Henson Cargill became an “overnight sensation” in 1968 and it was the perfect melding of a castaway song for a castaway artist. He was already established in Las Vegas when he had two trips to Nashville and attracted absolutely no interest. However, on the third trip of the Oklahoma native, he managed to set up a meeting with Columbia’s most-revered record producer Don Law, who had helmed sessions over many years for the majority of Columbia’s mostly all-star lineup artists such as Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Marty Robbins, and much more. Law wasn’t interested in any of Cargill’s original material though, but he did see potential in Cargill.
Law was doing some independent producing outside Columbia that time. He scheduled a session with Cargill even before a record deal had been signed. Just by luck, the night before the session, Henson ran into another native Oklahoman Tom Hartman, who had once worked as a disc jockey in Oklahoma City but was now pitching songs for Tree Publishing Company. Hartman played Cargill a song called “Skip A Rope,” which had already made the rounds in Nashville without catching a single taker. Cargill liked “Skip A Rope” and the next day he and Law recorded the song, although even then it seemed destined to fall by the wayside. Johnny Cash had taken a look at “Skip A Rope” mainly because one of the song’s co-writers Glenn Douglas Tubb (nephew of legendary country star Ernest Tubb) had written a hit for him some ten years earlier called “Home Of The Blues.” Cash personally liked “Skip A Rope” but he, like everyone else, was skeptical about its possible success. However, Johnny did agree to cut “Skip A Rope” if Cargill’s record failed. Due to Cash’s interest, and Don Law’s belief that Cargill’s record was going to do well, Law made an arrangement with Tree Publishing that gave him 90 days to secure a record deal for Henson before any other artist could record the song.
But once again, the Nashville establishment was hesitant to take a chance on “Skip A Rope,” which blamed such cultural problems as dishonesty and racism on parents. The one company willing to give it a shot was Fred Foster’s Monument Records, and it proved to be a very wise investment. Cargill signed with absolutely no advance, and within 90 days of the song’s release, “Skip A Rope” had sold more than 500,000 copies. It reached #1 on Billboard’s country singles chart on February 3, 1968, and stayed there for five consecutive weeks. The record also peaked at #25 on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart, a sensational showing for a Nashville-based production.
Cargill’s success as a hit-maker was short-lived, however. He achieved only two more Top 15 entries during the remainder of his career, and those occurred during the year or so after “Skip A Rope” peaked (due to the brief momentum he had built up because of that runaway hit), although he continued to land in the lower rungs of the chart through 1980. His last notable release was the #29 “Silence On The Line.” In his later years, Cargill returned to the Oklahoma City area, opening a nightclub called “Henson’s” which he operated in nearby Norman, Oklahoma. He died after complications from surgery on March 24, 2007, at the age of 66.
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