Thursday, September 22, 2016

SHG: Floyd Cramer: "Last Date"

Floyd Cramer: “Last Date”
Entered the chart on: 10/24/1960
Peaked on: 11/28/1960
Weeks at #2: 4
Song at #1: “Are You Lonesome To-Night” by Elvis Presley

A little warning, this is the first of a big chunk of instrumental songs that hit the charts in 1961. Actually, I gave you a heads-up on that during the Ventures review. Here’s the first one and it’s from pianist Floyd Cramer, who’s been on hundreds of country hits. In fact, he played on the Johnny Tillotson song I just reviewed. Is that the first time that’s happened on Second Hand Goods, where a session musician on one hit winds up as the soloist on the next one?

Anyway, Cramer earned a reputation for a technique he called “slide piano,” using a lot of grace notes to make it sound as though the notes are gliding into one another. Oh, you’ll hear what I mean when you listen to it.

It’s hard to explain the appeal of this one. Floyd Cramer has had more exciting tunes than this one (listen to the follow-up, “On the Rebound”), but there’s something about the lazy afternoon feel of this one. It’s a slow tempo but it doesn’t drag. I suppose you could call this a “ballad” if it had words to it. It’s rather “sitting on a porch swing sipping a mint julep” music to my ears.

It’s not drowning in the string arrangement, which is a relief. The strings come in and enhance the melody without swamping it, which they totally could if left to their own devices. Unsurprisingly, this is, like “He’ll Have to Go,” another “Countrypolitan” Chet Atkins production.

Obviously, this tune resonated with lots of people, since cover versions of it proliferated, including one by SHG veterans the Ventures*. Another SHG veteran, Joni James, did a vocal interpretation saddled with the cumbersome alternate title “(My) Last Date (With You).” It was her last entry into the Billboard Top 40.

For an easy-listening instrumental, it’s actually pretty easy to listen to. Sometimes, that’s all I ask.

Rating: 4

*my parents owned the album that had their cover on it, Another Smash! I’ve always wondered what silent movie the cover still came from. For some reason, I remembered it as being from a Three Stooges short, but it seems I was mistaken.

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