Red Sovine

Woodrow Wilson "Red" Sovine (July 7, 1917 – April 4, 1980) was an American country music singer and songwriter associated with truck driving songs, particularly those recited as narratives, but set to music. The most noted examples are his 1965 number one hit "Giddyup Go" and his 1976 number one hit "Teddy Bear".

Red Sovine
Birth nameWoodrow Wilson Sovine
BornJuly 7, 1917
Charleston, West Virginia
DiedApril 4, 1980 (aged 62)
Nashville, Tennessee
Occupation(s)musician, songwriter
Years active1935–1980
LabelsDecca, Starday


Early years

Sovine was born as Woodrow Wilson Sovine in 1917 in Charleston, West Virginia, earning the nickname "Red" because of his reddish-brown hair. He had two brothers and two sisters. Sovine (whose last name was pronounced So VINE) was taught to play guitar by his mother. His first venture into music was with his childhood friend Johnnie Bailes, with whom he performed as "Smiley and Red, the Singing Sailors" in the country music revue Jim Pike's Carolina Tar Heels on WWVA-AM in Wheeling, West Virginia.[1][2] Faced with limited success, Bailes left to perform as part of The Bailes Brothers. Sovine got married, and continued to sing on Charleston radio, while holding down a job as a supervisor of a hosiery factory.[1][2] With the encouragement of Bailes, Sovine formed The Echo Valley Boys.[3]

After a year of performing in West Virginia, Sovine moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where the Bailes Brothers were performing on KWKH-AM. Sovine's own early morning show wasn't very popular, but he gained greater exposure performing on the famed KWKH radio program, Louisiana Hayride. One of his co-stars was Hank Williams, who steered Sovine toward a better time slot at WSFA in Montgomery, Alabama, and toward a contract with MGM Records in 1949. That same year, Sovine replaced Williams on Louisiana Hayride when Williams jumped to the Grand Ole Opry. Over the next four years he recorded 28 singles, mostly following in Williams' honky tonk footsteps, that didn't make much of a dent on the charts but did establish him as a solid performer.[1][2]


Another Louisiana Hayride co-star who helped Sovine was country music legend Webb Pierce. Pierce convinced Sovine to lead his Wondering Boys band and helped him toward a contract with Decca in 1954. The following year Sovine cut a duet with Goldie Hill, "Are You Mine?" which peaked in the Top 15, and in 1956 he had his first number one hit when he duetted with Pierce on a cover of George Jones' "Why Baby Why". Sovine had two other Top Five singles that year and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.[1][2][4] After recording close to 50 sides with Decca by 1959, Sovine signed to Starday Records and began touring the club circuit as a solo act. That same year, Sovine was seriously injured in a car accident that claimed the life of one of his band members.


In 1961, a song copyrighted, in 1955, by Sovine and co-writer Dale Noe became a sizeable hit on the Pop charts. The tune was the ballad "Missing You", arranged in Countrypolitan style and was recorded by Ray Peterson for his own Dunes label. "Missing You" became a #29 Billboard "Top 100" hit. In the fall, it peaked at #7 on Billboard's "Adult Contemporary" chart (see U.S. Copyright Office's website and Joel Whitburn's "Across The Charts, The 1960s"). In 1963, Sovine passed on the helping hand given him by older performers when he heard the singing of minor league baseball player Charley Pride and suggested that he move to Nashville, Tennessee. Sovine opened doors for Pride at Pierce's Cedarwood Publishing, but his own career had stalled: "Dream House For Sale", which reached number 22 in 1964, came nearly eight years after his last hit.[1][2]

Trucker songs and sentimental tunes

In 1965 Sovine found his niche when he recorded "Giddyup Go", which, like most of his other trucker hits, he co-wrote with Tommy Hill. It is spoken, rather than sung, as the words of an older long-distance truck driver who rediscovers his long-lost son driving another truck on the same highway. Minnie Pearl released an answer song titled "Giddy-Up Go Answer". Sovine's version of the song spent six weeks atop the country charts and crossed over to the pop charts. Other truck-driving hits followed, including:

