Friday, 16 May 2014

Mommy & Daddy

Today’s selection comes from a batch of 45s which recently came my way via my good friend The Squire, whose wonderful podcast The Squire Presents (, is essential listening for anyone interested in obscure, obtuse and downright bonkers music. A couple of days ago he was kind enough to send me a load of singles, several of which I will feature over the coming weeks. The first is this piece of dross, issued in 1974 by Epic Records: Tina & Mommy with No Charge, backed with The Telephone Call by Tina & Daddy.

The A-side is a cover version of the awful, maudlin piece of schlock that was originally recorded by Melba Montgomery, but is probably best known here in the UK for providing J J Barrie with a Number One in 1976. The flip is an original song, co-written by producer Billy Sherrill – who also co-wrote Tammy’s huge hit Stand By Your Man. Both songs and performances are horrible.

No Charge is a terrible song: in its original version a young boy hands his mother an itemised list of charges he claims he's owed for performing his chores and the mother responds by reminding him about all the things she's done for him that she has never asked him to pay for, and that "the cost of real love is no charge." The twist here is that the child is a girl: otherwise it’s pretty much the same sappy, stomach-churning pap. The B-side, however, is something else – an attempt at humour which is about as funny as suppurating herpes:

Tina, let me talk to your mommy
 I can't right now Daddy, she's under the dryer
 Well, just tell her that the flame of love's still burning
 Mommy, Daddy just said he just caught on fire
 Tina, just say I'll be home early
 I better not Daddy, she's too upset about the fire!
 No, the flames of love don't mean there's something burning
 Mommy, I think Daddy just called you a liar!

Vile! Talky Tina is no singer, although Mommy and Daddy sound accomplished and rather familiar. And so they should, for Mommy is no less than First Lady of Country Tammy Wynette and Daddy is her second husband, the legendary country alcoholic George ‘No Show’ Jones, who I’ve featured on this blog before with the hideously racist The Poor Chinee.

Both sides of this 45 would appear on the couple’s 1975 album George & Tammy & Tina. The "Tina" is Tina Byrd, Tammy’s eight-year-old daughter, who George adopted along with her sisters Gwen and Jackie shortly after the birth of his and Tammy’s own daughter Tamala Georgette. Neither the single nor the accompanying album charted in the UK, although TheTelephone Call made Number 25 on the US Country charts.

George and Tammy had what can only be describes as a tempestuous relationship. He drank heavily, played with guns (shooting up their home, according to Wynette) and more than likely physically abused her (it’s been claimed that all five of Tammy’s husbands knocked her about, although Jones reputed this). She, with a history of real and imagined health issues, took so many prescription drugs – becoming addicted to pain killers - that she must have rattled worse than Elvis. That legacy lives on - the Wynette children have been involved in a long legal battle over their inheritance since Tammy passed away in 1998: first with their step-father (and Tammy's fifth husband) the singer-songwriter George Richey and, since his death in 2010 with his widow Sheila Slaughter.

Tina had had a pretty rough ride herself: born prematurely, she spent the first three months of her life in an incubator. Shortly after she left hospital for the family home Tina was diagnosed with spinal meningitis and spent 17 days in an isolation unit. She eventually spent seven weeks in the hospital before beating the disease. It’s little less than a miracle she was able to sing for us at all.

Tina, although feted by sister Georgette as ‘the one with the voice’, decided not to continue with her recording career. ‘Tina and I travelled with Mom as harmony singers,’ Georgette wrote in her book The Three of Us: Growing Up With Tammy & George. ‘Tina was a wonderful singer, by the way. It always surprised me that she didn't go on to have a career in music, because she certainly had the talent.’ Whilst I appreciate her loyalty to her sibling, I think that anyone who hears this particular record will have cause to disagree.


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