The idea of a song being covered by both Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley may not be too surprising. But for that same composition to be interpreted by Olivia Newton-John, Petula Clark, UB40 and several giant names in country music is rather more incongruous.
“Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” is instantly associated with Willie Nelson, from the version on his landmark 1975 breakthrough Red Headed Stranger. But the song came from the pen of country writer Fred Rose, the regular producer of Hank Williams. Indeed, Hank performed the song himself live in 1951, for the Mother’s Best Flour radio show, but even that was four years after the first versions of it.
A late 40s favorite
In 1947, “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” was cut by country favourite Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys, by western swing family outfit the Sleepy Hollow Ranch Gang and by another country artist, Elton Britt and his group the Skytoppers. Another country singer and B-movie western actor, Salty Holmes, recorded it with his Brown County Boys in 1949, before a spate of versions in the second half of the 1950s.
These included renditions by the Sons of the Pioneers and Ferlin Husky, and then, on August 6, 1959, Gene Vincent recorded his take on the song for his Crazy Times! album, released in March 1960. Further versions accrued, by the likes of Hank Locklin and Conway Twitty, before Nelson redefined the song.
Newton-John had it on her 1976 album Come On Over and Clark released hers in 1982; Elvis often favoured the number in concert, and it appeared on his 1976 live release From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee. Nelson revisited the song with Vince Gill for the album Stars & Guitars in 2002. The UB40 version was on 2013’s Getting Over The Storm and there was a 2017 reading by Shovels & Rope featuring John Moreland. Here’s Gene Vincent’s under-valued reading of an enduring country gem.
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