  • "Phantom 309", a tale of a hitchhiker who hops a ride from a trucker who turns out to be the ghost of a man who died years ago giving his life to save a school bus full of children from a horrible collision with his rig. This story was later adapted by singer-songwriter Tom Waits, who performed "Big Joe And Phantom 309" during his Nighthawks At The Diner recordings. Waits' version of this song was covered by Archers of Loaf on the 1995 tribute album, Step Right Up: The Songs of Tom Waits. Musician Steve Flett named a recording project after the song. The song was originally written and recorded by Tommy Faile.
  • "Teddy Bear", the tale of a disabled boy who lost his truck driver father in a highway accident and keeps his CB radio base as his only companion.
  • "Little Joe", a tale of a trucker and his devoted canine friend which became his last big hit. This last story features Teddy Bear who can now walk.[1][2]

Sovine was also remembered for his Christmas tear-jerkers, which included "Here It Is Christmas" (a divorcee's holiday lament), "Billy's Christmas Wish" (a dialogue between a poor, sickly, runaway boy and a sidewalk Santa), and "What Does Christmas Look Like?" (a little blind girl asks her father to describe the Christmas she cannot see). He scored another sentimental hit with "Little Rosa" in which an Italian-American railroad employee tells a stranger, in broken English, about getting a bouquet to place on the grave of his small daughter who was killed by a train while he was away.

Personal life and death

Sovine was married to the former Norma Searls, who died in 1976 at the age of 57.[1][2] Together they had three sons, William, Michael (1955–1988), and Roger; and a daughter, Janet.[5] They were also survived by 12 grandchildren at the time of Red Sovine's death.

On April 4, 1980, Sovine suffered a heart attack while driving his 1979 Ford Econoline 150 van near the intersection of Battery and Lealand Lanes in southern Nashville, causing him to run a red light and strike an oncoming vehicle driven by Edgar Primm, 25, also of Nashville, before coming to rest against a tree near the intersection. The crash happened a few miles from Sovine's home on Stillwood Drive.

Sovine, who was alive but unconscious when paramedics arrived, was taken to St. Thomas Hospital along with Primm for treatment. Primm was treated and released for minor facial injuries. Sovine was pronounced dead at 11:47 a.m., shortly after arriving at the hospital. According to a preliminary autopsy, Sovine sustained massive abdominal bleeding caused by a lacerated spleen and liver, and fractured ribs and sternum.[6]

For many years after his death, his greatest hits collection (The Best of Red Sovine) was advertised on television, exposing his music to a new generation of fans.


Sovine performed covers of many truck driving songs made popular by fellow country stars, such as Del Reeves and Dave Dudley, as well as "Why Baby Why", a duet with Webb Pierce originally recorded by George Jones. Other covers include "A Dear John Letter" (Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky), "Old Rivers" (Walter Brennan), "Bringing Mary Home" (The Country Gentlemen), and "Roses for Mama" (C.W. McCall), among many more. Among his many other recitations was a reading of John Berrio's essay "Please God, I'm Only Seventeen," a cautionary tale of safety to newly licensed teen-aged drivers.

His last charting hit in his lifetime, in 1978, was by rock singer-songwriter-guitarist Eric Clapton – "Lay Down Sally." Save for the mid-song guitar bridge, Sovine's version– a No. 70 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart – closely resembled the Clapton original.

Many of Sovine's biggest truck driving hits were covered by artists such as, Del Reeves, Dave Dudley, Ferlin Husky, Boxcar Willie, Tex Williams and Australian country singer Nev Nicholls. Mike Judge covered "Teddy Bear" as Hank Hill for the King of the Hill soundtrack. Some of Sovine's songs were covered by Dutch artists and became big hits in the Netherlands (Teddy Bear, Giddy Up Go and Deck of Cards by Gerard de Vries, Phantom 309 (Stille Willie) by the B B Band, Little Joe (Kleine Waker) by Henk Wijngaard). Tom Waits released Big Joe and Phantom 309 on his 1975 "Nighthawks at the Diner".


