Michael Webb Pierce (August 8, 1921 – February 24, 1991) was an American honky tonk vocalist, songwriter and guitarist of the 1950s, one of the most popular of the genre, charting more number one hits than any other country artist during the decade.
Webb Pierce, c. 1957
|Birth name||Michael Webb Pierce|
|Born||August 8, 1921|
West Monroe, Louisiana, United States
|Died||February 24, 1991 69)(aged|
|Genres||country, honky tonk, Western Swing, country gospel, Hillbilly|
|Labels||4 Star, Decca, MCA, Plantation|
His biggest hit was "In the Jailhouse Now," which charted for 37 weeks in 1955, 21 of them at number one. Pierce also charted number one for several weeks each with his recordings of "Slowly" (1954), "Love, Love, Love" (1955), "I Don't Care" (1955), "There Stands the Glass" (1953), "More and More" (1954), "I Ain't Never" (1959), and his first number one "Wondering," which stayed at the top spot for four of its 27 weeks' charting in 1952. He had country gospel song "I Love Him Dearly" also. His iconic hit "Teenage Boogie" was covered by British band T. Rex as "I Love to Boogie" in 1974, but credited as being written by the group's lead singer Marc Bolan and not Pierce. The music of Webb was also made popular during the British rockabilly scene in the 1980s and 1990s.
For many, Pierce, with his flamboyant Nudie suits and twin silver dollar-lined convertibles, became the most recognizable face of country music of the era and its excesses. Pierce was a one-time member of the Grand Ole Opry and was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A tribute album in his honor (produced by singer/songwriter Gail Davies) was released in 2001 entitled Caught In The Webb - A Tribute To Country Legend Webb Pierce.
Born in West Monroe, Louisiana in 1921, as a boy Pierce was infatuated with Gene Autry films and his mother's hillbilly records, particularly those of Jimmie Rodgers and Western swing and Cajun groups. He began to play guitar before he was a teenager and at 15 was given his own weekly 15-minute show, Songs by Webb Pierce, on KMLB-AM in Monroe.
He enlisted in the US Army Air Forces, and in 1942 he married Betty Jane Lewis. After he was discharged, the couple moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where Pierce worked in the men's department of a Sears Roebuck store. In 1947, the couple appeared on KTBS-AM's morning show as "Webb Pierce with Betty Jane, the Singing Sweetheart". Pierce also performed at local engagements, developing his unique style that was once described as "a wailing whiskey-voiced tenor that wrang out every drop of emotion."
Rise to fame
In 1949, California-based 4 Star Records signed the Webbs under separate contracts, with his wife signed for duets with her husband under the name Betty Jane and Her Boyfriends. However, success only came for Pierce, and in the summer of 1950, the couple divorced.
He moved to KWKH-AM and joined Louisiana Hayride during its first year, and devised a plan to achieve instant "stardom." Before the show, he bought tickets for several young girls in line and asked them to sit in the first row, and after each of his songs to scream and beg for more. It worked; their enthusiasm spread throughout the audience.
Pierce assembled and performed with a band of local Shreveport musicians, including pianist Floyd Cramer, guitarist-vocalist Faron Young, bassist Tillman Franks and vocalists Teddy and Doyle Wilburn. He also founded a record label, Pacemaker; and Ark-La-Tex Music, a publishing company, with Horace Logan, the director of the Hayride. On Pacemaker, Pierce made several records between 1950 and 1951 designed to attract radio play around Louisiana.
Shreveport to Nashville
In 1951, Pierce got out of his 4 Star contract and was quickly signed by Decca Records. His second single, "Wondering", became his breakthrough hit, climbing to No. 1 early in 1952. Pierce moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he met and married his second wife, Audrey Greisham. In June 1952, he had his second No. 1 single with "That Heart Belongs to Me".
In September 1952, the Grand Ole Opry needed to fill the vacancy left by the firing of Hank Williams, and Pierce was invited to join the cast. After Williams' death, he became the most popular singer in country music; for the next four years, every single he released hit the top ten, with ten reaching No. 1, including "There Stands the Glass" (1953), "Slowly" (1954), "More and More" (1954) (a million seller), and "In the Jailhouse Now" (1955). His singles spent 113 weeks at No. 1 during the 1950s, when he charted 48 singles. Thirty-nine reached the top ten, 26 reached the top four and 13 hit No. 1.
