Pre and post Elvis Imitators

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read so damned early in this year we’re stuck inside.  I tried looking forward into it and couldn’t see a thing I recognized.  Almost everything appears to be an imitation of something else and a lot of what’s being imitated came later than me paying it any mind.

However, this imitating thing has been going on a longish time.  Listening to the Late Marty Robbins talking about all the people he had to imitate before he ever got any popular songs of his own is a lesson in musical history.  Somewhere below you can actually hear him do it.

But for my generation the bulk of the imitating ended up being Elvis Presley stuff.  Steve Goodman explains it better than I could:

Even Johnny Cash imitated Elvis at a time when Johnny Cash was at the top of the charts:

But of course, imitation is the something-or-other of whatchallit, according to someone or other who’s frequently quoted.  And Elvis imitated Johnny Cash because turnabout is something-or-other.

A lot of you readers probably never even heard of Ferlin Husky, but back when Keith Kelt and I were kids listening to KENM radio in Portales, New Mexico, Ferlin was a big piece of the musical fare.  Along with Kitty Wells, Red Foley, Lefty Frizzell, Webb Pierce, Gentleman Jim Reeves, Ernest Tubb, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hank Snow and Hank Williams.

So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of Ferlin’s stunts was imitating most of them:

And for that matter, so did a much younger Merle Haggard:

Merle did it enough to draw the attention of the ones he imitated.  Here he is singing George Jones with George Jones and Johnny Cash with Johnny Cash:

I mentioned Gentleman Jim Reeves back around the time of Ferlin Husky but he got away from me.  Here he is a few years before anyone ever heard of Merle Haggard, but Johnny Cash was already on the charts:

Johnny Counterfit made a career of imitating them all and did a middling good job of it.  He could still do young Johnny Cash when Johnny Cash couldn’t do young Johnny Cash anymore.  [Afterthought:  Notice Chet Atkins sitting there in front of him while he’s playing.  Old Chet was one hell of a guitarist but he doesn’t appear to give Johnny Counterfit a particularly high approval rating.  Maybe Counterfit didn’t bow and scrape enough to suit him.]

I mentioned Marty Robbins earlier telling about how he used to have to imitate other singers before he got popular and eventually died.  It’s worth listening to him telling who he was imitating.  I’ll bet a lot of you never heard of Johnny Ray.

I’m including this non-imitation of Johnny Ray so’s you’ll have an appreciation for the tough job of work Marty Robbins had doing it.

Seems almost everyone these days is imitating something, judging from the way words such as ‘awesome’, ‘fail’, ‘epic’ and a hundred other good solid words have lost their meanings, been usurped by meanings from the mouths of television writers.

But I suppose it’s possible to do some imitating without being a fawning worshiper of fad or some mindless celebrity with a screenwriter feeding the memorable lines.

Wonder what ever became of Gentleman Jim Reeves.  I thought for a lot of years he was killed in the plane crash with Hawkshaw Hawkins and wossname, Patsy Cline.  But while I was looking all this up on YouTube I was reminded that was Cowboy Copas.  Still, I’m fairly certain Jim Reeves bit it around then, too.

Old Jules

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4 responses to “Pre and post Elvis Imitators

  1. Happy New Year!
    Thank you for an entertaining start to my afternoon. 😀 These impersonations aren’t that bad. 😀

  2. Great post, Jack. Very apropos of Elvis’s coming 80th. later on this week.

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