During the early and mid-fifties, I had been experimenting
with translating some of the country guitar (and other instrumental,
and vocal) sounds I had come to love to the piano. Not because
I had any idea that piano would come to play a starring
role on country records, but because I wanted to be able
to make these sounds, or something close, and being a keyboard
player only and unable to play guitar or steel guitar or
fiddle, my only solutions was to find something on the piano
that would satisfy my longing to make this kind of music.
After Hal (Blair) and I finished PLEASE HELP ME
I'M FALLING, we went down to Hill&Range and
I played and sang it for Julian Aberbach. They were, at
that time, working from their home in Hollywood on Hollywood
Blvd.; a big old mansion from the golden days of Hollywood.
Julian liked it immediately and said he could get us a top
country record on it. Next step: we needed a demo. I was
on the outs with my ex-wife Lou, who had been singing the
demos up until that time. Also, when I first got the idea
and the melody and a partial lyric, I had performed it for
Lou who didn't like it. So I decided, for the first time,
to try singing it myself, uncertain as I was about my solo
vocal work. I plunged in and booked some time at Goldstar
and worked with Stan Ross (my all time favorite engineer/producer)
in their small studio B in the back. I did it as I had been
rehearsing it, using some of the figures in the accompaniment
that had resulted from my piano experiments. Stan seemed
to like it, which helped enormously since I had, up to that
time, been depending totally on Lou's judgment. So my neck
was stuck way out on this one: different piano style, me
doing the vocal, working without Lou, who had done the vocal
solos on just about every one of my demos since I began
my serious songwriting career. Hal almost never came around
to the studio during the making of a demo... I don't know
why, since he undoubtedly could have made important contributions.
Too late to find out. Hal died last year.
Anyway, I took the demo to Julian Aberbach and he sent
it to Chet Atkins at RCA. Chet wanted to record it with
Jim Reeves. He gave it to Jim, who kept it for several weeks
and then turned it down. Chet then decided to try it with
an artist who was in a real slump in his career and down
on his luck but whom Chet felt could do it well. Hank Locklin
apparently liked it (and is still alive and performing his
major hit, PLEASE HELP ME I'M FALLING,
all over the world). Anyway, Chet hired his favorite piano
sideman, Floyd Cramer, to play on the session. He had given
my demo to Floyd a while before the date and asked Floyd
to learn my fills and imitate my style for the Locklin record.
If you listen to the original record the piano intro is
almost verbatim the intro on my demo. Later on in the record
he departed somewhat and (perhaps on Chet's suggestion)
played some of the fills in a higher register, which cut
through nicely above Locklin's high irish tenor voice. So,
in one fell swoop, a revived artist, a hit song, both country
and pop, a new piano style, a happy record company, and
a happy publisher and two very happy writers. A few years
back, Billboard listed PLEASE HELP ME I'M FALLING
as the #2 Most Popular Country Song "Of All Time."
Skeeter Davis recorded an answer song, I Can't Help You,
I'm Falling Too, with the same music, which became a huge
hit as well. The power of a song! The right song plus a
string of unbelievably lucky events. I think I like doing
it better than writing about it, but what the hell, I'm
the only one left who actually experienced these events.
Floyd died a couple of years ago, and Steve Sholes died
maybe ten years ago.