Classic Country On YouTube - The SleepyCreek Collection

by Derrick Bostrom


I only heard about RFD-TV Channel a couple months ago. My cable provider doesn't carry "Rural America's Most Important Network," and I'm almost tempted to switch to a satellite service to get it. But it's not the agricultural or equine content that intrigues me, it's the musical programming. Apparently, back in the late seventies, television producer Normal Lear bought a Nashville station and wanted to get rid of the station's huge library of regional programs from the 60s and 70s. This library included whole runs of classic shows by Porter Wagoner and the Wilburn Brothers. In stepped none other than Willie Nelson, who bought the whole lot of it. After languishing in safety for a few decades, the plums from this collection are finally creeping onto the air at RFD-TV.

Ever since I found out about all this, I've been haunting YouTube, keeping an eye out for anything from these programs. And recently, I found the motherlode. A user who calls himself "SleepyCreek" has been uploading steadily since last fall, contributing more than 300 from the Wagoner and Wilburn programs, as well as a healthy helping from the mid-60s Buck Owens Show. You'll find a staggering number of stars represented on SleepyCreek's "channel," including Porter's girl singer Dolly Parton and Teddy & Doyle's girl singer Loretta Lynn. Its amazing to see artists like Dave Dudley, Charlie Louvin and Bobby Bare in their prime, as well as my personal favorite, Jim Ed Brown. I had hoped to find more on Brown, especially since he actually hosted his own show, "Country Carnival," from 1968 to 1971. But though its a part of Willie's collection, this show does not appear currently on RFD-TV's schedule. Just the same, the two clips show Brown in fine form and in marked contrast to many of the other singers. Neither stiff, sheepish nor uncomfortable, Jim Ed smiles and mugs for the camera like a true pro.

Speaking of pros, George Jones is, perhaps not surprisingly, the standout here. Not merely "professional," not merely "comfortable" -- George is simply possessed. In what must have been a deliberate strategy, SleepyCreek presents three very different versions of "Walk Through This World With Me" from three different programs. George sports his classic flat-top haircut in the first version from the Porter Wagoner show. He plays it straight: the tempo is steady and sure; George is intense, but accessible. Next, we jump ahead to an episode of the Wilburn Brothers, where he appears with his new wife, Tammy Wynette  (their duet from the same show, ""Milwaukee Here I Come," is also in the collection) Here, the performance is more playful; the tempo is up, but George is relaxed and confident. But a year later in an appearance on "Hee Haw, the demons are on full display. The song is almost a dirge, and Jones' voice is a mournful wail. Whatever's going on behind his haunted glazed eyes, it's clear this is a man out of step from the scripted, folksy patter of his hosts. Taken together, these four clips reveal a lot about why George Jones is such a treasure.

Hopefully it won't be too long before Willie and RFD-TV make these shows available on DVD. The way things are going over at YouTube, these clips are bound to vanish before all that long. So fire up your favorite video grabber and follow the links below. Or contact your local satellite television provider.

NOTE: These videos are no longer available due to a copyright claim by Gaylord Entertainment Company.

Here's just a small sample from the SleepyCreek Collection:

D.C. And Company - "Let's Dance The Night Away"

by Derrick Bostrom


A few years ago, I tried my hand at writing CD reviews for web site devoted to local music. I suppose it seemed like a good idea to have a local celebrity pass out advice to a new generation of "alternative" artists. The problem was, I really had nothing to say to them. Perhaps all the years riding around in limos and sleeping on satin sheets dulled my ears to the "sound of the street," but the groups all sounded pretty bad to me. Either way, it wouldn't have been appropriate for me to make light of their earnest efforts (what if one of them found out where I live?), so I struggled to find encouraging and constructive things to say. But even my most diplomatic efforts were probably insulting.

Hopefully, I don't have to worry about "Let's Dance The Night Away" by D.C. And Company. Not only is it 30 years old, but it's such a tacky period piece that even the boys in the band could hardly begrudge me. (And -- oh yes -- they will find this article. Anyone who's ever appeared in the public eye for even a few minutes spends at least an hour a week Googling themselves to see if anyone noticed.)

Released in 1977, "Let's Dance The Night Away" has to be the most unfortunate disco miscalculation in my collection (and I've got a lot of 'em). The cover depicts four seriously caucasian dudes dressed up in what they've mistaken for disco threads (actually, they're Las Vegas Elvis suits), but they look like they'd be much more at home in a west-Phoenix steakhouse than in a dance club. From all indications, D.C. And Company were an average bar band struggling to find work at the height of the disco craze. So they nailed together a couple of lame grooves with titles like "Party" and "Bump To The Funk," and shoehorned them into their otherwise dance-floor-unfriendly repertoire.

Like most self-released "vanity" recordings of this type, the sound is cheap and thin. The terrible production makes the band sound anything but muscular, and in no way inviting of dancing for even a minute, let alone the whole night. Most of the songs here are interminably slow "confessional" ballads, with titles like "I Don't Want To Hurt You," "Who's To Blame" and "It Makes You Want To Cry." the songs seem to be attempting some sort of personal unburdening, but all they really do is make you want to grab the singer by the collar and yell, "dude, she's NOT going home with you!" And when they trot out their "disco" material...well, you just gotta hear for yourself. It's pretty funny.

I hate to seem unkind to these guys. I actually have a lot of respect for them. Their enthusiasm is infectious and they comport themselves with professionalism (in a west-Phoenix kind of way). If I were booking talent for a local event back in 1977, I absolutely would have called them (their manager's phone number is printed right there on the back cover). But now, the best I can do is create something for them to find during their next Google session.