The fact that Wynn Stewart isn’t a giant in our collective memory of singers and stars is all the proof needed that sheer talent, exuberance, great songs, fantastic musicians, clean production, a savvy business sense and good looks remain only part of why someone becomes famous. Maybe it’s the problem of the farmer. His hand invisible to the food on the plate.
It’s not that Wynn never had a hit record or hasn’t been remembered by peers and fans, he has been. Still he remains in that lower tier of fame, where shadows encroach as his star dims a little more every year. It’s not that everyone could or should be a Johnny Cash or Hank Williams. The difference between good and great is larger than bad to good. No one is saying that a fine honkytonker like Johnny Bond is quite the equal to Lefty Frizzell. Though Bond recorded some terrific country music in his time.
Wynn Stewart isn’t that guy though. He is a top tier singer and songwriter. With his part in the Bakersfield Sound he did have an inestimable impact on country & western music. Today, on what would have been his 78th birthday, his music still sounds fresh and vibrant as it would have in 1959 with it’s walking bass lines, fiddles and steel guitar way up front in the mix and that hot telecaster snaking in and out of the vocals.
There’s the well known zen analogy of when pointing toward the moon we shouldn’t look at the finger. Wynn Stewart embodied that a little too well. That moon though, sure is cool.
Heartaches for a Dime
Long Black Limousine
A bit more about Wynn Stewart here. Also check out the mighty fine essay by Colin Escott in his book Roadkill On the Three Chord Highway.