Jimmy Wakely (1914-1982) was one of the great "singing cowboy" movie stars of the 1940s and '50s, and one of the style's most successful crossover artists. Wakely's duets with big band/pop vocalist Margaret Whiting gained him several mainstream pop hits, notably their chart-topping cover of Floyd Tillman's honkytonk classic, "Slippin' Around." He appeared in several cowboy films, generally in supporting roles behind screen icons such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, and followed them into the Country charts and other media. Wakeley is particularly notable as a savvy businessman -- he started his own publishing companies and record label, recording and licensing his own material, as well as producing albums for other veterans of the western music such as Eddie Dean and Tex Williams who, like Wakely, had largely been left behind as popular tastes in country music changed in the 1960s and '70s. Here's a quick look at Wakely and his legacy...
Jimmy Wakely "Vintage Collections" (Capitol Vintage, 1996)
Wakely was a "western" singer, or singing cowboy, who also starred in the early "oaters," although in the mid-1940s his career shifted into more or less straight pop singing (much of which is collected on this disc). After his heyday in the 1940s, he recorded for a bunch of labels, including his own Shasta Records, though this disc makes a pretty good case for his Capitol years. A lot of croony pop stuff, high-class schmaltz, with the shadow of Bing Crosby in the background, but also some surprisingly solid borderline honkytonk. Of all the Capitol Vintage discs, this is the one that's most unique, and the one which is least likely to be reissued in any future version. So what are you waiting for? Go find this now! It's cool.
Jimmy Wakely "The Very Best Of Jimmy Wakely" (Varese Sarabande, 2000)
Jimmy Wakely "The Jimmy Wakely Christmas Collection" (Varese Sarabande, 2000)
This holiday offering includes tracks taken from two albums, 1958's Merry Christmas From Jimmy Wakely and An Old-Fashioned Christmas, from 1977. (For more country Christmas music, check out my Hillbilly Holiday section)
Jimmy Wakely "The Singing Cowboy" (Varese Sarabande, 2002)
Wakely started his own independent Shasta label while riding on the wave of his nationwide 1950s TV show fame, mostly releasing material culled from that long-running show, or western-themed albums that caught his fancy. This is one of several Varese discs reissuing that material for a new generation... Here, Wakely is caught firmly in the grip of Bing Crosby's crooner style, so much so that it might be heard to tell that it isn't actually Der Bingle singing on these tunes. The arrangements are also kinda odd, lush, sometimes syrupy refashionings of cowboys standards, often with a churchy organ setting the tone for Wakely's soft crooning. Overall, folks might find this slow going, but it's certainly a different take on this material.
Jimmy Wakely "Rocky Mountain Lullaby" (BACM, 2005)
Jimmy Wakely "Red River Rose" (BACM, 2005)
Jimmy Wakely "Cowboy's Heaven" (BACM, 2005)
Jimmy Wakely "A Rainbow At Midnight" (Jasmine, 2008)
This is a pretty fab reissue, featuring four discs worth of classic material by cowboy singer-gone soft pop crooner Jimmy Wakely. He's an interesting figure: starting out as a "western" singer with plenty of tunes about sunsets and rolling prairies, in the 1940s Wakely crossed over into the pop charts with some smooth, slightly-twangy duets with big band vocalist Margaret Whiting. He brought a distinctly Bing Crosby-esque style into the country charts as well, but he also stayed true to his on-the-dusty-trail roots, and when the hits started to dry up, he started his own label, to record the kind of music he loved. I have a slightly unreasonable affection for Wakely's work... although I can see how country purists might find it too soft and watered-down, it strikes the same chords for me as Bing's best work did, and this multi-disc offering certainly gives fans a great opportunity to luxuriate in more than the handful of great tunes that other recent single-CD releases have given us, including collaborations with Mary Ford, Margaret Whiting, Foy Willing and others. Definitely worth checking out!
Jimmy Wakely "Great Hillbilly And Western Swing Rarities" (Binge Disc/Bronco Buster)
Jimmy Wakely "The Fabulous Jimmy Wakely Trio" (Binge Disc/Bronco Buster)
Jimmy Wakely "The Legendary Jimmy Wakely Trio" (Binge Disc/Bronco Buster)
Jimmy Wakely "Songs Of The West" (10") (Capitol, 1954)
Jimmy Wakely "Christmas On The Range" (10") (Capitol, 1954) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Santa Fe Trail" (Decca, 1957) (LP) *
Jimmy Wakely "Enter And Rest And Pray" (Decca, 1958) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Country Million Sellers" (Shasta, 1958) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "A Cowboy Serenade" (Tops, 1958) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Merry Christmas From Jimmy Wakely" (Shasta, 1958)
Jimmy Wakely "Jimmy Wakely Sings" (Shasta, 1960) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Slippin' Around" (Dot, 1966) (LP) *
Jimmy Wakely & Margaret Whiting "I'll Never Slip Around Again" (Hilltop, 1967) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Show Me The Way" (Vocalion, 1967) (LP)
This is a reissue of Decca album
Jimmy Wakely "Here's Jimmy Wakely" (Vocalion, 1968) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Heartaches" (Decca, 1969) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Now And Then" (Decca, 1970) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Big Country Songs" (Vocalion, 1970) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Jimmy Wakely Country" (Shasta, 1971) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "The Jimmy Wakely Family Show" (Shasta, 1973) B00KTL1M4S
A family album with Linda Wakely and Johnny Wakely...
Jimmy Wakely "Blue Shadows" (MCA-Coral, 1973) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "...Sings A Tribute To Bob Wills" (MCR, 1974) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "The Wakely Way With Country Hits" (Shasta, 1974) (LP)
Another family album with Linda Wakely and Johnny Wakely...
Jimmy Wakely "On Stage, v.1" (Shasta, 1974) (LP)
Live airshots from Jimmy Wakely's CBS Radio Show, 1952-1958...
Jimmy Wakely "...Revisits Country Western Swing With The Big Band Sound" (MCR, 1974) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "The Jimmy Wakely Show With Special Guest Russ Morgan" (Shasta, 1975)
A live recording from 1957...
Jimmy Wakely & Lindalee Wakely "Gentle Touch" (Shasta, 1975) (LP)
Jimmy Wakely "Singing Cowboy" (Shasta, 1975)
Jimmy Wakely "Western Swing And Pretty Things" (Shasta, 1977) (LP)
More airshots from Jimmy Wakely's CBS Radio Show, 1952-1958...
Jimmy Wakely "Reflections By Jimmy Wakely" (Shasta, 1977) (LP)
Archival radio recordings from 1939-64...
Jimmy Wakely "Jimmy Wakely Country" (Shasta, 1977)
Jimmy Wakely "Precious Memories" (Shasta, 1977)
Jimmy Wakely "Old Fashioned Christmas" (Shasta, 1977)
Jimmy Wakely "Lonesome Guitar Man" (Album Globe, 1981)
Hick Music Index