Country Gene Pitney?

It is with such great sorrow and a heavy heart I report that Gene Pitney unexpectedly passed away on April 5, 2006. He had just two weeks left on his United Kingdom Tour. He told me the night before he passed away that his performance that night was one of his best. His reviews say the same!

Gene has been a wonderful friend to me over the years. The interview you're about to read, we did in February of 2006, right before Gene headed off to do his 2006 UK tour. In fact he was still doing some UK press for his tour when he took time out to do this interview with me. That is the kind of man he was. Sadly, he never got to read the final article.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Lynne, his wife of 37 years and their sons, Todd, Chris, and David. Gene loved what he did and the best way to honor his memory it to not forget the wonderful music he gave the world. His legacy will live on. Gene, you are loved and missed tremendously!

His untimely and unexpected death put the publication of this interview on hold.... until now.

An Interview and review

Gene Pitney is a unique talent. He is most noted as a pop/rock sensation but many would also confess he was their "teen idol" too! He's an international super star and a Hall of Fame inductee. He's a writer of songs for such artists as Bobby Vee, Ricky Nelson and the Crystals in a career that has spanned for more than 40 years. His song's reflect love or lack thereof. Vocally, he is in a class all his own.

So you're wondering why he's featured in Vigilantes Country, a newsletter geared at traditional country music? Gene Pitney also sang some fine country music that perhaps is not as well known as his pop status was.

Pitney's success as a country artist was genuine and quite possibly could have revivaled his pop career if allowed too. Over the years we, ourselves, have successfully incorporated some of his country tunes in the performances of a Vigilantes show.

Gene was on the Musicor label, in fact, it could be stated Gene WAS "Musicor" for he was with them from the beginning. Musicor, at one point, also included many country artists among them were George Jones and Melba Montgomery. Both country artists who each have had a little success of their own in the country music field, said fully with tongue in cheek. It is with each of them that Pitney recorded a country duet album, not to mention a solo or two effort of his own.

The country pairing of Jones and Pitney have been re-released as "George Jones and Gene Pitney - the complete 60's duets - with the Jordanaires" on the Varese Vintage/King label. It features 17 tracks of the 1965 recordings George and Gene recorded which were produced by Pappy Daily for the Musicor label. Pappy, you may remember was a very successful figure on the country music scene. He was a A&R man where he would match up the song with the artist and then supervise the recording session, he was a producer too. Some of his more notable singers were George Jones, Jimmie Dean, Roger Miller and Hank Locklin.

The re-released Jones/Pitney album contains such tracks as the old Faron Young hit "I've Got Five Dollars And Its Saturday Night", the Jimmy Wakely release of "One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)" a song co-written by Eddie Dean. Other tracks include..."Don't Rob Another Man's Castle" and "SomeDay You'll Want Me To Want You" songs Eddy Arnold had hits with, then there is also a couple of songs George Jones himself co-wrote... "Why Baby Why" (Webb Pierce had success with this one) and "That's All It Took" plus 11 other tracks. Definitely an album to add to your collection.
We recently asked Gene a few questions about his country music career and he graciously put his thoughts to our questions.

Vigilante Country: Here you were this pop/rock sensation and you're asked to do "country", what was your first impression and who headed up the decision to team up Gene Pitney and George Jones as a "country duet"?

Gene Pitney: The president of my record company had a lot of C&W artists on the Musicor Label. He asked me one day if I thought I could sing country. That's all I needed for a motivation. Could I? Of course! I wanted to try it but I have to admit it was daunting when I first met George Jones. He had that lovely low baritone voice which is great to harmonize to but I was more worried about his accent which is very unique. I knew I was in his backyard and had to sing his way and I wasn't sure I could do it. When we got to the studio it was like I was country all my life!

Vigilantes C.: How did it effect, if any, your pop career?

Gene P.: I don't think being successful in C&W at that time was good for my pop career. There was no crossover at that time and when you made a successful move to another area people thought you were going there for good!

Vigilantes C.: You not only recorded with George Jones but Melba Montgomery as well...two very "country" sounding vocals. Who of the two would you say was easier to sing with, vocally speaking that is?

Gene P.: George Jones was the more positive voice to harmonize to. He knew exactly how he was going to approach a song and once you knew his phrasing it was pretty easy.

Vigilantes C.: Did you just show up in the studio together or was this one of those he/she did their part, you came in to do yours later? The Jordanaires did a lot of the background vocals as well, did they not?

Gene P.: We spent a lot of time rehearsing at the hotel before ever going in to the studio. For all the stories about George and his wayward ways he is a very disciplined man when it comes to recording. The Jordanaires are the best. Gentlemen as well.

Vigilantes C.: How many country albums in total did you record?

Gene P.: I did two LPs with George, one with Melba, and one on my own.

Vigilantes C.: Would this be an area of music you might ever consider revisiting again? And yes that is a hint! <smile>

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