Harlan Howard became widely known as the Dean of Nashville Songwriters during his time. He bravely introduced a song with a risqué subject matter in the conservative era in the 1960’s. Record executives refused to record “She Called Me Baby” thinking it was too over the top for the 60’s market due to its “too intense” theme. You might as well like sing along as we take a look at some of the song’s lyrics.
She called me baby baby all night long used to hold and kiss me till the dawn
And one day I awoke and she was gone there’s no more baby baby all night long
She called me baby baby all night long kissed my tears away when things went wrong
What I’d give if she’d just come back home and call me baby baby all night long
Hmm… Were the critics right when they said the song’s subject was “dirty?” Well anyway…
Howard then recorded the song for his album Harlan Howard Sings Harlan Howard and became a breakout hit in Texas. He spent two weeks promoting the album. And after that, he refused to do further promotions. He wanted to concentrate on his primary musical focus which is songwriting.
According to Howard, “She Called Me Baby” is a prime example of how musical tastes and acceptance dramatically change decade after decade. His song was considered “dirty” in the early 60s, but 10 years later, there goes Kris Kristofferson writing songs (“For the Good Times” and “Help Me Make it Through the Night”) with more intimate subjects. And guess what, America met the songs with no resistance at all.
Aside from Howard’s recording, Carl Smith released his own version in 1965, and Dick Charles in 1972, but both failed to hit a status by a country mile and made absolutely no impact at all. The song had to wait for over thirteen years for it to be recognized by a nationwide audience when Charlie Rich’s cover version reached number one on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles in December 1974.
On the other hand, Patsy Cline also recorded the song at her very last session on February 7, 1963, a few weeks before her death. He Called Me Baby” came with lyrical adjustment for the gender change. In 1971, the soul singer Candi Station’s version made it to the top 10 of the Billboard rhythm and blues chart.
To honor the original singer and songwriter, here’s Harland Howard with his so-called “dirty” song, “She Called Me Baby.”