For Martin, dabbling in country was good business sense. By the '70s, the abyss between classic middle-of-the-road vocalists and the pop charts was wider than ever, and country was an acknowledged stepping stone in the era of "cross-country" stations. Although the notion of cross-country seems to be remembered most in terms of country/rock hybridity, it was the MOR/country fusion that had the biggest influence. Country artists such as Charlie Rich, Tammy Wynette, and Ray Price crossed over easily to MOR stations, while MOR artists such as Martin, Bobby Vinton, and Patti Page transitioned almost as easily to country playlists. Martin's own television variety show, as a matter of fact, outlasted competing shows hosted by Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell, and aired into the mid-'70s, when he would also host specials on NBC called Dean Martin Presents Music Country and Music Country USA. (Two of his early seventies films—Something Big (1971) and Showdown (1973)—were westerns.)
This country aspect of Martin's legacy all makes sense in light of early '70s radio and record industry market calibration, but it does run counter to the Rat Pack Dino persona that prevails in the collective memory.
P.S. Dino also had a fullblown country phase in '63 which spawned the albums Country Style and Dean "Tex" Martin Rides Again, but no country hits.
"My Woman, My Woman, My Wife" (1970)
Written by Marty Robbins * Produced by Jimmy Bowen * Arranged by John Bahler * 45: "My Woman, My Woman, My Wife" / "Here We Go Again" * LP: My Woman, My Woman, My Wife * Label: Reprise * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#110) * Entered: 1970-08-01
Marty Robbins's #1 country single "My Woman, My Woman, My Wife" struck all the right chords for the older generation and the traditional mindset of country radio listeners. It delivered a touching message of spousal devotion, including a verse that addressed the couple's pain in enduring the death of their children. "Lord," he sings,"Give her that mansion up yonder, 'cause she's been through hell here on earth... Give her my share of heaven, if I've earned any here in this life."
Dean Martin's cover version of the song announced itself with a tone-deaf ad in the June 25, 1970, issue of Billboard, which read "An Open Letter to the Women's Liberation Movement from Dean Martin." What was that all about? Numerous possibilities, both positive and negative, and that was the problem. The country flavor Martin favored during this era manifested itself further on side B ("Here We Go Again"), albeit through a back door: Ray Charles had first recorded the song in 1967 with a soulful B-3 organ, but the track—written by country songwriters Red Steagall and Don Lanier—would have fit perfectly on either of his Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music LPs from the early '60s.
Side B: "Here We Go Again"
"Detroit City" (1970)
Dean Martin's version of "Detroit City," with its low tuning-peg guitar riff, just missed becoming the third version of the song to enter Billboard's Hot 100 by bubbling under at #101. (Bobby Bare's version reached #6 in 1963, while Tom Jones's rose to #26 in 1967.) Martin trills his way through Ben Peters's B side.
Side B: "Turn the World Around"
"Georgia Sunshine" (1971)
Written by Jerry Hubbard * Produced by Jimmy Bowen * Arranged by Ernie Freeman * 45: "Georgia Sunshine" / "For the Good Times" * LP: For the Good Times * Label: Reprise * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#118) * Entered: 1971-01-23
"Georgia Sunshine" was a #16 country hit in 1970 for Jerry Reed, who usually used his real name of Jerry Hubbard for songwriting credits. Martin's version adds barroom piano. The rendition of the Kris Kristofferson-penned "For the Good Times," a #1 hit for Ray Price, turned the 45 into a "tribute to the country hits of 1970" affair.
Side A: "Georgia Sunshine"
Side B: "For the Good Times"
Side B: "For the Good Times"
"She's a Little Bit Country" (1971)
Producer Jimmy Bowen and arranger Ernie Freeman went out of their way to keep this composition by Harlan Howard, a stalwart country songwriter, from sounding too much like its title. A version from the same year by George Hamilton IV hit closer to the mark. The "Raining in My Heart" on the flipside is the Boudleaux and Felice Bryant song that Buddy Holly recorded, not the Slim Harpo one.
Side B: "Raining in My Heart"