Today we remember Wynn Stewart, a man who pioneered the harsh hard-driving telecaster sound of country music in the 1960’s. Wynn Stewart, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and many others enjoyed great success back then.
In February 1954, Wynn signed a recording contract with Intro Records. During a recording session with the label he caught the attention of Skeets McDonald. McDonald, a godfather of the west coast country scene, arranged an audition for Wynn with Capitol Records. After a demo session, Capitol executive, Ken Nelson, offered Wynn a contract.
I wrote about Ken Nelson, and have a medley of Skeets McDonald songs for your enjoyment. Ken Nelson was a force behind many artists who are legends today, and most of them are in the Hall of Fame. Ray Price is one of them, and many of Ray’s hits were produced by Ken Nelson.
This video is an interview of Buck Owens by Ralph Emery, as they talk about Wynn Stewart. It concludes with one of Wynn’s songs.
Wynn Stewart recorded duets with Jan Howard, and Jan mentions Wynn on Country Family Reunion from time to time. She is now one of the grand ladies of country music.
In 1959, Wynn cut Above and Beyond on the Challenge label. Yet, it would be eighteen more years, before he would break into the limelight.
Meanwhile, Wynn scored his first top-10 hit, Wishful Thinking (No., 5, 1959). Ralph Mooney played steel guitar and Gordon Terry was on the fiddle. Wynn followed up with a duet single with Jan Howard called Wrong Company (1960). In 1963, Stewart’s bass player, Merle Haggard, charted his debut single, Sing a Sad Song, a song that Wynn wrote, but had not yet recorded.
Wynn cut his final sessions with Challenge in 1963, after which the label folded. Then Wynn returned to Capitol in 1965. Two years later, Stewart soared to the top of the charts with It’s Such a Pretty World Today (No. 1, 1967), his only No. 1 single. Wynn followed up with three more top-ten singles. However, after that he dropped from the top forty.
Stewart recorded songs with RCA (1972) and Playboy (1976), yet he failed to maintain a national presence. Wynn’s music influenced both Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, yet his commercial success never paralleled theirs.
This to a degree may have been attributed to serious West Coast competition, foremost Merle and Buck. Wynn had a legion of loyal fellow musicians and artists. For years after his death, legendary steel guitar player Ralph Mooney would identify himself as Wynn Stewart’s steel player.