Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Faded Love

Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
with Keith Coleman, Dallas 1952

Faded Love is arguably one of the most recognizable and most played fiddle melodies in the world – truly a country music classic. It originated with fiddler, singer and Western Swing bandleader Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. 

The song’s melody is based on Darling Nelly Gray, an old song that Wills (b. 1905) learned from his father John Wills. This popular 19th-century song credited to Benjamin Hanby is written from the point of view of an African American male slave in Kentucky whose sweetheart was taken away from him by slave-owners. In the lyrics to the original tune, the man mourns his beloved who has been “sold south” to Georgia where slaves’ lives were generally regarded as very harsh. In the lyric, he longs to die and join her in heaven. Bob Wills’ brother Billy Jack Wills supplied the sentimental lyrics that are associated with the tune as Faded Love: I miss you darlin’ more and more everyday, As heaven would miss the stars above, With every heartbeat, I still think of you, And remember our faded love. 

"For the Last Time" recording session
with Keith Coleman, Johnny Gimble and
Merle Haggard
After Wills’1950 top 10 hit of Faded Love, the song became very popular. Leon McAuliffe’s instrumental version featuring triple fiddles was a top 40 hit in 1962 and became an important example of the American tradition of twin and triple fiddling. Just a year later, Patsy Cline’s recording also made the top 10. This recording featured string orchestration replacing the fiddles resulting in a new development in country music. 

The “Nashville Sound” created by Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley and Billy Sherrill was essentially country songs accompanied by string sections instead of fiddles, and provided an interesting bridge from the double and triple fiddles that so many of the Western Swing and Honky Tonk artists loved. Twin fiddling has continued to be associated with this tune however. Ray Price and Willie Nelson’s duet version reached No. 3 on Billboards Country Music Chart in 1980. 

The rendition of Faded Love presented here was largely inspired by the fiddling of Keith Coleman who played fiddle solos on Bob Wills’ famous final album For the Last Time. After suffering a crippling stroke, Bob Wills gathered the Texas Playboys together for one last recording. Wills was able to record the first six songs before another stoke prevented him from returning to the studio. The old band members tearfully carried on and fin­ished the album. Wills never regained consciousness and died in 1975.

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