Studio albums

Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country CAN
1956 Red Sovine MGM
1961 The One and Only Starday
1962 The Golden Country Ballads of the '60s
1963 Red Sovine Decca
1965 The Heart Rending Little Rosa Starday
1966 Country Music Time Decca
Giddy Up Go 4 Starday
The Sensational Red
The Nashville Sound
1967 I Didn't Jump the Fence
Dear John Letter
1968 The Country Way Vocalion
Phantom 309 18 Starday
Tell Maude I Slipped
Sunday with Sovine
1969 Classic Narrations
Closing Time Till Dawn
Who Am I
Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town
1970 I Know You're Married
1973 Greatest Grand Ole Opry Chart
1974 It'll Come Back 48
1975 Phantom 309 (reissue) Gusto
1976 Teddy Bear 1 67 Starday
1977 Woodrow Wilson Sovine 50
1978 Christmas with Red Sovine
16 New Gospel Songs Gusto

Compilation albums

Year Album US Country Label
1975 The Best Starday
Little Rosa Hit
1977 16 All-Time Favorites Starday
16 Greatest Hits 47
1980 Teddy Bear Gusto
Phantom 309
Giddy Up Go
Gone But Not Forgotten Castle
1986 Sings Hank Williams Deluxe
1989 Crying in the Chapel Hollywood
Famous Duets
1991 Best of the Best Federal
2001 Phantom 309 Prism Leisure
2002 Pledge of Allegiance King
20 All-Time Greatest Hits


Year Single Chart Positions Label
US Country US
1955 "Why Baby Why" (w/ Webb Pierce) 1 Decca
"Are You Mine" (w/ Goldie Hill) 14
1956 "Little Rosa" (w/ Webb Pierce) 5
"If Jesus Come to Your House" 15
"Hold Everything (Till I Get Home)" 5
1959 "Yankee, Go Home" (w/ Goldie Hill) 17
1964 "Dream House for Sale" 22 Starday
1965 "Giddyup Go" 1 82
1966 "Long Night" 47
"Class of 49" 44
1967 "I Didn't Jump the Fence" 17
"In Your Heart" 33
"Phantom 309" 9
1968 "Loser Making Good" 63
"Normally, Norma Loves Me" 61
"Tell Maude I Slipped" 33
1969 "Who am I" 62
1970 "Freightliner Fever" 54
"I Know You're Married But I Love You Still" 52
1974 "It'll Come Back" 16 Chart
"Can I Keep Him Daddy" 58
1975 "Daddy's Girl" 91
"Phantom 309" 47 Starday
1976 "Teddy Bear"A 1 40
"Little Joe" 45 102
"Last Goodbye" 96
1977 "Just Gettin' By" 98
"Woman Behind the Man Behind the Wheel" 92
1978 "Lay Down Sally" 70
"The Days of Me and You" 77
1980 "It'll Come Back" 89
"The Little Family Soldier" 74
  • A"Teddy Bear" also peaked at No. 1 on the RPM Country Tracks chart and No. 49 on the RPM Top Singles chart in Canada. It also hit No. 4 on the UK charts in 1981, the only song of his to chart in that country.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Red Sovine - Biography". CMT. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Red Sovine". Rovi Corp. 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
  3. ^ "Red Sovine Bio". Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  4. ^ "Opry Timeline - 1950s". Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  5. ^ "Norma J. Sovine (1921-1976) - Find A Grave..." Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  6. ^ "We Miss You Red Sovine (MP3) - WFMU's Beware of the Blog". Retrieved 13 April 2018.


  • Trott, Walt (1998). "Red Sovine". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 499.
1956 in country music

This is a list of notable events in country music that took place in the year 1956.

Anytime (1921 song)

"Any Time" is a country song written by Herbert "Happy" Lawson. The song was published in 1921 and first recorded by Emmett Miller for OKeh Records in 1924. Accompanying himself on ukulele, Lawson recorded his own version for Gennett Records on July 31, 1925.

Chart Records

Chart Records was a country music record label of the 1960s, best known for turning Lynn Anderson into a major country star. It was owned by Slim Williamson.

The label was founded in 1964. Among the artists who recorded at one time for the label were Kenny Vernon, Johnny Bush, Junior Samples, Del Wood, Maxine Brown, Jim Nesbitt, Connie Eaton, Lynn Anderson, Red Sovine, Billy "Crash" Craddock, LaWanda Lindsey and Anthony Armstrong Jones. Many of the labels' vocalists were quite young, teenagers or in their early twenties, quite unusual during the 1960s for a country music label.

