Friday, February 27, 2015

Four Charting Versions of "Rings": Who's on the Stereo?

"Rings" was a #17 hit for Cymarron, a soft rock trio who'd later team up with Bread's Jimmy Griffin in the '90s as the Remingtons. Written by pro songwriters Eddie Reeves and Alex Harvey (not the British cult rocker), the song's lyrics toyed with telephones, doorbells, and wedding bands, and suggested that success in romantic relationships correlated with the comfort level of one's living room. Four versions of this song charted in Billboard in the early seventies, each of which altered the original line, "I've got James Taylor on the stereo," with a different artist in JT's place.

Cymarron - "Rings" (Billboard #17, entered 6/12/71)Written by Eddie Reeves and Alex Harvey. Produced by Chips Moman. 45: "Rings"/"Like Children" (Entrance 1971). LP: Rings (Entrance 1971).

Who's on the stereo? James Taylor.

Tompall and the Glaser Brothers - "Rings" (Billboard country #7, entered 9/18/1971). Written by Eddie Reeves and Alex Harvey. Produced by Jim Glaser. 45: "Rings"/"That's When I Love You the Most" (MGM 1971). LP: Rings and Things. 

Who's on the stereo? Merle Haggard.

Lobo - "Rings" (Billboard #43, entered 7/20/74). Written by Eddie Reeves and Alex Harvey. Produced by Phil Gernhard. 45: "Rings"/"I'm Only Sleeping" (Big Tree 1974). LP: Just a Singer (Big Tree 1974).

Who's on the stereo? The Allman Brothers. The B-side is a sleepy cover of the 1966 Beatles tune.

Reuben Howell - "Rings" (1974, Billboard #86). Written by Eddie Reeves and Alex Harvey. Produced by Clayton Ivey and Terry Woodford. 45: "Rings"/"I'll Be Your Brother" (Motown 1974). LP: Rings (Motown 1974).

Who's on the stereo? Jim Croce.

Reuben Howell (a Motown label Caucasian) and Lobo, by the way, both entered Billboard's Hot 100 on the same day - July 20, 1974. Both of their versions also bypassed the poignant flat-VII (coinciding with "laugh and sing") that appeared in the choruses of Cymarron's version. Why did they both surface with similar renditions exactly three years after the song's first flurry of success?

Other non-charting versions: Leo Kottke did a version of the song in 1983, expertly inserting Mel Blanc as the "on the stereo" artist but also bypassing the flat-VII. In a 1982 version by Dr. Hook, they're listening to "sweet music."  And commenter James Porter has clued me in on a 1971 version by Lonnie Mack, who sticks with James Taylor on the stereo.


  1. Kim...

    Lonnie Mack released a version of "Rings" in 1971 on Elektra. Ray Charles was playing on his turntable.

    Great blog! Just now discovering this.

    James Porter

    1. Thanks James - love it! Definitely a new one to me...

  2. Kim, it appears I was mistaken. Lonnie actually did record an unrelated song in 1985 called "Falling Back In Love With You," where he and his lover romanced with the sounds of "Ray Charles on the stereo." I believe I confused the two. Sorry for the error. Again, great blog!

    James Porter