Today’s trivia question: which girl’s name lent itself to two completely different songs, one that topped the US R&B chart in 1957 and another that was a No. 1 country hit and in the UK, 20 years later? Her name was ‘Lucille,’ and after Little Richard‘s rock ‘n’ roll smash of the ’50s, Kenny Rogers picked a fine time to record his song of that name on 5 August 1976.
The country ‘Lucille’ was written by two accomplished composers in the genre, Roger Bowling and Hal Bynum, both of whom have many other notable credits to their name. Bowling’s include Billie Jo Spears’ country chart-topper and international hit of 1975, ‘Blanket On The Ground,’ and the later Rogers hit ‘Coward Of The County’; Bynum also wrote Jim Reeves’ posthumous 1970 country top tenner ‘Nobody’s Fool,’ Patty Loveless’ 1990 No. 1 in that format, ‘Chains,’ and many others.
At the time their ‘Lucille’ crossed his path, Rogers was in the early stages of reshaping a career that had waned after his great success with the First Edition in the late 1960s. He had had three country chart appearances in 1975 and ’76 including the top 20 entries ‘Love Lifted Me’ and ‘Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got?),’ the second a cover of Leon Ashley’s 1967 No. 1. But this traditionally-flavoured story song blew his solo career wide open.
On 5 August, 1976, Rogers went into American Studio in Nashville and recorded ‘Lucille’ in an afternoon, and it proved to be time very well spent. The following January, the song was released as the follow-up to that ‘Laura’ single, from his self-titled album of 1977. It entered the country charts at the end of that month, and by early April, it was starting a two-week run at the summit.
By then, it was breaking beyond its country boundaries, entering the Hot 100 in late March and climbing to No. 5; in late April, it began a UK run that took it to No. 1 there in mid-June, as ‘Lucille’ hit the top ten everywhere from Australia to Switzerland. Rogers was well on his way to becoming one of country’s new superstars.
‘Lucille’ is on Lucille: The Collection, which can be bought here.