Chart was distributed by RCA Victor for several years during the 1960s and early 1970s. Today Gusto Records owns the Chart Records catalogue except for Lynn Anderson's Chart Records catalog, which is owned by Sony Music Entertainment which owns the RCA Victor catalog, and has reissued a number of the recordings on CD.

The publishing arms of Chart Records were Yonah Music (BMI) and Peach Music (SESAC).

Giddyup Go

"Giddyup Go" is a country music song made famous by Red Sovine. Released in 1965, the song was the title track to Sovine's album released that same year.

A recitation paying homage to the American truck driver, "Giddyup Go" was Sovine's second No. 1 hit, spending six weeks atop the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart in January and February 1966.

Goldie Hill

Goldie Hill (January 11, 1933 – February 24, 2005), born Argolda Voncile Hill, was an American country music singer. She was one of the first women in country music, and became one of the first women to reach the top of the country music charts with her No. 1 1953 hit, "I Let the Stars Get In My Eyes". Along with Kitty Wells, she helped set the standard for later women in country music.

Gusto Records

Gusto Records is a Nashville, Tennessee-based record company that specializes in reissuing and licensing recordings.

The catalogues that Gusto owns include King Records (except for recordings by James Brown), Starday, Scepter (except for recordings by Dionne Warwick, and the pre-RCA recordings of The Guess Who), Wand (except for recordings by The Kingsmen) Musicor, Chart (except for recordings by Lynn Anderson), Federal, Audio Lab, Ovation, Step One, Atteiram, and others. Gusto is believed to maintain one of the largest independently owned collection of record masters.

List of Billboard number-one country songs of 1956

In 1956 Billboard magazine published three charts covering the best-performing country music songs in the United States. At the start of the year, the charts were published under the titles Most Played in Juke Boxes, Best Sellers in Stores, and Most Played By Jockeys, with the genre denoted in an overall page heading. With effect from the issue of Billboard dated June 30, the genre was added to the specific titles of the charts, which were thus published as Most Played C&W in Juke Boxes, C&W Best Sellers in Stores, and Most Played C&W By Jockeys, the C&W standing for "country and western". All three charts are considered part of the lineage of the current Hot Country Songs chart, which was first published in 1958.The number one positions on both the juke box and best sellers charts were dominated by Elvis Presley, who spent a total of 26 weeks in the top spot on the best sellers listing and 28 weeks (including one tied with another song) atop the juke box chart with four different singles. Presley achieved his first chart-topper in February when he reached the number one spot on the best sellers chart with "I Forgot To Remember To Forget". The song was the final single which he recorded for Sun Records, the label for which he had honed his early rockabilly style. After he signed for new label RCA Victor, his recordings began to show more of a pop music influence, but continued to appear on the country charts, and one week after "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" was replaced at number one, Presley regained the top spot with "Heartbreak Hotel", which remained atop the listing for 17 consecutive weeks. "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" was the first chart-topper for Presley, who would go on to be regarded as the most successful and influential recording artist of all time and feted as the "King of Rock and Roll".Presley's songs were less successful on the jockeys chart: "Heartbreak Hotel" was his only number one on the airplay-based listing. During the second half of the year, the jockeys chart was dominated by "Crazy Arms" by Ray Price, which spent 20 weeks at number one, one week short of the record for the most weeks spent atop one of Billboard's country charts by a single song. Despite its popularity on the radio, Price's song spent only one week at number one on the juke box chart. In addition to Presley, four other artists reached number one for the first time, two of whom were among his fellow members of the so-called "Million Dollar Quartet" of early rock and roll stars: Carl Perkins gained his first country chart-topper with a song which would go on to be considered a rock and roll standard, "Blue Suede Shoes", and Johnny Cash achieved the first of his thirteen country number ones when he topped the jockeys chart with "I Walk the Line", a track which Rolling Stone magazine ranked as the greatest country song of all time in 2014. Red Sovine and The Louvin Brothers also achieved their debut chart-toppers in 1956.

