Crazy Arms

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"Crazy Arms"
Single by Ray Price
B-side"You Done Me Wrong"
ReleasedMay 1956 (U.S.)
Format7"
RecordedMarch 1, 1956
GenreCountry
Length2:35
LabelColumbia 21510
Songwriter(s)Ralph Mooney and Charles Seals
Ray Price singles chronology
"Run Boy"
(1955)
"Crazy Arms"
(1956)
"I've Got a New Heartache"
(1956)

"Crazy Arms" is an American country song which was career-making hit for Ray Price. The song, released in May 1956, went on to become a number 1 country hit that year, establishing Price's sound, and redefining honky-tonk music. It was Price's first No. 1 hit.

The song was published in 1949 by pedal steel player Ralph Mooney and Charles "Chuck" Seals.[1] The actual lyricist may have been Paul Gilley of Kentucky, who worked as a ghost writer for various artists including Hank Williams.[2][3]

Background[edit]

"Crazy Arms" first appeared in the style of a traditional country ballad.[4] Ralph Mooney reportedly wrote the song in 1949, at a time when he was playing in Wynn Stewart's band on the West Coast. In 1954 in Pasadena, California, Stewart recorded a demo version of the song on 78 rpm acetate – this version was never released.[5] The story of the song continues with recollections by country singer Hank Cochran, who said that successful California baker Claude Caviness and his wife Marilyn Kaye both thought Kaye was a great singer, but that other musicians could tell she was not. Caviness formed the Pep record label to promote Kaye, hoping to find her a hit.[6] Mooney sold "Crazy Arms" to Caviness, and Caviness released a duet version of the song on 45 rpm vinyl, catalog number PEP 102, featuring Kenny Brown and the Arkansas Ramblers, with accompanying vocals by Marilyn Kaye.[7] This version of the song was fairly well received in Tampa, Florida, broadcast on radio station WALT by disc jockey Bob Martin, and when Ray Price toured through the station, Martin played him the record, recommending the song to Price.[8] Price reworked the music and some of the lyrics, and recorded his own version on March 1, 1956, at Bradley Recording Studio in Nashville.[9] After the song became a hit for Price, Caviness contacted Price to tell him that he held the rights to the song. Caviness and Price joined forces in 1959 to publish music under Caviness' reworked Pamper label, with artist manager James Harrell "Hal" Smith as the third owner.[8]

The up-and-coming Price, who already had several successful recordings by 1956, used "Crazy Arms" to establish himself as a star and to introduce fans to his new Texas shuffle sound: fiddle, pedal steel guitar, walking electric bass and swinging 4/4 rhythm.[4] Those hallmarks became part of many of Price's biggest hits throughout the mid-to-late 1950s and early 1960s, and set a new standard for rockabilly songs.

Conflicting song origin[edit]

Mooney, a pedal steel player on many recordings for Waylon Jennings and Wynn Stewart for over 20 years and a member of the Strangers, said he got the idea for the song after his wife left him because of his drinking problem.[10] However, research came to light in 2012 showing that relatively unknown songwriter Paul Gilley from Kentucky (no relation to Mickey Gilley) probably wrote the lyrics and sold them outright to Mooney, who then took credit for them.[2][3]

Commercial performance[edit]

Price's version of "Crazy Arms" reached No. 1 on each of the Billboard magazine country music charts (jukebox, best sellers and radio airplay) in June 1956 and has been credited with spending 20 weeks atop the chart; only three other songs spent longer at No. 1. In addition, Billboard named the song its No. 1 country single of 1956 in its year-end issue.[11]

The song's run at No. 1 (which came two years prior to the introduction of the all-encompassing Hot Country Songs chart in October 1958) would not be matched until July 27, 2013, when "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line matched its run at No. 1 with 20 weeks. Only two songs since 1956 – "Walk On By" by Leroy Van Dyke (19 weeks, 1961-1962) and "Love's Gonna Live Here" by Buck Owens (16 weeks, 1963-1964) – had come reasonably close to matching the run of "Crazy Arms" before Florida Georgia Line.

Cover versions[edit]

"Crazy Arms" has been covered many times by performers both in country music and other genres. Some of the more notable names include Bing Crosby (for his 1965 album Bing Crosby Sings the Great Country Hits), Chuck Berry, the Andrews Sisters, Gram Parsons, Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Trini Lopez, Mickey Gilley, Great Speckled Bird, Willie Nelson, Patty Loveless, Jerry Lee Lewis 1956, Marie Osmond, and the Jerry Garcia Band. In addition, Price had a cameo role on a version recorded by Barbara Mandrell, on her 1990 album Morning Sun. Karen Chandler and Jimmy Wakely directly covered the Price version in 1956. In 2000 Van Morrison and Linda Gail Lewis performed the song on their album You Win Again. Linda Ronstadt recorded a cover for her 1971 album, Linda Ronstadt. Marty Stuart recorded an instrumental version with Mooney on his 2010 album Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions. Also recently recording "Crazy Arms" was Chris Isaak on his CD 2 of "Beyond the Sun" collection.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Horstman, Dorothy (1975). Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy. Nashville, Tennessee: Country Music Foundation Press. p. 165. ISBN 0-915608-19-7.
  2. ^ a b "New biography on Morgan Co. songwriter Paul Gilley". Appalachian Attitude. WMMT 88.7 Mountain Community Radio. July 2, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Staff (June 6, 2012). "E.Ky. writer penned two of Hank Sr.'s biggest hits". The Mountain Eagle. Whitesburg, Kentucky.
  4. ^ a b Malone, Bill, "Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection" ((booklet included with Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection 4-disc set). Smithsonian Institution, 1990), p.51.
  5. ^ https://www.popsike.com/Acetate-Find-WYNN-STEWART-Crazy-ArmsWindy-1954-Possible-1st-Record/220982015627.html
  6. ^ Tyler Mahan Coe (January 23, 2018). "CR014 Ralph Mooney: The Sound of Country Music". Cocaine & Rhinestones. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  7. ^ "Kenny Brown and Marilyn Kaye and the Arkansas Ramblers Crazy Arms PEP 102". YouTube. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Don Cusic (2011). The Cowboy in Country Music: An Historical Survey with Artist Profiles. McFarland. pp. 135–36. ISBN 9780786486052.
  9. ^ David Bianculli; Terry Gross (December 20, 2013). "Fresh Air Remembers Country Music Artist Ray Price". NPR.
  10. ^ Flynn, John (15 November 1975). "'Moon' shines when Jennings plays". The Courier-Journal. p. 6.
  11. ^ [1] Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles year-end chart - 1956.

External links[edit]