Wynn Stewart was a country music singer & musician who recorded 13 albums between 1956 and 1985. The Country Music Hall of Fame Museum currently has an exhibit on the Bakersfield sound, which Wynn was a pioneer of in the late 50's in California.
Wynn picked up the guitar at age 8 and taught himself to play. At the young age of 13, Wynn had already appeared on KWTO in Springfield, which later became the host for the Ozark jubilee.
His parents were both from Missouri and his father, Cleo was a sharecropper farmer. Cleo took the family to California where he worked at the submarine base during World War II. After a trip back to Missouri, the family settled in Los Angeles in 1948, when Wynn was 14.
Wynn originally wanted to be a professional baseball player, but he was too short (at 5'5") to play ball professionally so he concentrated on a musical career. While still in high school, he formed a band and began playing clubs around California, with his father accompanying him as chaperone. At this time he made his first recording. The song was Eddy Arnold's hit, "Anytime".
He graduated from Edison Park High School in Huntington Park, CA, in 1951. Besides a short stint working for a printing company, he never had much of a real job other than music. Singing and playing guitar was all he ever wanted to do.
Carl Moore, a DJ in Huntington Park, who went by "Squeakin' Deacon" hosted regular talent shows and Wynn entered it often, winning it everytime. At one of them he met a friend for life, Ralph Mooney (who is now in the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame for his life-long contributions to country music). Ralph would later become Wynn's steel guitar player and would forever consider himself "Wynn's steel guitar player". Ralph continues to be one of the most respected steel guitar players of all time. He also played for Waylon Jennings for nearly 20 years.
"Music was a part of Wynn from the very beginning", said his sister, Beverly Mullins. "He used to sing with our aunts in church".
In February 1954, at the age of 20, Wynn signed his first recording contract with the independent label, Intro. He recorded "I've Waited a Lifetime" and "Strolling". His big break came when the single caught the attention of Skeets McDonald, whom he met on the set of a local Sunday afternoon TV show. McDonald, a true godfather of the west coast hard country scene, set up an audition for Wynn with his label, Capitol Records. Legend has it that Wynn sung over the phone to Ken Nelson, Capitol's A&R man, and was offered a contract on the spot.
In 1956, Wynn made several records for Capitol Records, including his first hit, "Waltz of the Angels" and "The Keeper of the Key" (which he co-wrote), with Skeets McDonald and his orchestra backing him up. Eddie Cochran played on guitar. "Waltz of the Angels" was released on 7/21/56 and spent one week at number 14 on the country charts; the single was later a hit for George Jones and Margie Singleton.
"Waltz of the Angels" was also recorded by Lefty Frizzell. (Columbia 21530 (78rpm), 4-21530 (45rpm) (Released 6/4/56)). With both artists competing against each other with the same song, neither one of them had great sucess with it.
At the time, many country artists were going pop, which infuriated Wynn. Switching to rock 'n' roll and trying to create "cross-over" records was like a betrayal of his country heritage. After two years and 4 more singles, Wynn left Capitol Records.
Wynn then met up with Joe Johnson, who had started the Challenge label with Gene Autry. Wynn was one of their first country artists to sign, on June 9, 1958. Joe had met Wynn through songwriter, Harlan Howard. Wynn and Jan Howard were signed later as a duet. Wynn and Jan recorded several albums together. Jan Howard went on to become a Grand Ole Opry star (and still is) and had several successful albums of her own. Wynn lived in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles at the time.
The first record for the Jackpot label (which was part of Challenge records) was "Come-On", a rockabilly tune. Wynn was attempting to switch to rock 'n' roll, rather than fight it. But only country stations would play Wynn's records . There were a few other attempts at cross-over songs like "She Just Tears Me Up" and "Long Black Limousine", but in late 1958, Wynn decided to stick to hard-core country. It was what he felt most strongly about.
In May, 1959, he cut "Above and Beyond", on the Challenge label, which was later revived as a #1 hit for Rodney Crowell in the late 1980's.