List of Hot Country Singles number ones of 1966

Hot Country Songs is a chart that ranks the top-performing country music songs in the United States, published by Billboard magazine. In 1966, 13 different singles topped the chart, then published under the title Hot Country Singles, in 53 issues of the magazine, based on playlists submitted by country music radio stations and sales reports submitted by stores.At the start of the year the number one single was "Buckaroo" by Buck Owens and his Buckaroos, which had been at the top spot since the issue of Billboard dated December 25, 1965. It retained the number one position for one week in 1966 before being replaced by "Giddyup Go" by Red Sovine, the first of a number of sentimental songs about the truck-driving industry for which the singer would become known. After Sovine's six-week run at number one, Owens returned to the top with "Waitin' in Your Welfare Line", the first of three chart-toppers from his album "Open Up Your Heart". One of the most successful recording artists of the mid-1960s, Owens spent the highest number of weeks at number one in 1966, occupying the top spot for a total of 18 weeks with his four chart-topping singles. Only two other artists took more than one single to number one in 1966. Eddy Arnold, one of the biggest country music stars of the 1940s and early 1950s, had revitalised his somewhat declining career in the mid-1960s by embracing the "Nashville sound", a newer style of country music which eschewed elements of the earlier honky-tonk style in favour of smooth productions which had a broader appeal. In 1965 Arnold had gained his first number one hit since Billboard combined country music sales and airplay into a single chart in 1958, and his success continued into 1966, when he reached the top spot twice and spent a combined total of ten weeks at number one. Jim Reeves also achieved two chart-toppers in 1966, both of which were posthumous; the singer had been killed in a plane crash two years earlier.Two vocalists topped the chart for the first time in 1966. In August David Houston reached the top spot for the first time with "Almost Persuaded", and remained atop the chart for nine consecutive weeks. There would not be another unbroken run of this length at the top of the Hot Country chart until 2012, when Taylor Swift had a nine-week run at number one with "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together". In December, Jack Greene reached the top of the chart for the first time with "There Goes My Everything", which was the final number one of the year.

List of Hot Country Singles number ones of 1976

Hot Country Songs is a chart that ranks the top-performing country music songs in the United States, published by Billboard magazine. In 1976, 37 different singles topped the chart, then published under the title Hot Country Singles, in 52 issues of the magazine, based on playlists submitted by country music radio stations and sales reports submitted by stores.At the start of the year the song at the top of the chart was "Convoy" by C. W. McCall, which had been at number one since the issue of Billboard dated December 20, 1975 and remained in the top spot until the issue dated January 31, 1976, when it was replaced by "This Time I've Hurt Her More than She Loves Me" by Conway Twitty. "Convoy" also topped the magazine's all-genres singles chart, the Hot 100. It was one of three 1976 country number ones to capitalize on the prevailing fad for citizens band radio (CB), along with "The White Knight" by Cledus Maggard & the Citizen's Band and "Teddy Bear" by Red Sovine. CB also featured, to a lesser extent, in the song "One Piece at a Time", which was the final chart-topper for Country Music Hall of Famer and icon of the genre Johnny Cash.C. W. McCall's total of four weeks at number one in 1976 was matched by Willie Nelson, who spent one week in the top spot with "If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time" and three with "Good Hearted Woman" in collaboration with Waylon Jennings, and Tammy Wynette, who spent three weeks at number one with two solo singles and a further week at the top with "Golden Ring", a duet with her former husband George Jones. The couple had divorced the previous year, but nonetheless continued to record together. As well as Jennings, Conway Twitty, Marty Robbins and Red Sovine each spent three weeks at number one. Twitty was the only act to take three different singles to number one in 1976. Acts to top the chart for the first time in 1976 included novelty artist Cledus Maggard, who reached the number one position with his first ever Hot Country hit. He would go on to chart three more singles but his chart career ended in 1978, after which Maggard, real name Jay Huguely, would concentrate on the field of television production. Two female singers gained their first number ones via duets with established male vocalists: Mary Lou Turner with Bill Anderson and Helen Cornelius with Jim Ed Brown. Vocal group Dave & Sugar topped the chart for the first time with "The Door Is Always Open", the third version of the song to be a hit in less than three years, but by far the most successful.

