At the dawn of the 1980s, many in country music hailed the genre as the “adult contemporary sound of the ‘80s”. Kenny Rogers, Barbara Mandrell, Mickey Gilley, Anne Murray, among others, had given the music a glossy pop sheen. Some went so far as to predict the demise of traditional country music.
However, they hadn’t counted on a young man named Ricky Skaggs.
He was the trailblazer of the “neotraditional” movement in country music. This sub-genre of country music became extremely popular several years down the road in the late 1980s.
Ricky Skaggs’ Success
Ricky Skaggs’ success started early in the decade. A native of Cordell, Kentucky, Skaggs grew up heavily attracted to the mournful sound of pure mountain harmonies. He made his first record “A Tribute To The Stanley Brothers” as a sixteen-year-old contributor to Ralph Stanley’s band The Clinch Mountain Boys. And, after a procession of jobs in several other bluegrass bands, he wound up in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band in 1977. He received critical acclaim for his contributions to Emmylou’s 1980 bluegrass album “Roses In The Snow”. Armed with that credit, as well as tracks from his unfinished “Don’t Cheat In Our Hometown” album, he secured a deal from Epic Records.
The label signed Skaggs somewhat hesitantly. His traditional bent would no doubt limit EpicRecords’ ability to market the first album successfully. One label executive even placed a bet that Ricky couldn’t sell 50,000 units within a year of release. But to everyone’s surprise, the first Epic single, a cover of Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs’ “Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’,” went to No. 16 on Billboard’s country chart. The follow-up “You May See Me Walkin’” reached No. 9.
The Song Crying My Hear Over You
For the third single, Skaggs turned again to the Flatt & Scruggs catalog. He covered “Crying My Heart Out Over You,” which reached the summit for them at No. 21 in 1960. In an interview, Ricky Skaggs’ said:
“I always loved that song and had done it a few times in some bluegrass bands. I thought it came out good when we did it in the studio, but even I never really realized that people would love it that much.”
“Crying My Heart Out Over You” reached the summit of Billboard’s country singles chart on April 24, 1982, providing Skaggs with the first of his eleven No. 1 hits.
Skaggs added a few extra chords in his version of the song. In addition, the pianist on the session, Buck White, suggested they slow it down. When “Crying My Heart Out Over You” was placed on Ricky’s first Epic album “Waitin’ For The Sun To Shine,” it was mistakenly credited to songwriter Marijohn Wilkin. Actually, the song had been written by Carl Butler along with Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs. The mix-up occurred when Wilkin purchased the copyright as a publisher, along with several other titles from a friend who needed some money. She hardly realized she owned it. Wilkin did write such classics as Stonewall Jackson’s “Waterloo,” Lefty Frizzell’s “The Long Black Veil”. Also, and perhaps most famously “One Day At A Time,” a significant pop hit for Marilyn Sellars in 1974, and an even bigger country hit in 1980 for Christy Lane. It is considered one of the most acclaimed gospel songs of the modern era.