In 1975, Crossover Hits From Freddy Fender, John Denver & More Ruled the CMA Awards


While 1975 was the peak year for country/pop crossover hits at the CMAs, it was hardly a fluke.

In 1975, each of the nominees for single of the year at the CMA Awards was a top five hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Four of them had reached No. 1 on Billboard's flagship chart: Freddy Fender's "Before the Teardrops Falls" (which won the award), Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy," John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and B.J. Thomas' "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song." The lowest-charting single of the year nominee in 1975 was Jessi Colter's "I'm Not Lisa," which peaked at No. 4.

While 1975 was the peak year for pop/country crossover at the CMAs, it was hardly a fluke. The '70s was a big decade for pop/country crossover hits, as reflected in the CMA noms.

Four of the 1971 single of the year nominees were top 10 hits on the Hot 100: Sammi Smith's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" (which won), Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden," and a pair of Jerry Reed hits: "Amos Moses" and "When You're Hot You're Hot." (The fifth nominee that year was Freddie Hart's "Easy Loving," which peaked at No. 17 on the Hot 100.)

The 1974 single of the year nominees included three top 10 hits on the Hot 100: Charlie Rich's "The Most Beautiful Girl," Oli Newton-John's "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" and Ray Stevens' novelty smash "The Streak" (a poor choice for a nomination). The two other nominees were Cal Smith's "Country Bumpkin" (which won) and the Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty duet "As Soon As I Hang Up the Phone"; neither of those songs cracked the Hot 100.

The 1977 field also included three top 10 hits on the Hot 100: Kenny Rogers' "Lucille" (which won), Campbell's "Southern Nights" and Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville." The other two nominees that year were Ronnie Milsap's "It Was Almost Like a Song" (which peaked at No. 16 on the Hot 100) and Waylon Jennings' "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)," which reached No. 25.

In six other years, the single of the year nominees included two top 10 hits on the Hot 100.

1968: Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley P.T.A." (the winner); Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey"

1969: Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" (the winner); Campbell's "Galveston"

1978: Dolly Parton's "Here You Come Again"; Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou"

1979: Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (the winner); Anne Murray's "You Needed Me"

1984: Rogers & Parton's "Islands in the Stream"; Willie Nelson & Julio Iglesias' "To All the Girls I've Loved Before"

1999: Lonestar's "Amazed"; Tim McGraw's "Please Remember Me"

Conclusion: Looking at country crossover hits on the Hot 100, you realize they ebb and flow. In 1985, just 10 years after country crossover reached its dizzying peak, not one of the CMA single of the year nominees cracked the Hot 100. (The Judds' "Why Not Me" was the winner that year.)

And that year wasn't an aberration, but rather the start of a long dry spell for country/pop crossover. In the seven years between 1985 and 1991, just one single of the year nominee cracked the Hot 100: Dan Seals' "Bop," which won the 1986 award. (That single, by the former member of pop hitmakers England Dan & John Ford Coley, peaked at No. 42 on the Hot 100.)

This underscores the need for the CMA Awards (and such other country awards shows as the ACM Awards and the CMT Awards). They're there every year supporting country artists, whether the pop music industry is receptive to country artists that year or not.

The CMAs can probably relate to a song Barbara Mandrell (with a guest vocal by George Jones) sang back in the day. It was a single of the year nominee for 1981: "I Was Country (When Country Wasn't Cool)."