Other hits included "Back Street Affair", "Why Baby Why", "Oh, So Many Years", and "Finally"; the latter two being duets with Kitty Wells. His 1954 recording of "Slowly" was one of the first country songs to include a pedal steel guitar. He made regular appearances on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee including as a guest host once a month during 1956. In 1958, he recorded a rockabilly record, "The New Raunchy"/"I'll Get by Somehow" for Decca under the name Shady Wall. (Shady Wall (1922–1985) was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and a banker from West Monroe. It is not known if Pierce knew the political Wall or merely made up the name for the record and was unaware of the actual Shady Wall.)
Pierce continued charting until 1982 with a total of 96 hits; and he toured extensively and appeared in the movies Buffalo Guns, Music City USA, Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar, and The Road to Nashville
Lavish lifestyle and later years
As his music faded from the spotlight, Pierce became known for his excessive lifestyle. He had North Hollywood tailor Nudie Cohen, who had made flamboyant suits for Pierce, line two convertibles with silver dollars. He built a $30,000 guitar-shaped swimming pool at his Nashville home which became a popular paid tourist attraction — nearly 3,000 people visited it each week — causing his neighbors, led by singer Ray Stevens, to file suit and prevail against Pierce to end the tours.
He remained with Decca and its successor, MCA, well into the 1970s, but by 1977 he was recording for Plantation Records. Even though he had occasional minor hits, charting in a 1982 duet with Willie Nelson, a remake of "In the Jailhouse Now," he spent his final years tending to his businesses, and his legend became clouded due to his reputation as a hard drinker. Webb and his daughter Debbie recorded the ballad "On My Way Out" as the Pierces, and she was a member of the country group Chantilly in the early 1980s.
Pierce waged a long battle with pancreatic cancer, which he lost on February 24, 1991, and was buried in the Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville.
Pierce has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1600 Vine Street. He was inducted, posthumously, into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October 2001 and into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Caught In The Webb–a Tribute to the Legendary Webb Pierce was released on Audium Records in 2001. Produced and arranged by singer-songwriter Gail Davies, this album features Willie Nelson, Crystal Gayle, George Jones, Emmylou Harris, The Del McCoury Band, Charley Pride, Allison Moorer, Dwight Yoakam, Pam Tillis, Dale Watson, The Jordanaires, Gail Davies, and others. Gail Davies herself first charted in 1978 with "No Love Have I," a No. 26 Billboard Country hit that Pierce had recorded (and taken to No. 4) in 1959. Proceeds from this album will benefit The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation.
Footage of Pierce singing "There Stands the Glass" was featured in the 2005 documentary No Direction Home by Martin Scorsese about early influences on Bob Dylan. Pierce's hit single "More and More" was played in the title credits of the 2006 horror film The Hills Have Eyes.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Webb Pierce among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
|Year||Album||US Country||Label||Cat No||EAN / UPC||Notes|
|1956||The Wondering Boy|
|1959||Bound for the Kingdom|
|1960||Webb with a Beat|
|Walking the Streets|
|1961||Webb Pierce's Golden Favorites|
|I've Got a New Heartache|
|Bow Thy Head|
|1964||The Webb Pierce Story||13|
|Sands of Gold|
|1965||Memory No. 1||6|
|Country Music Time|
|1967||Where'd Ya Stay Last Night||43|
|1968||Fool Fool Fool|
|1969||Webb Pierce Sings This Thing||32|
|1970||Love Ain't Never Gonna Be No Better||42|
|Merry Go Round World|
|1972||I'm Gonna Be a Swinger|
|1979||Faith, Hope and Love||Skylite|
|1982||In the Jailhouse Now (w/ Willie Nelson)||Columbia|
|1990||The Wondering Boy 1951-1958||Bear Family Records||BCD15522||4000127155221||4-CD Boxed Set|
|1994||The Unavailable Sides 1950-1951||Krazy Kat||KKCD16||0008637601621|
|US Country||US CB Country||US CB||US
|1952||"That Heart Belongs to Me"||1|
|"Back Street Affair"||1|
|1953||"I'll Go on Alone"||4|
|"That's Me Without You"||4|
|"The Last Waltz"||4|
|"I Haven't Got the Heart"||5|
|"It's Been So Long"||1|
