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September 22

Listen to “Blanket On The Ground” by Billie Jo Spears

Listen to “Blanket On The Ground” by Billie Jo Spears 1
Photo Credits: The Guardians

Country singer Billie Jo Spears was born on 1938 in Beaumont, Texas. She got her first record deal after a performance at a local nightclub when talent scout, John Rhodes, and persuaded her to move to Nashville.  She initially signed with United Artist Records, who believed that they signed “a female George Jones” (George Jones was also recording for the same label during that time). Her name was Melba Montgomery, with whom Jones had logged a Top Five single in 1963 called, “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds.” George always considered Melba as the most compatible of all his duet partners, even though, they had just that one lone hit together.

After a short time with United Records, Spears looked for another label and she landed on Capitol Records, where she notched her first big hit, “Mr. Walker, It’s All Over.” Sadly, she wasn’t able to follow up the song with anything major. She stayed with Capitol Records for four years before she returned to United Artist to finally land “the big one.”

Billie Jo Spears was getting set to begin work on a new album in 1975. The day before her first session, producer Larry Butler was looking for a few more tunes. Roger Bowling was in Butler’s office, and had already played several songs when his manager, Paul Ritchey, suggested that he played “Blanket On The Ground.”  The song had made its way around Nashville for about three years, but producers invariably turned it down because of a line in the chorus about married people “slippin’ around.” Bowling expected the same reaction this time, but when he picked up a guitar and played the song, Butler immediately said, “We’ll take it.”

“Blanket On The Ground” was one of nineteen songs that Spears was instructed to learn inside and out, prior to the session, but it was the only one she didn’t bother to work on. She thought it was too controversial, and that Larry wouldn’t record it on her anyway. Instead, out of the nineteen, Butler decided that “Blanket On The Ground” would be first, and despite Billie Jo’s unfamiliarity with the tune, they nailed it on the second take.

As it turned out, the controversy never materialized. Actually, the line in question wasn’t about slipping around with an outside lover, but about marital partners slipping around with each other. Once they began to record it in the studio, Billie Jo came to realize that it wasn’t controversial at all. She thought, “Well, how great; what a clever idea.” Upon its debut on February 1, 1975, “Blanket On The Ground” began to slowly build momentum and reached the summit of Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart April 26, 1975. It was the beginning of a pretty successful career the second time around with the United Artists label.

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