and the number of country music radio stations dwindled. The Nashville sound that had first appeared in the late 1950’s was country’s effort to compete.  The production techniques of Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley at RCA in Nashville led the way as they minimized the traditional instrumentation of country music (banjo, guitar, fiddle) and employed more strings and background vocals. The studios recruited a collection of extremely talented musicians to provide the instrumentals on their country stars' tracks. They came to be called "The A Team," providing a solid base for the Nashville sound. The record producers smoothed out the sound even more with background vocals from The Jordanaires and the Anita Kerr Singers.

Rock and roll was mostly directed at teenage audiences, singing about first loves (“Johnny Angel” by Shelley Fabres), dance moves (“The Twist” by Chubby Checker), and teenage angst (“Lonely Teenager” by Dion).  Country music found a more adult audience.  Songs such as Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’” and “Woman of the World” were about adult relationships.  The result was more cross-over hits which eventually made Nashville second only to New York as a record producing center.  Early in the decade Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Skeeter Davis, and Wanda Jackson had big crossover hits which were the product of the Nashville sound.  Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” were number ones on the pop chart.

The radio had brought country music to the masses beginning in the 1920’s with “The Grand Ole Opry.”  Television gave it a big boost in the 1960’s.  The syndicated, “The Porter Wagoner Show” debuted in 1960 and lasted until 1981.  While Porter Wagoner was mostly viewed by country music fans, “The Jimmy Dean Show” was part of ABC’s primetime lineup from 1963 to 1966, exposing country music stars such as George Jones and Buck Owens to mainstream America.  At the end of the decade, ABC brought “The Johnny Cash Show” to primetime television.  Country stars such as The Statler Brothers, Roy Clark, Merl Haggard, Charley Pride, and Glen Campbell were given national exposure on the show.

While Nashville remained the center of country music, a new sound was emanating from Bakersfield, California.  The area had been a common destination for many migrants from the Midwest during the dust bowl of the 1930’s and they brought their affinity for country music with them.  By the late 1950’s the area was dominated by the honkytonk bars that were the bread and butter of country music.  The new sound that developed was highly influenced by rock and roll as it made heavy use of electronic instruments.  It offered a rougher alternative to the slick, polished sound of Nashville. It was music made for dancing at the honkytonks.   The two most successful artists originating in Bakersfield and recording in Los Angeles were Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

listed in chronoligical order (click on column head to sort)
Title Artist Release Date Country Rank

Hot 100 Rank

My Rank
By the Time I Get To Phoenix Glen Campbell 1967/10/5 2 26 2
Crazy Patsy Cline 1961/10/16 2 9 1
Dang Me Roger Miller 1964/5/5 1 7 21
Detroit City Bobby Bare 1963/5/5 6 16 8
Devil Woman Marty Robbins 1962/6/5 1 16 7
Don t Worry Marty Robbins 1961/2/6 1 3 15
El Paso Marty Robbins 1959/10/26 1 1 24
Flowers On the Wall The Statler Brothers 1965/5/15 2 4 17
Gentle On My Mind Glen Campbell 1967/6/5 30 62 16
He ll Have To Go Jim Reeves 1959/11/5 1 2 4
Hello Walls Faron Young 1961/2/6 1 12 22
I Fall To Pieces Patsy Cline 1961/2/5 1 12 5
Jackson Johnny Cash & June Carter 1967/2/6 2
King of the Road Roger Miller 1965/1/5 1 4 11
Make the World Go Away Eddy Arnold 1965/10/5 2 100 13
North To Alaska Johnny Horton 1960/8/22 1 4 14
Ode To Billy Joe Bobbie Gentry 1967/7/5 17 1 12
Right or Wrong Wanda Jackson 1961/4/5 9 29 20
Ring of Fire Johnny Cash 1963/4/19 1 17 9
Ruby, Don t Take Your Love to Town Kenny Rogers & The 1st Edition 1969/5/5 39 6 19
She s Got You Patsy Cline 1962/1/10 1 14 25
Stand By Your Man Tammy Wynette 1968/9/20 1 19 18
The End of the World Skeeter Davis 1962/12/5 2 2 3
Wichita Lineman Glen Campbell 1968/10/5 1 3 23
You re the Reason Bobby Edwards 1961/2/5 4 11 6
Title Artist Release Date Highest Rank Country Highest Rank Hot 100
500 Miles Away From Home Bobby Bare 1963/9/5 5 10
A Boy Named Sue Johnny Cash 1968/7/2 1 2
Abilene George Hamilton IV 1963/5/5 1 15
Act Naturally Buck Owens 1963/4/11 1
Big Iron Marty Robbins 1960/2/2 5 26
Chug-A-Lug Roger Miller 1964/8/5 3 9
D-I-V-O-R-C-E Tammy Wynette 1968/5/5 1 63
Don t Come Home A Drinkin Loretta Lynn 1966/11/5 1 54
From a Jack to a King Ned Miller 1962/12/15 2 6
Harper Valley PTA Jeannie C. Riley 1968/8/5 1 1
I m a Honky Tonk Girl Loretta Lynn 1960/3/5 14
In the Middle of a Heartache Wanda Jackson 1961/9/5 6 27
It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin' Johnny Tillotson 1962/5/5 3 4
Let s Have a Party Wanda Jackson 1960/6/5
Mama Tried Merle Haggard 1968/7/22 1
Old Rivers Walter Brennan 1962/3/5 3 5
Once a Day Connie Smith 1964/8/1 1
Please Help Me I m Falling Hank Locklin 1960/2/5 1 8
Ruben James Kenny Rogers 1969/9/5 46 26
Saginaw Michigan Lefty Frizzell 1963/10/16 1 85
Scarlet Ribbons The Browns 1959/10/5 7 13
Sea of Heartbreak Don Gibson 1961/5/5 2 21
She Thinks I Still Care George Jones 1962/4/14 1
Silver Threads And Golden Needles The Springfields 1962/9/5 16 20
Sink the Bismarck Johnny Horton 1960/1/5 6 3
Six Days On the Road Dave Dudly 1963/5/5 2 32
Still Bill Anderson 1963/1/28 1 8
Sweet Dreams Patsy Cline 1963/4/5 5 44
The Ballad of Ira Hayes Johnny Cash 1964/6/2 3
There She Goes Jerry Wallace 1960/11/7
Walk On By Leroy Van Dyke 1961/8/5 1 5
Wings of a Dove Ferlin Husky 1960/7/5 1 12
Wolverton Mountain Claude King 1962/3/12 1 6
Buck Owens was one of the most successful artists representing the "Bakersfield Sound." His #1 country song, "Act Naturally" was coveed by The Beatles.