|"Don't Throw Your Life Away"||9|
|"There Stands the Glass"||1|
|"I'm Walking the Dog"||3|
|"Sparkling Brown Eyes" (w/ The Wilburn Brothers)||4|
|"More and More"||1||22|
|"You're Not Mine Anymore"||4|
|1955||"In the Jailhouse Now"||1|
|"I'm Gonna Fall Out of Love with You"||10|
|"I Don't Care"||1|
|"Your Good for Nothing Heart"||flip|
|"Love, Love, Love"||1|
|"If You Were Me"||7|
|1956||"Why Baby Why" (w/ Red Sovine)||1|
|"Yes I Know Why"||2|
|"'Cause I Love You"||3|
|"Little Rosa" (w/ Red Sovine)||5|
|"Any Old Time"||7|
|"We'll Find a Way"||flip|
|"I'm Really Glad You Hurt Me"||flip|
|"It's My Way"||flip|
|"Honky Tonk Song"||1|
|"Oh So Many Years" (w/ Kitty Wells)||8|
|"Bye Bye Love"||7||73|
|"Holiday for Love"||3||18|
|"Don't Do It Darlin'"||12|
|1958||"One Week Later" (w/ Kitty Wells)||12|
|"Cryin' Over You"||3||7|
|"You'll Come Back"||10||33|
|"Falling Back to You"||10||10|
|"Tupelo County Jail"||7||6|
|1959||"I'm Letting You Go"||22||31|
|"A Thousand Miles Ago"||6||3|
|"What Goes On In Your Heart"||49|
|"I Ain't Never"||2||1||25||24|
|1960||"No Love Have I"||4||4||60||54|
|"(Doin' the) Lover's Leap"||17||9||tag||93|
|"Is It Wrong (For Loving You)"||11||15||117||69|
|"Drifting Texas Sand"||11||9||108|
|"All I Need Is You"||29|
|1961||"Let Forgiveness In"||5||5|
|"There's More Pretty Girls Than One"||44||118|
|"Walking the Streets"||5||3|
|"How Do You Talk to a Baby"||7||6|
|1962||"Alla My Love"||5||3|
|"You Are My Life"||15|
|"Crazy Wild Desire"||8||3|
|"Sooner or Later"||19||11|
|1963||"How Come Your Dog Don't Bite Nobody But Me" (w/ Mel Tillis)||25||12|
|"If I Could Come Back"||21||5|
|"Sands of Gold"||7||4||117||118|
|"Nobody's Darlin' But Mine"||5||147|
|"If the Back Door Could Talk"||13||7|
|"Those Wonderful Years"||9||8|
|1964||"Waiting a Lifeitme"||25||28|
|"Memory No. 1"||2||1|
|"Finally" (w/ Kitty Wells)||9||7||2|
|"He Made You For Me" (w/ Kitty Wells)||44|
|1965||"That's Where My Money Goes"||26||11|
|"Loving You Then Losing You"||22||32|
|"Who Do I Think I Am"||13||28|
|"Hobo and the Rose"||50||25|
|1966||"You Ain't No Better Than Me"||46||55|
|"Love's Something (I Can't Understand)"||25||31|
|"Where'd Ya Stay Last Night"||14||14|
|1967||"Goodbye City, Goodbye Girl"||39||40|
|"Fool Fool Fool"||6||3||5|
|"Stranger in a Strange, Strange City"||26||31|
|"In Another World"||74|
|1969||"If I Had Last Night to Live Over"||32||20|
|"Love Ain't Gonna Be No Better"||38||52|
|"The Man You Want Me to Be"||56||36|
|1971||"Showing His Dollar"||73|
|"Tell Him That You Love Him"||31||21|
|"Someone Stepped In (And Stole Me Blind)"||73||62|
|1972||"Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful"||21|
|"I'm Gonna Be a Swinger"||54||65|
|1975||"The Good Lord Giveth (And Uncle Sam Taketh Away)"||57||32|
|1976||"I've Got Leaving on My Mind"||82||59||41|
|1982||"In the Jailhouse Now" (w/ Willie Nelson)||72||54|
|1985||"One Big Family"||Heart of Nashville||61|
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Webb Pierce Biography". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Penman, Eric W. "Webb Pierce, Pillar of Honkytonk". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- Lester, George (2007-07-14). "The Utopian Life". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 70. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Sachs, Bill "Pierce Takes Leave of WSM and 'Opry'" (March 2, 1957), The Billboard, p. 22
- Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
- Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 698. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.
has a son Michael Webb Pierce jr, grandson Michael Webb Pierce III, He was a wealthy man but also very giving. He bought kidney machines for the children’s Vanderbilt unit, he supported his family and helped many organizations involving children. He was loyal to his fans and never forgot how he got there. That was the whole purpose of the swimming pool was for his fans, He would go out to the pool and talk with his fans. He was so loved by his wife and son also his fans.
- Webb Pierce at the Country Music Hall of Fame
- Webb Pierce at the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame
- Webb Pierce biography at musicianguide.com
- Webb Pierce biography at Engine 145.com
- Webb Pierce's Grammer guitar in the National Music Museum
- Video of Webb Pierce's Pontiac Bonneville at the Country Music Hall of Fame
- The Webb Site: an annotated Webb Pierce discography at Slipcue.com
- Webb Pierce at Find a Grave