Missing You (Red Sovine song)

"Missing You" is a song written by Red Sovine and Dale Noe, which was originally released by Red Sovine in 1955, and was later a hit single for Webb Pierce in 1957, Ray Peterson in 1961, and was posthumously a hit for Jim Reeves in 1972. Sovine's version was the B-side of Red Sovine and Webb Pierce's hit single "Why Baby Why".

Old Rivers

"Old Rivers" is a country music song written by Cliff Crofford which tells the story of a man recalling a childhood friendship with an elderly farmer. The song was most famously recorded as a recitation by actor and recording artist Walter Brennan.

Released in March 1962, "Old Rivers" — prominently featuring The Johnny Mann Singers as the backing choir over Brennan's recitation of the refrain — became a top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, Easy Listening, and Hot C&W Sides charts by the end of May.

The song was also recorded by Jimmy Dean, Dave Dudley and Red Sovine.

Phantom 309

"Phantom 309" is a song written by Tommy Faile and released as a single by Red Sovine in 1967. It was a minor hit, peaking at number nine on the Billboard Magazine Country chart.

Phantom 309 (album)

Phantom 309 is an album by country music singer Woodrow Wilson Sovine (July 17, 1918 – April 4, 1980), better known as Red Sovine released by Starday Records in 1967 and re-released by Power Pak Records (the budget division of Gusto Records) in 1975 with the same track listing and album art. There was also a compilation CD of the same name issued by Prism Leisure in 2001. The original album peaked at #18 in the country charts and the title track reached #9 when originally released and #47 on its 1975 release.

Roses for Mama (song)

"Roses for Mama" is a song recorded by both country music artists Red Sovine and C. W. McCall, and was a top 5 hit for McCall in 1977. The song was also covered, in German, by Austrian singer Jonny Hill in 1979.One of McCall's numerous recitations released during the 1970s, "Roses for Mama" differed from his usual novelty-style tales. Instead, this song focuses on a traveller's kind-hearted actions toward a motherless boy.

Starday Records

Starday Records was a record label producing traditional country music during the 1950s and 1960s.

Teddy Bear (Red Sovine song)

"Teddy Bear" is a song made famous by country music singer Red Sovine. Released in 1976, the song was the title track to Sovine's album released that same year.

The song — actually, a recitation with an instrumental backing — was one of Sovine's many recordings that saluted the American truck driver. "Teddy Bear," released during the height of the citizens' band radio craze of the mid-1970s, is titled after the song's main character, a young paraplegic boy whose semi-trailer truck-driving father had been killed in a road accident, and is left with a CB radio to keep him company.

What Would You Do (If Jesus Came to Your House)

"What Would You Do (If Jesus Came to Your House)" is a country gospel song, written by Yolanda Adams, Errol McCalla Jr., Jonathan Broussard and Marcus Ecby, and popularized in 1956 by up-and-coming country singer Porter Wagoner.

Wagoner's version reached No. 8 on the Billboard country charts in the spring of 1956, and was the higher of two competing chart versions released that year. Also in 1956, another up-and-coming country singer, Red Sovine, released his own version on Decca Records, which peaked at No. 15. For Sovine, although the main chorus – What would you do/if Jesus came to your house/to spend some time with you – is sung, it was one of his first songs that were spoken, as most of his later well-known songs were.

Why Baby Why

"Why Baby Why" is the title of a country music song co-written and originally recorded by George Jones. Released in late 1955 on Starday Records and produced by Starday co-founder and Jones' manager Pappy Daily, it peaked at 4 on the Billboard country charts that year. It was Jones' first chart single, following several unsuccessful singles released during the prior year on Starday.

Woodrow Wilson (disambiguation)

Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) was the 28th President of the United States.

Woodrow Wilson may also refer to:

Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie (1912–1967), American folk singer.

Woodrow Wilson "Red" Sovine (1917–1980), American country and Western singer.

Woodrow "Woodie" Wilson (1925–1994), American stock car racing driver.

Robert Woodrow Wilson, American astronomer.

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