Carl Belew (1931-1990) was one of Nashville's great also-rans, a singer who had great success as a songwriter, penning several big hits, including a few (such as "Stop The World And Let Me Off" and "Am I That Easy to Forget") that crossed over into mainstream pop in the late 1950s and early '60s. As a performer, Belew is less well-remembered, although he has his fans (including me!) and certainly had a distinctive style. He was a soft-spirited honkytonker, a rough-edged crooner whose specialty was mournful, mopey weepers, songs that more often than not had the word "lonely" in the title. At various phases in his career he brought to mind other, more successful singers, ranging from Carl Smith and Ray Price on one end, and more dramatic singers such as Marty Robbins and Roy Orbison on the other... Here's a quick look at his career.




Best-Ofs & CDs

Carl Belew "20 Greatest Hits" (K-Tel, 1976)


Carl Belew "Hits Plus Ones I've Written" (Koch, 2005)


Carl Belew "Am I That Easy to Forget?" (Gusto, 2007)




LP Discography

Carl Belew "Carl Belew" (Decca, 1960) (LP)


Carl Belew "Hello Out There" (RCA, 1964) (LP)
The title track was his biggest hit (#8 on the Country charts), but like many of the tracks on here, it has an odd, Roy Orbison-esque rock ballad feel to it. There are also some upbeat numbers, but they also have a crossover feel to them, with electrified, backbeat-heavy tunes like "Odd Man Out" and "Big City Girls" that have a trucker-tune feel to them. Belew's hillbilly side was clearly being subsumed to a poppier production style, courtesy of the label. Still, I find him pretty appealing; it's funny Belew didn't do better commercially.


Carl Belew "Am I That Easy To Forget" (RCA, 1965) (LP)


Carl Belew "Twelve Shades Of Belew" (RCA, 1968) (LP)
A more solid set, with Belew sounding more comfortable in the studio, and less all over the map stylistically. He's settled into a suave crooner ode, and it suits him well. Recommended!


Carl Belew & Betty Jean Robinson "When My Baby Sings His Song" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
A duets album with newcomer Betty Jean Robinson who, unless I'm mistaken, went on to become a major force on the Southern Gospel music scene... I haven't heard this one, but I am very curious!


Carl Belew "Greatest Hits" (Plantation, 1975) (LP)
I haven't heard this one, but I'm guessing, from having heard similar Plantation releases from this era, that these are re-recordings of his old hits.




Cheapie LPs

Carl Belew "Carl Belew" (Avon, 1962) (LP)
Belew was the subject of a great number of cheapie LPs that gathered his odds'n'ends, and these often include some very fine material. I've set them aside from his "regular" albums because the release dates are misleading -- these albums often contain much older material.


Carl Belew "Another Lonely Night" (Pickwick, 1965) (LP)
This disc gathers together ten of his earlier singles, and is notable for its variety of styles, with some twangy, nasal (and even drastically out of tune) hillbilly material, including several songs with a prominent fiddle (an instrument he later eschewed, in favor of a sleeker, smoother sound...) and a couple of rockabilly ripoffs, like the delightful "Folding Money." Belew's career was typical of many early country performers -- after working on the road for years and pulling an apprenticeship on radio and TV, he moved up to a spot on the Louisiana Hayride, and finally joined the Opry. His best work is spread out over several labels, which may account for why many of his older songs still haven't made it onto CD. Anyway, this is a pretty fun record... worth searching around for!


Carl Belew "Carl Belew" (Allegro, 1966) (LP)


Carl Belew "Country Songs" (Decca-Vocalion, 1966) (LP)


Carl Belew "Lonely Street" (Decca-Vocalion, 1967) (LP)


Carl Belew "Singing My Song" (Buckboard) (LP)


Carl Belew "Big Time Gambling Man" (Piccadilly, 1981) (LP)




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