Mickey Newbury

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Mickey Newbury
Birth name Milton Sim Newbury, Jr.
Born (1940-05-19)May 19, 1940
Houston, Texas
Died September 29, 2002(2002-09-29) (aged 62)
Genres Country, pop
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Years active 1968–2002
Website Official website

Milton Sims "Mickey" Newbury, Jr. (May 19, 1940 – September 29, 2002)[1] was an American songwriter, a critically acclaimed recording artist, and a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.


As a teenager, Mickey sang tenor in a moderately successful vocal group called The Embers.[1] The group opened for several famous performers, such as Sam Cooke and Johnny Cash. Although Mickey tried to make a living from his music by singing in clubs, he put his musical career on hold at age 19 when he joined the Air Force. After four years in the military, Mickey again set his sights on making a living as a songwriter. Before long, he moved to Nashville and signed to the prestigious publishing company Acuff-Rose Music.[1]

Ralph Emery referred to him as the first "hippie-cowboy" and along with Johnny Cash and Roger Miller, he was one of the first to rebel against the conventions of the Nashville music society. After his producer, Felton Jarvis, became the exclusive producer for Elvis Presley, Newbury got himself released from his contract with RCA and signed the first offer he received to comply with his condition that he could either produce his own albums or choose the producer.

He went on to record three albums in Wayne Moss's garage-turned-studio just outside Nashville. The influence of the production methods can be heard in the albums Waylon Jennings went on to record in the 1970s (with instrumentation highly unconventional for country music) and his poetically sophisticated style of songwriting was highly influential on Kris Kristofferson.[citation needed] It was Newbury who convinced Roger Miller to record Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee", which went on to launch Kristofferson as country music's top songwriter. Newbury is also responsible for getting Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark to move to Nashville and pursue careers as songwriters.

In 1974, he moved to a house on the McKenzie River in Oregon with his wife, Susan, and newborn son, Chris, where they welcomed three more children over the years. He recorded several albums throughout the 1970s for Elektra and ABC/Hickory, all of them critically praised, but financially unsuccessful. In 1980, he was given the distinction of being the youngest songwriter ever inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Although he spent much of the 1980s retired from performing and recording music, he returned to both recording and touring in the late 1980s before he died, in Springfield, Oregon, following a battle with emphysema on September 29, 2002, aged 62.[1][2]


Newbury wrote many songs that would be recorded by singers and songwriters such as Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Bill Monroe, Johnny Rodriguez, Hank Snow, Ray Charles, Tony Rice, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tammy Wynette, Ray Price, Don Gibson, Brenda Lee, Charlie Rich, Lynn Anderson, David Allan Coe, Sammi Smith, Joan Baez, Tom Jones, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Steve Von Till, B.B. King, Linda Ronstadt, Dax Riggs, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and Bill Callahan among many others.

Although his songs have been recorded by hundreds of performers from a wide variety of musical genres, he is most remembered for his creation of "An American Trilogy", a medley that was recorded by many, including symphony orchestras, and Elvis Presley.

He simultaneously had four Top 10 singles on four different charts in the late 60s. Eddy Arnold had a No. 1 Country hit with "Here Comes the Rain, Baby", Andy Williams had a No. 4 Easy Listening hit with "Sweet Memories", and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition had a No. 5 Pop/Rock hit with "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)". The group also recorded the Newbury penned "Sunshine".

Shortly before his death, Newbury was interviewed by John Kruth, who was writing a biography on Townes Van Zandt, where he stated, "How many people have listened to my songs and thought, 'He must have a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a pistol in the other'. Well, I don't. I write my sadness."

Many of Newbury's songs, such as "The Thirty-Third of August", "The Future Is Not What It Used To Be", and "Just Dropped In", delve into the dark recesses of the human psyche. "You've Always Got The Blues" was used as the soundtrack for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's 8-part TV series, Stringer.[citation needed]

Selected list of songs[edit]

Newbury tribute albums (in order of release)[edit]

  • Thirteen covers by as many artists make up the first Newbury tribute album, Frisco Mabel Joy Revisited
  • Manowar cover "An American Trilogy" on their 2002 album, Warriors of the World
  • Cowboy Johnson included 12 covers on his 2004 tribute, A Grain of Sand
  • Toni Jolene Clay covered 15 Newbury songs, 11 on her 2005 album, Amen For Old Friends
  • Jonmark Stone & Marie Rhines covered 10 songs on their 2005 album, When I Heard Newbury Sing
  • Kacey Jones covers 15 songs on her 2006 tribute album, Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newbury.
  • Ronny Cox sings 12 Newbury songs on his 2007 album, How I love them old songs...
  • Will Oldham covers "I Came to Hear the Music" on his 2007 album, Ask Forgiveness



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country US
1968 Harlequin Melodies RCA Victor
1969 Looks Like Rain Mercury
1971 'Frisco Mabel Joy 29 58 Elektra
1972 Sings His Own RCA Victor
1973 Heaven Help The Child 173 Elektra
Live at Montezuma Hall
1974 I Came to Hear the Music 209
1975 Lovers 172
1977 Rusty Tracks Hickory
1978 His Eye Is on the Sparrow
1979 The Sailor
1981 After All These Years Mercury
1988 In a New Age Airborne
1994 Nights When I Am Sane Winter Harvest
1996 Lulled by the Moonlight Mountain Retreat
1998 Live in England Roadhouse
1999 It Might as Well Be the Moon Mountain Retreat
2000 Stories from the Silver Moon Cafe
2002 A Long Road Home
Winter Winds
2003 Blue to This Day
2011 An American Trilogy Saint Cecilia Knows/Mountain Retreat


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US
1968 "Weeping Annaleah" Harlequin Melodies
"Got Down on Saturday (Sunday in the Rain)" Sings His Own
1969 "Queen"
"San Francisco Mabel Joy" Looks Like Rain
1970 "Sad Satin Rhyme" single only
1972 "An American Trilogy" 26 76 'Frisco Mabel Joy
"Remember the Good"
1973 "Heaven Help the Child" 103 Heaven Help the Child
"Sunshine" 53 87 50 41
1974 "If I Could Be" I Came to Hear the Music
"Baby's Not Home"
1975 "Lovers" Lovers
"Sail Away"
1977 "Hand Me Another of Those" 94 Rusty Tracks
"Makes Me Wonder If I Ever Said Goodbye"
1978 "Gone to Alabama" 94 His Eye Is on the Sparrow
"It Doesn't Matter Anymore"
1979 "Looking for the Sunshine" 82 Sailor
"Blue Sky Shinin'" 81
1980 "America the Beautiful" 82 single only
1981 "Country Boy Saturday Night" After All These Years
1988 "An American Trilogy" 93 In a New Age


  1. ^ a b c d Talevski, Nick. (2006). Knocking on Heaven's Door: Rock Obituaries. Omnibus Press. p. 462. ISBN 1846090911. 
  2. ^ Dansby, Andrew (January 10, 2002). "Mickey Newbury Dies: Songwriter penned hits for Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers and others". Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 643. ISBN 0-89820-188-8. 

See Also[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
John Hartford
AMA presidents Award
Succeeded by
Townes Van Zandt