February 22

“Just Out of Reach (of my Two Open Arms)” was not Really for Solomon

“Just Out of Reach (of My Two Open Arms)” bears another title “Just Out of Reach (of My Two Empty Arms)”. This is a country song that Virgil “Pappy” Stewart penned. In 1953, Stewart and the Arkansas Cowgirls were the original ones who covered it. As a minor country hit for Faron Young in the same year, it reached the 10th spot on the country chart. In addition to those artists, Patsy Cline and Percy Sledge also made their own versions of the track. Among all its many recordings, Solomon Burke’s was the most successful. Released as his second single from Atlantic Records in 1961, it became Burke’s first hit single.

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When Burke worked with Atlantic Records, he was able to produce 32 singles most hitting the pop and R&B charts. Burke’s second single for the label was the country single, “Just Out of Reach (of My Two Open Arms)”. The track gave him his first track that reached spot number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #7 on the R&B charts. Moreover, the song also became Burke’s first million-seller.


How Burke Solomon Pulled it Through

Despite Burke’s uncertainties, with his smooth backing vocals and an arrangement—Nashville and Nat King Cole—he gave it his best. In an interview, Burke shared how much he liked country music. However, he did not think that it was intentional. He considered it as something they accidentally happened onto. Because of his versatility—singing different songs, changing tone quality, having different octaves, he pulled it through. He reiterated that he was capable of singing anything. To his recollection, the people were not satisfied with his rendition because he felt that he had to talk. They did it several times and he kept talking on the record.

According to Mr. Wexler, the song was not going to work. At that time, Mr. Paul Ackerman and the others told me to leave it in. They said in honesty that they did not know what they were doing and that they were trying something new. They wanted to see what was going to happen as in the history of country music, no black artist has ever covered a country song.

As Burke shared these, he admitted that it was the turning point of his career. After what had happened, he was international artist worldwide. Tony Cummings said that despite the use of a different arranger at each session, Burke Solomon triumphed all. His rich, vibrant, baritone voice brought the full majesty of the gospel tradition to a series of intense, moody ballads. Also, he laid down the solid groundwork of the soon-to-follow soul music explosion.


Burke Solomon, just out of reach, of my two open arms, Patsy Cline

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