Very often it was someone else who got the hit with one of Wynn's songs. Buck Owens also recorded "Above and Beyond" and scored higher on the charts. A British duo, Miki and Griff, had a U.K. hit with one of Wynn's early Capitol songs, "Hold Back Tomorrow". But his turn was coming.
On 12/28/59, he released "Wishful Thinking", which he co-wrote with his sister, Beverly. They got the idea from a line in a letter from their other sister, Patty, who was wishing she could be "home with the folks". Beverly also sang soprano harmony on the record. Ralph Mooney played steel guitar and Gordon Terry was on the fiddle. This recording is the ideal example of 60's west coast country music. It was Wynn's biggest hit so far, spending 22 weeks on the charts and peaking at #5.
On 5/30/60, a duet single with Jan Howard was released. "Wrong Company" spent just 2 weeks on the chart and peaked at #26.
Wynn was playing 6 nights a week at George's Roundup in Long Beach and appeared regularly on Cal's Corral, a Sunday afternoon TV show in L.A. He hosted a radio show 6 nights a week on KFOX as well.
In 1961, he moved to Las Vegas. He was a partner in a club, called the Nashville Nevada. He owned 33% in exchange for being the regular attraction. It was more of a honky tonk than a Vegas showroom. It was designed for dancing and was open 24 hrs. He played 6 nights a week.
He bought a house and brought his mother, his sister Beverly and her daughter, Kathy, to live with him. His father, Cleo had died of a heartache at age 48 in 1959. Jackie Burns was a female singer who also sang with the band. While in Vegas, Wynn also landed a TV show and worked as a DJ.
In 1962, Bobby Austin left the band to pursue a solo career, leaving Wynn without a bass player. Merle Haggard sat in with the band while Wynn was out of town. Wynn came back unexpectedly and was standing in the crowd when he heard Merle sing some songs. He liked him and hired him to be his permanent bass player. Merle was working on a singing career himself. He really liked one of Wynn's self-penned songs, "Sing a Sad Song". Being the generous guy that he was, Wynn gave it to him and it became Merle's first hit, peaking at #19 on the country charts. Merle played with Wynn for about a year.
Wynn's first marriage was to Claire Anne Douthit on 6/24/62. They had a little boy, Greg, born on 4/23/63.
By the early 60's, Wynn's reputation was considerable and he had a string of moderate hit singles. Wynn continued to record for Challenge until 1963. "Big Big Love" was released on 12/25/61, spending 7 weeks on the charts and peaking at #18. "Another Day, Another Dollar" was released on 11/24/62 and spent 3 weeks on the charts, peaking at #27.
In 1963, Wynn and Claire were divorced. Then he met and married his 2nd wife, Dolores, while singing at the Nashville Nevada Club. They had a daughter, Wren Dee, born in March, 1964.
In 1964, he resigned with Capitol Records. His first single for this new Capitol contract was released on 11/21/64. "Half of This, Half of That" spent 15 weeks on the charts and peaked at #30. This was followed up by "I Keep Forgetting That I Forgot About You", which spent 7 weeks on the charts, peaking at #43 (released 10/16/65).
He moved his family to Hacienda Heights, California, where his second daughter, Tatia Wynnette, was born on 8/14/67. Contrary to what you might have read in other places, Wynn never actually lived in Bakersfield. He did, however, have a great influence on what is now known as the "Bakersfield west coast sound". He played many of the honky tonks there as well as influencing the sounds of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.
The Vegas band broke up and Wynn put together a new band and called them the Tourists. Whenever he would get on stage, he'd start off by introducing his band. He said he named them "The Tourists" so that they would be welcome everywhere they traveled, because in every town there was always a sign that said "Welcome Tourists". He and the band took to the road in support of his contract with Capitol Records.
Once during a Capitol closed-recording session, Audie Murphy asked Wynn if he could bring his 2 little boys in to listen. It was a real thrill for them to be there.
In 1967, he hit the peak of his career with "It's Such a Pretty World Today". This single was released on 2/25/67 and was on the charts for 22 weeks. It spent 2 weeks at Number 1 and was also voted Song of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. To date, this song has been included on more than 20 collaboration albums & CD's, over the past 30 years, which indicates it's longevity and continued popularity.
