Leon Walton was a country music artist, known professionally as Leon Ashley. He has a small place in country music history as the first artist to write, record, release, distribute, and publish his own material. His record, “Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got),” is a big part of Ashley’s legacy, becoming a country standard of the ’60s and ’70s. The song was recorded by a variety of artists, including Marty Robbins and Kenny Rogers. In fact, Ashley had more inspiration as a songwriter, not a performer. Nevertheless, he had a humbly successful performing career as a country-pop singer throughout the ’60s and ’70s. As we celebrate his birthday, let us remember his outstanding contributions to country music.
Leon Ashley’s Life
Ashley began performing when he was nine, on a Covington, Georgia, radio station. He had his own show when he was eleven. In 1960, he recorded his first single, “He’ll Never Go”. Unfortunately, it did not gain much attention. He signed with another label and released a new song, “Teen Age Angel”, the following year. Again, it resulted in lack of attention. In 1966, Leon Ashley was paired with Margie Singleton to record “How Can We Divide These Little Hearts”. The following year, the duo married and continued working together for the rest of their marriage. The year 1967 was momentous for Ashley having founded his own record label, Ashley. Surprisingly, Ashley’s self-operated record label was more fruitful for his career than the previous record labels he worked for. “Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got),” the third release on Ashley, rocketed to number one on the country charts.
“Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got)”, A Significant Success
Leon Ashley co-wrote “Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got)” with his wife, Margie Singleton. Recorded in 1967 and released on his own Ashley Records label, the song was his only hit single on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart by the end of September.
The song is told from the perspective of Laura’s husband and portrays a confrontation the two are having on a seemingly dying marriage. Each chorus calls Laura out, saying he is aware that she is having an affair with another man. The husband wants to know what the other lover has lamented the fact that it must be something he was born without.
Oh, yes tell me what he’s got that I can’t give you
Well, it must be something I was born without
And if there’s time before I pull this trigger
Then tell me what he’s got that I ain’t got.
Sadly, Ashley died in Hendersonville, Tennessee on October 20, 2013, after a lengthy illness.
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