Among the crop of televised talent shows trying to capture the ratings of American Idol, I especially sort of enjoy CMT’s Next Superstar, on Country Music Television and now in its final rounds. The contestants, all at least semi-pros, are at least tolerably good, and the songs are pretty much within my range of taste. In addition to sangin’, each week the contestants perform a task of some sort — busking on the streets on Nashville one week; playing in a biker bar (in every case surrounded, of course, by TV cameras and production people) the next.
A couple weeks ago, the contestants were given the opportunity to record in the Sun Studio in Memphis; and requested to perform a Sun song. I can’t remember at this point who sang what, buy maybe two of the songs (out of five) were identified (like, say, “I Walk the Line”) with the Sun label. Unless Hank Williams recorded “I’m So Lonesome I Cold Cry” for Sam Phillips.
OK, the contestants — between 20-30 years old or so, most of ’em — don’t know a Sun song from anything else their parents or grandparents owned.* But what’s the production staff’s excuse — or, better, the judges; one of whom, Matt Serletic, is a big-time a&r guy?
My favorite. Wynn Varble, was eliminated this week. He had a distinctive, “country” (as opposed to “bar band” sound, and writes clever original songs (a bonus; contestants only had to write one song — with a professional — during one round). He lasted longer than Serletic probably would have liked — being 50 and not pretty. He’s had songs recorded by Kellie Pickler. Daryl Worley, Easton Corbin (this one went to No. 1) and Willie Nelson, but he won’t be CMT’s Next Superstar.
“Judge” Serletic asked how he expected to fill auditoriums with his funny songs. Varble pointed out that Jeff Foxworthy does OK. He might have also mentioned Roger Miller. But he got dumped this weeks because the voters, a random group of participants in a local charity, voted for other contestants. Truth is, I probably would have dumped him, too: he’s one of the ones who don’t know any Sun Records songs.
Here’s a Varble composition that he didn’t get a chance to sing on the show:
*In fairness, Hank’s records were on MGM; which, like Sun’s, have a yellow label.