This hit single was followed by a string of Top 20 singles. "Cause I Have You" was released on 7/15/67, spending 16 weeks on the charts and peaking at #9. "That's the Only Way To Cry" was released on 8/5/67, spending 3 weeks on the charts and peaking at #68. "Love's Gonna Happen To Me" was released on 11/11/67 and spent 16 weeks on the charts, peaking at #7. "Something Pretty" was released on 4/20/68, spending 13 weeks on the charts and peaking at #10.
In 1968, he moved his family to Mansfield, Texas, just south of Fort Worth and Dallas, to be centrally located for touring. Wynn had always wanted to own a ranch and have horses. He was touring a lot so he didn't have a lot of time to ride. He had a Missouri Foxtrotter named Diamond, so named because he was dark brown with lots of tiny white specs of hair all over his belly. Dolores and Wynn went on a trailride once in Midlothian. All the other riders were getting saddle sore and wanted to trade horses with Wynn. He was the smart one because his was the only gaited horse in the bunch. Gaited horses are very smooth to ride on. He loved that horse but I remember getting bucked off of it once when my cousin, Kathy, and I tried to ride him double. :-/
Following the success of "It's Such a Pretty World Today", Wynn concentrated on softer, more commercially acceptable material, and the result was a string of hit singles:
"In Love" was released on 8/24/68 and peaked at #16
"Strings" was released on 12/14/68 and peaked at #29
"Let the Whole World Sing It With Me" was released on 4/5/69 and peaked at #20
"World Wide Travelin Man" was released on 7/26/69 and peaked at #19
"Yours Forever" was released on 11/15/69 and peaked at #47
"You Don't Care What Happens To Me" was released on 4/11/70 and peaked at #55
"It's a Beautiful Day" was released on 9/12/70 and peaked at #13
"Heavenly" was released on 1/2/71 and peaked at #32
"Baby, It's Yours" was released on 5/1/71 and peaked at #55
"Hello Little Rock" was released on 9/8/71 and peaked at #53
Wynn was also a regular on a weekly television show in Fort Worth, Texas, called "Panther Hall".
Ralph Mooney re-joined him briefly in Texas but then hired on with Waylon Jennings. Wynn left Capitol and signed with RCA in Nashville in 1972. Over the next 3 years he released a number of singles, which were all produced by Bobby Bare, such as:
"Paint Me a Rainbow" (released 11/11/72, peaked at #49)
"Love Ain't Worth a Dime Unless It's Free (released 7/14/73, peaked at #51)
"It's Raining in Seattle"/"If I Were You" (which he co-wrote with Harlan Howard), (released 10/27/73, peaked at #62)
In 1973, his 2nd marriage dissolved and he and his mom moved to Nashville to be with his sister, Beverly. He married again to Doris Massey, who was the daughter of a songwriter friend of his, Cliff Massey, who co-wrote some songs for the "Love's Gonna Happen To Me" album. Wynn and his mom lived together in an apartment in Hendersonville, TN, just outside of Nashville. Just next door was Twitty City, where shows by other artists were held regularly under a big tent. Wynn would often visit friends and musicians there.
In 1975 he signed with Playboy Records. His first single under this label was "Lonely Rain", which was released on 6/14/75 and peaked at #80 after 9 weeks on the charts. Then he scored a comeback with a top ten hit, "After the Storm" , released on 7/31/76 and peaked at #8 after spending 14 weeks on the charts. He stayed with Playboy Records for two more years, which resulted in only one other hit single, his own version of "Sing a Sad Song" (released on 11/20/76 and peaking at #19).
In 1978, Wynn started his own independent label, WIN Records, and his first single "Eyes as Big as Dallas", was released on 12/23/78 and peaked at #37. This was followed up by "Could I Talk You Into Loving Me Again", released on 6/9/79 and peaked at #59.
In the early 80's, he decided to step back from performing and took some time away from the spotlight. He did an occasional show to pay the bills but did not attempt any more recording.
