Saturday, September 20, 2014

Country Club 54: Wake Up, Irene

If covers and their success is one indication of a song with a big impact, another deeper sign is an answer song that becomes a hit in its own right. Occasionally, an answer song equals and surpasses the original and, more rarely, stands on its own. Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life" was answered and outsold by Kitty Well's "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." both, by the way, based on the tune of Roy Acuff's 1936 "The Great Speckled Bird" and the Carter Family's 1929 "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes."

In the surprising country history of "Goodnight, Irene"  not only were there country hits" there was a successful answer song.

In 1953, Hank Thompson recorded this answer song to "Goodnight, Irene." It comments on the popularity of the song and, interestingly,  portrays Irene as a sort of honky tonk angel. It was a big hit. Just like the Ernest Tubb and Red Foley version of "Goodnight, Irene," it reached number 1 on the country charts. But it didn't become a country standard.



Here are the lyrics

For months and months and months around the country
Everybody sang Irene goodnight
But she wouldn’t go to bed no matter what they said though everybody tried with all their might.
She stayed awake while steel guitars were a going
In every honky-tonk she could be seen
but she finally went to bed and covered up her head and now there’s not a thing can wake Irene

Wakeup Irene you’ve sleep to long
Wakeup Irene it’s time to move along
Wakeup Irene and pay for your bed
Wakeup Irene or folks will think your dead

Lot’s of guitar pickers by the dozen Sang goodnight Irene all night and day
And even Crosby too with his bobobabobedo tried to get Irene to hit the hay
Well I guess they finally sang her off to slumber
They must have tried a million times or more
But oh my aching back when she finally hit the sack man you ought to hear that women snore

Wakeup Irene you’ve sleep to long
Wakeup Irene it’s time to move along
Wakeup Irene and pay for your bed
Wakeup Irene or folks will think your dead

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