Sing Me a Classic Song Sunday highlights two songs with similar themes (music videos and/or audio version below). Today’s comparison is Mama Tried by Merle Haggard and The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised by Johnny Paycheck. Both songs tell the lamentable story of grown men (or women) looking back on the bad choices they made in their younger lives despite the best guiding efforts of their mothers to raise them right and keep them on the ‘straight and narrow’. Both narrators have gotten sideways of the law and, while it seems what they are sorriest about is simply getting caught, there is a hint of guilt for the sadness and grief that their wayward ways caused their mothers. But the dirty deeds they’ve done in their lives can’t be undone, so Que Sera Sera.
Mama Tried was released in July 1968 as the first single and title track from Merle Haggard’s album, Mama Tried, and it became one of the cornerstone songs of his career.* The song entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Two weeks before Merle died in 2016, the song was preserved in the National Recording Registry due to it’s ‘cultural, historic, and/or artistic significance”*. While this song is not autobiographical, Merle did serve time in San Quentin, and he did lament the pain it caused his mother. Merle was among the “Outlaw Movement” artists of the 1970s. The song was his fifth Number 1 hit on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Single chart in August 1968.
The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised is one of Johnny Paycheck’s signature songs. He was also considered one of the members of the “Outlaw Movement” artists**. He received an Academy of County Music Career Achievement award in 1977**. The song was is on the album, Slide off of Your Satin Sheets and, as a single, it reached Number 8 on the U.S. Country charts in 1977****.
Until next time,
Writing through history one romance upon a time
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