Roy Drusky

Easy-listening singer billed as the 'Perry Como of Country Music'

Roy Drusky sang easy-listening country music in the same vein as Jim Reeves. Although he had many country hits, he rarely crossed over to the pop charts. In 1967 his best chance of a UK hit, "If the Whole World Stopped Loving", was covered very successfully by Van Doonican.



Roy Frank Drusky, singer: born Atlanta, Georgia 22 June 1930; married 1957 Bobbye Jean Swafford (three sons): died Nashville, Tennessee 23 September 2004.



Roy Drusky sang easy-listening country music in the same vein as Jim Reeves. Although he had many country hits, he rarely crossed over to the pop charts. In 1967 his best chance of a UK hit, "If the Whole World Stopped Loving", was covered very successfully by Van Doonican.

Drusky was born in Atlanta in 1930 and his father died when he was five. His mother played the piano in church and, although he had a few rudimentary lessons, he showed little interest in music. He did play the clarinet in his high-school band, but he wanted to become a professional baseball player. At a training camp for the Cleveland Indians, he realised that he could never attain a high enough standard and gave up his dream.

Whilst in the US Navy, Drusky started to play the guitar and drums. In 1950 he enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta with the intention of becoming a vet and, to help pay for his studies, he played the drums for a local band, the Southern Ranch Boys. As a result of their regular radio bookings, Drusky became one of the station's presenters. He was soon singing on air and he excelled with soft ballads.

In 1953 he was invited to record for the well-known country label Starday. The session was scheduled for a Sunday afternoon and the musicians were drinking whiskey, both of which went against his Baptist upbringing. He later remarked, "I was shocked and wondered what I had got into here." The record, "Such a Fool", did little business, but has since, along with other Starday records, become a collectors' item.

Two years later, Drusky joined the Minneapolis radio station KEVE as a DJ, but he was always writing songs. In 1958, the promoter of a Webb Pierce tour heard Drusky's "Alone With You" and passed it to the country star Faron Young. The record topped the US country charts and a second song of Drusky's, "Country Girl", did the same. He was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry even though he had had no country hits of his own.

His own successes started in 1960 with two of his own songs, "Another" and "Anymore", and then a duet with Kitty Wells, "I Can't Tell My Heart That". In 1961 his record producer, Owen Bradley, offered him a choice of two songs, "Three Hearts in a Tangle" and "I Fall to Pieces": he picked "Three Hearts in a Tangle", which was a reasonable success, but the other song became a big hit for Patsy Cline. "Three Hearts in a Tangle" had some airplay in the UK and purchasers were delighted to find an equally strong B-side, "I'd Rather Loan You Out (Than Let You Go)".

Rather out of character, Drusky had a US country hit with Bill Anderson's novelty "Peel Me a Nanner" (1963) and he also recorded "(From Now On All My Friends are Gonna Be) Strangers" (1965). Towards the end of one session in 1965, with 15 minutes remaining, Owen Bradley wanted to record a duet, so he asked the backing singer, Priscilla Mitchell, to join Drusky on "Yes Mr Peters". It became Drusky's only US country No l as a performer.

In 1966 Drusky appeared in the outrageously bad film Las Vegas Hillbillys, with Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren. With rather more taste, he was among the first to recognise the songwriting talents of Kris Kristofferson. Drusky had a US country hit with his whimsical "Jody and the Kid" (1968). He also introduced Elton John to country record-buyers with a cover version of "Dixie Lily" (1974).

Drusky was brought to the UK in the late Seventies by the promoter Drew Taylor and toured with Boxcar Willie, Moe Bandy and Jean Shepard. He was billed as the "Perry Como of Country Music" and recorded for the label Big R, his most-played track being "Night Flying".

Spencer Leigh

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