That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 34: Essential Super Hits
In 2004, Blue Hat Records released their own version of the CDB’s Epic Records ‘Super Hits,’ but they one-upped the Sony company’s version by calling theirs ‘Essential Super Hits.’
Many of these I’ve already reviewed as they appeared on ‘Fiddle Fire’ or other Blue Hat collections, so – as I did with ‘A Decade of Hits’ – I’m only going to concentrate on the ones I haven’t covered previously.
So that being said, we’re jumping right in to cover the new tracks because there were quite a few of them.
‘Essential Super Hits’ goes through a full thirteen tracks of previously released Blue Hat Records masters, “The South’s Gonna Do It (Again),” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” “Long Haired Country Boy,” “Still in Saigon,” “Texas,” “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye,” “In America,” “Simple Man,” “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag,” “Southern Boy,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” “Free Bird” and “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues.”
Then with the 14th track, we get a newly recorded version of “Uneasy Rider.” Now dad’s arrangement evolved from the 1973 original over the years, with one of the first changes which was delivered when he started performing the song live and realized that he had miscounted when he said “the last thing I wanted was to get in a fight in Jackson Mississippi on a Saturday night ‘specially since there were three of them and only one of me.” He started doing the updated version live shortly after the single was released, but he also started playing around with a few other things like changing “peace signs” to “gun racks” and trying to stay a little more current by changing the name of the presidential bumper stickers and opposing candidates mentioned, and updated Mario Andretti to Dale Earnhardt over the years as well.
In this version, the original character isn’t “tokin’ on the number” he’s listening to conservative talk show host G. Gordon Liddy, which in the context of the song is a bit of a puzzling choice, but I think he was just having fun with it. He also changed a couple of other things like laying a five-dollar bill on the bar to pay for his beer and threw the mechanic a fifty-dollar bill to pay for changing a tire.
Then he really got silly with the changes by having the main character accuse “ol’ green teeth” of tearing Sean Hannity stickers off the bumpers of cars and voted for Alan Colmes for president.
Dad was good friends with both the conservative Sean Hannity, but also with the very liberal Alan Colmes and appeared on “Hannity & Colmes” many times, and dad also did both Alan and Sean’s radio shows many times.
All of the changes might not make sense in the context of the original story, but like I said, dad was just having fun with his very first hit song.
Next “Trudy” gets the cover treatment… again. Not counting live versions, this is the third studio recording of dad’s classic story of a young Cajun man who gets in over his head at a poker game in Dallas.
This one seems slightly slower, in fact, it’s about 10 seconds longer than the version from “Fire on the Mountain,” so I think that is the result of slower beat.
The arrangement is basically the same as the one on ‘FOTM’ but they include some new background vocals on the final chorus, something that was added to live performances while Tommy Crain was with the band. In this case, Bruce Brown kind of repeats dad’s lines until they get to “and they won’t let me out of this jail” then it becomes more traditional.
It’s a solid cover of a classic CDB song.
With “The Intimidator,” dad pays tribute to the one and only Dale Earnhardt who was nicknamed “the intimidator” because of his aggressive driving style.
Sadly, as NASCAR fans know, #3 lost his life in a crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001.
The song starts as a tribute to #3, but the last verse celebrates the next generation “intimidator” by saying “You almost got this sucker won, engine’s running great, but don’t look in your rear-view mirror, here comes #8,” which was Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s number when he first started racing.
Dad ad libs a couple of lines on the outro to the song, including “Stand on it, Son” which is a throwback to “Stroker’s Theme,” dad’s first racing song from the movie “Stroker Ace.”
The original release of ‘Essential Super Hits’ ends with “The Pledge of Allegiance,” but should be titled “Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance,” because dad is reciting words that Red Skelton spoke on his TV show back in 1969 about how one of his teachers was a little concerned that the reciting of the Pledge in class everyday had just become a monotonous routine, and decided to break it down by individual words and phrases in the Pledge.
It was a powerful reminder back then, and it holds up just as well in the present day.
School prayer was also a hot topic back in the late 60s and early 70s. Red states that since he heard this back when he was a child, two states were added to the United States and two words to the Pledge, “under God.” He goes on to add that “wouldn’t it be a pity if someone said “That’s a prayer” and that it would be eliminated from schools, too?
I consulted with Red’s widow about using some photographs of Red for a slideshow video, she graciously allowed me to, and we also included some links to purchase some of Red’s artwork, and it made for a very nice video.
That’s where the original release ended, however, in 2016, Blue Hat Released ‘Deluxe Essential Super Hits’ and added two more songs.
The first one was a song that was only available as a digital single for several years, “Let’ em Win, or Bring ‘em Home.”
It’s a tribute to those who are serving our nation, the ones that gave their lives for our freedom, and the Gold Star families who lost loved ones who fought and died for our country.
A music video was also released with a message that dad recorded when it was first played to a Gold Star families group.
Dad was very excited about this song, more excited than he had been about a project in quite some time when it came to fruition in 2011.
Dad also takes a shot at the despicable Westboro Baptist Church which protests the funerals of soldiers which then put dad in their crosshairs. They did a parody of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” called “The Devil’s Fiddler” which was one of the vilest things I’ve ever heard in my life.
The final new track on the ‘Deluxe Essential Super Hits’ collection was a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” which had been recorded for a while, but never added to an album until this one.
He had started doing this in his shows around the time that Blue Hat was between distributors, so it never found a home until this 2016 re-release.
Dad’s cover is a fitting tribute to the original, which… many people don’t’ know was taken from an old torch song called “Crescent City Blues,” written by Gordon Jenkins and sung by Beverly Mahr.
Cash sped up the tempo, and changed most of the lines, but curiously most of the verses start the same way, but it’s about a woman who feels stuck in her small home town and wants to see the world only to feel the train’s whistle torture her with it’s tempting howl.
It’s one of the best-known of Cash’s songs, and it has made a ton of money over the past 60 plus years, but he did get sued over the infringement. Surprisingly, it was settled for $74,000 in the early 1970s. Even though that was a lot of money back then, it still seems low considering how much he made from it, but the argument can certainly be made that Johnny made it his own.
The album was dedicated to the CDB's former head of security from the late 70s to the early 80s.
"Dedicated to Rick Rentz 1951-2004.
He served his country proudly. And no matter where, no matter what, he always had my back." - Charlie Daniels 2004
Rick was a Green Beret who co-founded a concert security company in Connecticut called A-Team Security, and this was way before Mr. T. had a TV show.
A-Team had a motto on their black T-shirts, "EXPECT NO MERCY." It was a friendly warning not to get out of line.
Here's what set A-Team apart from other event security companies, you had to have a year of armed combat to be qualified to work for them.
Because these guys had nothing to prove. They knew they were badasses, and they didn't have to prove it by trying to bully concertgoers or strut around looking for a fight.
If you got out of line, A-Team would detain you until the cops got there, but if you pulled a knife on them or started throwing punches... then their motto kicked in, "EXPECT NO MERCY."
The original 2004 release also included a DVD which had five CDB Blue Hat Records music videos, "Long Haired Country Boy," "Southern Boy," "Texas," "In America" and "The Last Fallen Hero."
Essential Super Hits is the most comprehensive CDB hits albums since ‘The Roots Remain’ boxed set in 1996, and highly recommended to any CDB fan who doesn’t own it.
I had intended to also review ‘Songs from the Longleaf Pines’ but there were more unreleased songs on this than I realized, so I’ll do that next time.
Check out 'Essential Super Hits' HERE
What do you think?
Let’s all make the day count!
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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