Ernest Tubb Reissues

Ernest Tubb

Retrospective: Volume 1
MCA Special Products MCAD-20505
4.5 rating

Retrospective: Volume 2
MCA Special Products MCAD-20506
3.5 rating

Slippin’ Around
MCA Special Products
3 rating

Walking the Floor Over You
MCA Special Products
3 rating

Mr. Juke Box
MCA Special Products
2.5 rating

review by Art Menius

Ernest Tubb left an impressive enough recording legacy with 25 years passing between his first Top 10 entry and his last with a slew of classic, signature songs and some pop crossover, including “Blue Christmas,” in the run. Yet his stature transcended that of recording star, one of the few familiar to those uninterested in country music, or even as the first big star of the honky-tonk style which revolutionized country music. Ernest Tubb became emblematic of country music during a particular time when the World War II led to an expansion of popular music tastes, when jukeboxes ruled, and the Grand Ole Opry enjoyed its greatest popularity as a network radio program. Secondly, Tubb, as singer of “Soldier’s Last Letter,” “Rainbow at Midnight,” and “Filipino Baby” and recording partner of the Andrews Sisters, became associated in the popular mind with the World War II and post-war nostalgia.

Despite 18 years of physical decline before his 1984 death, Tubb enjoyed a kind of enduring stardom seemingly impossible in today’s ephemeral entertainment climate. Little wonder then that at least 20 Tubb titles remain in print on CD or cassette. They range from straight reissues like Stetson’s Blue Christmas to repackagings of inferior latter-day tracks to lavish Bear Family boxed sets. MCA, which gobbled up the Decca label for which Tubb recorded from 1936 until 1975 toward the end of his tenure, has made much of his classic material available on budget CD’s and cassettes through MCA Special Products.

The CD Retrospective: Volume 1 happily favors the original recordings of most of these hits. You will have to turn to Rounder’s Honky-Tonk Classics for the first version of his first hit “Blue Eyed Elaine.” The CD proves heavy on Tubb’s 1940s work. “Walking the Floor Over You” provided his breakthrough, quickly selling 400,000 copies in 1941. “Soldier’s Last Letter ” (1944, #1), “It’s Been So Long Darling” (1945, #1), “Rainbow At Midnight” (1946, #1), and “Filipino Baby” (1946, #3) permanently established him as a giant of World War II songs. “Let’s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello,” a 1948 Top 5, is absolutely perfect early honky-tonk. “Blue Christmas” carried ET to the pop Top 25 on his own in 1949. “Unfaithful Love” and “Give Me A Little Old-Fashioned Love” are less memorable Top 10 country entries from 1950.

The less successful Retrospective: Volume 2 adds Tubb’s two finest records of the 1960’s: “Thanks A Lot” and “Waltz Across Texas” (1964), which stand comparison to any of his 1940’s classics. It includes charting collaborations with Red Foley (“Too Old To Cut The Mustard” 1951) and Loretta Lynn (“Mr. & Mrs. Used to Be” 1964) and an assortment of minor 1950s and 1960s hits. It inexplicably repeats “Walking the Floor.”

The budget cassettes each augment these sets with one or two vital tracks scattered across each of the three. Walking The Floor Over You contributes the delightful “There’s A Little Bit of Everything in Texas” and “I’ll Get Along Somehow.” Slippin’ Around presents the stunning 1949 title track which hit #1 country and crossed over to pop Top 20 and a #1 1950 cover with Foley of the Weaver’s “Good Night Irene.” Only the title cut and the absence of repeats from the other releases distinguishes Mr. Juke Box.

That’s a shame, because the five collections omit some of Tubb’s greatest moments, such as “Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin” and “Have You Ever Been Lonely.” These historical collections remain devoid of any liner note information. Those things aside, Retrospective Volume 1 provides a solid introduction to a giant of country music at a lovely price.