My favorite country songs of the 1960s are heavily influenced by cross-over hits.  I was in my teens and my music preferences were rock and roll.  The Beatles, Motown, and The Beach Boys were my favorites.  Many of the songs selected here were discovered in later years.  That’s certainly true of my #1 song for the decade.  I was aware of  Patsy Cline’s music before the 1980’s movies “Coal Miners Daughter” (1980) and “Sweet Dreams” (1985), but I think those movies drove “Crazy” up my list of favorite country songs.  I liked Nancy Sinatra’ version of “Jackson” (with Lee Hazelwood) in 1967 and wasn’t aware at the time of the Johnny Cash / June Carter version.  Again, it took a movie, “I Walk the Line” (2005) to get it on this list.

Most of the songs in my 1960’s collection were successful cross-over hits with 36 making the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  Three made it to #1: “El Paso,” “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and “Wichita Lineman.”  Nearly half of the songs (28) were #1 Country hits.  Two songs are on my extra’s list that weren’t recognized on the country chart.  I justify Jerry Wallace’s “There She Goes” and Wanda Jackson’s “Let’s Have a Party” as eligible for my country list because both were recognized as being mainly country artists.  Four songs actually did better on the pop chart than on the country chart.  Johnny Horton’s “Sink the Bismarck” (#3/#6), Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe” (#1/#17), and Kenny Rogers’ (with the First Edition) “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” (#6/#39) and “Ruben James” (#26/#46).

Three artists have three songs listed:  Patsy Cline, Marty Robbins, and Glen Campbell. Roger Miller could also be considered a favorite as his “Chug-a-Lug” was close to being listed.  Patsy Cline could have had another make the list with “Sweet Dreams” and Robbins’ “Big Iron” was a worthy candidate.  But as I said of the 1950’s list, it seemed proper to leave room for other artists.

The most ignored artist for the list is B.J. Thomas – I really like a lot of his records.  But I didn’t include him as none of his releases were on the country chart, not even his cover of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”  Also ignored is Ray Charles who released an album of “Country and Western” sounds in 1963.  But I consider Charles to be more of a pop / r&b artist.  Had I recognized him as a country artist, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” would have been near the top.  Likewise for Bobby Darin's "You're the Reaon I'm Living" which came from an album of country songs -- but it didn't make the country charts although it was a #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Johnny Cash recorded a live album at Folsom Prison in 1968 and released “Folsom Prison Blues” as a single – I would have put it on the list, but it is already included for 1950.  You might disagree with some of these rankings, and I welcome your comments ….. but remember, this is my list.

Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Glen Campbell
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood made "Jackson" a #14 hit on the pop chart while the Johnny Cash / June Carter version was a #2 country hit.
In April of 1962 Ray Charles released "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music," lending his r&b style to country songs. Two cuts from the album, "I Can't Stop Loving You" (#1) and "You Don't Know Me" (#2) had great success on the pop chart. I didn't include these as part of my collection because I don't see Charles as a country singer .... but maybe I should.