10 Best ’60s Songs
The 1960s were filled with milestone moments for country music — from the first CMA Awards show in 1967, to the launch of country music’s hit television show ‘Hee -Haw’ in 1969 to the early ‘60s tragedies that claimed the lives of Pasty Cline and Jim Reeves. Taste of Country salutes the best '60s songs with a list that includes the decade’s new stars, like Jack Greene and the Statler Brothers, as well as singers that were on the rise to the next level of their career, like Buck Owens and Johnny Cash.
‘There Goes My Everything’
Jack Greene was the first man to ever win the CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year award, at the inaugural ceremony in 1967. Since his first No. 1 hit ‘There Goes My Everything,’ Greene has become a permanent fixture on the Grand Ole Opry roster on just about every Saturday night. In 2010, at 81, he released a new album of duets titled ‘Precious Memories, Treasured Friends.’ 'There Goes My everything' is a country classic that is still performed by cover bands today, and it's a perfect start to our list of the best ‘60s songs.
‘He’ll Have to Go’
A perfectionist in the studio, Jim Reeves was known as somewhat of a control freak behind the scenes — but the result was a top-notch product. In December of 1959, the country crooner purposely leaned in close to the studio microphone to give a soft ‘velvety’ touch to a song that would become a timeless classic, ‘He’ll Have To Go.’ Listed as the first No. 1 song of the '60s, the tune stayed at the top for 14 weeks. Reeves died in a plane crash five years later at the age of 40.
‘Stand by Your Man’
In 1968, Tammy Wynette recorded ‘Stand By Your Man’ and found herself in a swirl of controversy with women angered at a song that ‘set-back’ the women’s liberation movement. As she often stated in interviews, Wynette says that she wrote the song with Billy Sherrill in just a few minutes, but she spent a lifetime defending it. The tune hit No. 1 the same year she was crowned the CMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year. Wynette died in 1998 at the age of 55.
‘Walk On By’
Billboard ranks ‘Walk On By’ at No. 1 on their list of the biggest chart hits of the '60s, based on record sales and radio airplay. Leroy Van Dyke, also known as ‘The Auctioneer,’ strolled to No. 1 in 1961 and stayed put for an impressive 19 weeks, longer than any other single of the decade. In 2011, at the age of 82, Van Dyke and his wife operate Country Gold Tours, booking and producing fellow legends in concert. ‘Walk On By’ is still performed by tribute acts and classic country cover albums, making it one of the best ‘60s songs.
Six years before he would stand in the corn field on TV’s 'Hee Haw,' Buck Owens topped the charts in 1963 with ‘Act Naturally.’ Co-written by Grand Ole Opry star Johnny Russell, the song became Owen’s first No. 1, thought he debuted on the Billboard charts in 1959 with ‘Second Fiddle’ and ‘Under Your Spell Again.’ Owens continued to record and play his red, white and blue guitar at his own Crystal Palace night club right up until his death in 2006 at the age of 76.
Bill Anderson is known as one of the greatest country songwriters and personalities in the history of country music. From writing Ray Price’s 1958 hit ‘City Lights’ to penning George Strait’s CMA winning hit ‘Give It Away’ in 2007, his music and message appeals to all generations. In 1963, “Whispering Bill” scored his second No. 1 hit and his signature song with ‘Still.’ The seven week chart-topper, inspired by an ex-girlfriend, lands at No. 5 on our list of the best ‘60s songs. At 74, Bill Anderson is still a favorite at the Grand Ole Opry just about every weekend.
‘Ring of Fire’
As revealed in the hit film ‘Walk the Line,’ June Carter Cash wrote this song with the help of Merle Kilgore to confess her love for Johnny Cash. Cash envisioned the song starting with trumpets, a rare sound on a country record in the '60s. The unforgettable introduction hooked fans on this 1963 smash hit that stayed at No. 1 for seven weeks. The popular 45 record would eventually land in the Grammy Song Hall of Fame. Johnny Cash died in 2003 at the age of 71, five months after June Carter Cash died at the age of 73.
‘Flowers on the Wall’
The Statler Brothers, discovered by Johnny Cash in 1963, got the chance to record music on Cash’s label, Columbia Records, after the “Man in Black” strongly recommended that they get a shot at making music. The first release, ‘Flowers on the Wall' (penned by member Lew DeWitt), gave the Statler Brothers a crossover hit that earned them a Grammy Award in the all-genre category for Best Contemporary Performance of the Year. The infectious tune’s month-long stay at No. 2 in 1965, combined with its enormous crossover success and the amazing career that it launched for the Statler Brothers, makes this song eligible to be considered one of the best ‘60s songs.
'Crazy' is one of the most recognized songs in the American country music songbook, and yet it did not reach No. 1 on the charts! In 1961, two years before her untimely death, Patsy Cline recorded the song. The song, — penned by Willie Nelson, an upcoming songwriter at the time — also featured Floyd Cramer on piano, the Jordanaires on background and production by legendary producer Owen Bradley. Recorded when Patsy Cline was using crutches while recovering from an auto accident, the tune peaked at No. 2 for two weeks. Although it did not reach the top, the song would take on a life of its own as one of the most covered songs in any genre of music.
‘King of the Road’
‘King of the Road’ is one of the easiest singalong songs of all time, making it No. 1 on our list of the best ‘60s songs. Roger Miller wrote this Grammy-winning single and Song of the Year smash that landed at No. 1 for five weeks in 1965. The finger-snapping classic was a favorite on television variety shows, on which Miller frequented as a guest in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Eventually, Miller would surprise the country music industry by writing a Broadway play,' Big River,' in 1985. The play would earn seven Tony Awards. Sadly, Miller’s career was cut short when he died in 1992 at the age of 56. However, this timeless classic that ranks at the top of our list of the 10 Best '60s Songs, and it will never die.