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Rimes isn't the only one feeling "blue"

Country Standard Time Editorial, September 1996

A curious thing happened on the way to the top of the charts for LeAnn Rimes.

The teen phenomena - the biggest since Tanya Tucker almost 25 years ago - sprang out of nowhere to be heard on the radio with her first single, "Blue."

The story line behind the song boosted the Texan as well. Songwriter Bill Mack originally intended for the song to be recorded by Patsy Cline, but that never happened. He supposedly waited for the right singer.

In stepped Rimes (Truth to be told, Kenny Roberts recorded the song as well in the early '70's). And she soon became a household name with her face in papers and song on the airwaves.

Only one problem, however. The single somehow stalled at number 10 on the Billboard charts, anyway. Now, that's rather curious since music fans out there seemed to be requesting the song.

And as if to put the proof in the pudding, the disc of the same name immediately shot to the top of the country charts and is hovering near the top of the general pop music charts.

So what happened to the single? Thank your friends in country radio for that.

In this age of country where there seems to be somewhat of a rebellion against the manufactured hot new country approach coming out of Nashville, some radio programmers stuck it to "Blue" and Rimes. They said the song was too traditional sounding, too different, according to a story in USA Today by David Zimmerman.

Too bad because it's a wonderful song from someone who could be around for a long time if she plays her career right (the jury is still out on that, of course). The song was far better than almost anything on country radio now or in recent years.

Country radio has been far too narrow in breaking new artists and music. Many programmers claim to play what the people want. That argument no longer seems to hold given "Blue." They're probably just afraid to help educate the public about different sounds and musicians who don't fit into the flavor-of-the-month club. Of course, this doesn't only apply to newcomers. Can anyway say George Jones?

The thinking of radio stations could lead to a decreasing popularity of country. And that would be real sad, given the spurt of a few years ago when the growth was exponential.

Who knows? Perhaps a backlash against country radio for not having the wherewithal to play country music that matters might be just the kick in the pants radio needs to get people who know something about the genre making the decisions instead of the suits.

And then singers like Rimes won't have to sing the blues.