Monday, August 14, 2006

George Jones

During the 1950s and 60s Country Music was an art form frequently in a dialogue with itself; if a male singer had a hit song about how great their dead dog was, you could bet dollars to donuts that three months later there'd be an answer song by a female singer telling her cheatin' man why she ran over his mangy mutt. But while many answer songs were (ahem) proverbial dogs, the trend also led to some true classics; perhaps the best example was Hank Thompson's "Wild Side of Life" about a wife gone astray being answered by the Kitty Wells classic "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" explaining why good wives go bad.

Back in 1957-58, with American military forces stationed around the globe, Nashville was in the midst of a mini-craze for cross-cultural love songs. In '57 Hank Locklin had a hit with "Geisha Girl" and Skeeter Davis answered it with "Lost To A Geisha Girl." Bobby Helms hit with "Fraulein" and Kitty Wells answered with "I'll Always Be Your Fraulein." And Jimmie Skinner put them all in their place with "I Found My Girl In the U.S.A."

It's in this context that George Jones wrote "Eskimo Pie" in 1958:

You can talk about your Frauleins and your pretty Geisha girls / And about the one you got in the U.S.A. / But I found myself a sweetheart in Alaska way up high / She's my Eskimo baby, she's my Eskimo pie.

Part answer disc, part trend hopping, and slightly bizarre, Jones sings about a pretty Eskimo girl who saves his life and wins his heart. Mercury/Starday released this song as 45 with "Color of the Blues" on the flip. "Color of the Blues" can currently be found on about 20 in-print Jones anthologies, while "Eskimo Pie" has been unavailable anywhere for years.

One more thing; George Jones is the best country singer ever.

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