During the mid-80's, he decided to launch a comeback with an extensive tour and a new album on his own label, Pretty World Records.
On July 17, 1985, at the age of 51, he died of a heart attack while at his home. He was just about to leave for a tour of Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, with a new band, a new bus, a new wardrobe, new songs, and a new manager, Charlie Ammerman. He had just recorded a new album, as well, that never made it to print. I personally have a copy of this album, on cassette, and it is some of the most powerful singing he ever did. Thanks to the Bear Family of Germany, these last recordings are now available on the box set to be enjoyed by all of his fans. These songs represent Wynn's incredible musical talent that continued to develop and mature like a fine wine.
Wynn was buried back in Willard, Missouri, ominously close to Branson, where he should be playing this very day. Ralph Mooney called him "the best singer who ever lived". He was Waylon's favorite too. He should have been as successful as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, both of whom he helped get started. If you listen to Merle's earliest recordings, you will hear a lot of Wynn's influence and a very similar sound.
Wynn had such high character that he was always helping others advance their careers, sometimes in exchange for promoting himself. If success meant stepping on someone's toes, he wouldn't do it.
On 8/24/85, his last recorded single "Wait Till I Get My Hands On You", was released but it was only on the charts for 1 week, barely reaching the charts at #98. He also recorded a duet with Johnny Paycheck, "The Wild Side of Life", which was never released.
Wynn sang with absolute authority. He had such a distinguished style that you could immediately tell it was him when you heard his voice. He was a very natural singer and considered to be the best by many in the industry. Even with his limited appearances on the charts, to this day, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the music business who doesn't recognize his name and know the kind of immense talent he had.
Wynn Stewart was inducted into the Missouri Country Music Hall of Fame! http://www.mocountrymusic.com on May 21, 2006 in Osage Beach, Missouri.
Wynn Stewart belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame !!!
If you are one of his fans, please post a message on this page as a petition for his induction. Thank you!
This is the Official fan page for Wynn Stewart, put together by his daughter, Wren Stewart Tidwell.
Wynn Stewart's most famous song, "It's Such a Pretty World Today, was voted the Song of the YEAR for the Academy of Country Music, in 1968.
He helped Merle Haggard get his start in the music business by giving him a job as his bass player in Las Vegas, NV and by giving him his first chart song, which Wynn wrote, "Sing a Sad Song".
He recorded 13 albums, many of which were for Capitol Records. He recorded over 279 songs during his career, which spanned over 3 decades, from 1956 to 1985. He died at a the very young age of 51.
Wynn Stewart belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame !!!
If you are one of his fans, please post a message on this page as a petition for his induction. Thank you!
This is a new petition: http://www.petitions24.com/signatures/induct_wynn_stewart_into_the_country_music_hall_of_fame/
petitions24.com Wynn Stewart was one of the leading figures of West Coast country music, developing in the early '50s the style that would later become known as the Bakersfield sound. Along with Tommy Collins and Buck Owens, Stewart stripped down the sound of honky tonk, taking away the steel guitars and relying on...
If you are a fan of Wynn Stewart, you simply MUST have his 10 CD boxset! Everything he ever recorded. It is a pricey boxset. I sell them NEW on my website at WynnStewart.com for $165, but you can get this set on ebay right now it is priced at only $39. It does not include the book, but it does include all 10 CDs. 279 songs. http://www.ebay.com/itm/391662796134?ul_noapp=true
This picture was taken by Leann Leonie, who is Jack Greene's manager. It is Jack with Merle Haggard, on Merle's bus. Notice the picture of Wynn Stewart on the wall. He was a mentor and good friend of Merle's. You can tell how much he meant to him by having this photo on the wall of Merle's stateroom. Wynn wrote Merle's first hit record, Sing a Sad Song. Merle played bass in Wynn's band in the 60s at the Nashville Nevada club in Las Vegas. — with Jack Greene and Merle Haggard at Merle Haggard's bus.
www.ky3.com Wynn Stewart inspired many of country music's greats with his own music.