Bear Family Records will pair six classic Bobby Bare albums featuring the songs of Shel Silverstein with 25 previously unreleased tracks as part of the eight-disc CD box set Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus (out Oct. 2).
"Plus" means there's a handful of songs by other writers, but for the most part, this 137 song collection highlights a bulk of Silverstein's contributions to country music. It also comes with a 128-page hardcover book featuring a new interview with Bare by Hank Davis, an overview of Silverstein's life and work by Dave Samuelson, plus the lyrics to every song.
The unheard tracks include "18 Wheeler Parked at the Ritz Hotel," which offers a vivid snapshot of Silverstein's way with words.
"This song is a great example of Shel [Silverstein] being such a visual writer," Bare says. "Most of his songs were like movies to me. That's why I recorded so many of them. I never saw them as poems; they were like watching a movie. I could see faces on all the characters. They were that clear to me."
Bare tells motion picture-quality stories, too, when explaining the song's title and its creation.
"The Ritz hotel was based on a Holiday Inn in Nashville," Bare says. "It's not there anymore, and it wasn't one of their fancier properties. Both Shel and I had stayed there. When I was 28 I had my tonsils out and I actually recovered at this 'Ritz Hotel'.
"I remember the recording session pretty well," he continues. "There were a lot of pretty girls there. Pretty girls in Nashville are usually aspiring singers, so we put them to work and got them to sing on the session. I doubt they expected that to happen when they came by to watch."
The story of how Bare met Silverstein paints an equally rich picture of a fast friendship.
"One night, I think it was in November during the CMA week, there was a big party out at Harlan Howard's house," Bare recalls. "All the big songwriters were there and Shel was there too. I had met him before through Chet [Atkins]. So we were talking and I told Shel I wanted to do a concept album but nobody really got the idea. This was on Saturday night. On Monday morning about 10 AM I got a call from Shel saying 'I've got you an album.'
"I said, 'When can I hear it?,' and he says 'How about this afternoon?,'" Bare adds. "He was calling from Chicago. And he got on a plane and brought the album with him. He had spent the weekend putting the whole thing together, including the title -Lullabys, Legends and Lies. I know one of the songs was 'The Winner,' which I thought was the funniest thing I'd ever heard. I went into the studio and we did three or four of the songs and I told him, 'Yeah, Shel, this is going to work.'"
In addition to writing Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue," Emmylou Harris' "Queen of the Silver Dollar," Loretta Lynn's "One's on the Way" and other country songs, Silverstein worked for years as a Playboy cartoonist and children's book author. He's best-known outside of country music circles for the books A Light in the Attic, Where The Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree. Silverstein also wrote multiple Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show songs, including "The Cover of Rolling Stone."
Silverstein died from a heart attack on May 10, 1999. He was 68 years old.
Bare, an Ohio native, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. His lengthy recording career has included a stint with the Old Dogs, a supergroup which also featured Jerry Reed, Waylon Jennings and Mel Tillis.
Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus Track Listing
CD 1 • Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends And Lies
Lullabys, Legends And Lies • Paul • Marie Laveau • Daddy What If • The Wonderful Soup Stone • The Winner • In The Hills Of Shiloh • She's My Ever Lovin' Machine • The Mermaid • Rest Awhile • Bottomless Well • True Story • Sure Hit Songwriters Pen • Rosalie's Good Eats Cafe
CD 2 • Hard Time Hungrys plus
Hard Time Hungrys • (Taxes On) The Farmer Feeds Us All • Alimony • Two For A Dollar • Back Home In Huntsville Again • Daddy's Been Around The House Too Long • Warm And Free • Able-Bodied Man • $100,000 In Pennies • Bottles And Boxes • Truck Driver, Truck Driver • The Unemployment Line • Too Much Blues • Things To Sell • Door To Door • Poor Blues • It's Good To Know The Sun's Still Shinin' Somewhere • Lead Me Back Home
CD 3 •Singin' In The Kitchen plus
Singin' In The Kitchen • The Monkey And The Elephant • Lovin' You Anyway • Where'd I Come From • Ricky Ticky Song • The Giving Tree • You Are • The Unicorn • Cloudy Sky • She Thinks I Can • Scarlet Ribbons • See That Bluebird • Sylvia's Mother • You Know Who • Staying Here With Me • The Wheel • Love And Flowers • The Stranger • Chester • Bald Headed Woman • Baby Wants To Boogie • Brian Hennessey • Climbin' The Ladder And Climbin' The Walls • Yes, Mr. Rodgers
CD 4 • Stray Bare Tracks
Sweet Larraine • Lemme Be Something • Vince • Make It Pretty For Me Baby • Vegas • It Ain't Easy • February Snow • Sing For The Song • From The Jungle To The Zoo • Too Many Nights Alone • Greasy Grit Gravy • They Held Me Down • This Guitar Is For Sale • There's An 18 Wheeler In Front Of The Ritz Hotel • More Like The Movies • Hattie Halle And Big Dupree
CD 5 • More Stray Bare Tracks
Nobody Wants To Go Home • Childhood Hero • A Week On The Town (Gone As A Goose) • Yard Full Of Rusty Cars • When She Cries • Cold Day In Hell • So Good To So Bad • The Diet Song (Version 1) • When Hippies Get Older • Jennifer Johnson And Me • Me And Jimmie Rodgers • You Jumped Off The Gravy Train • Time • Drinkin' From The Bottle • Someplace To Come When It Rains • Stacy Brown Got Two • The Jogger • Three-Legged Man • Rodeo Queen • The Diet Song (Version 2)
CD 6 • The Complete Great American Saturday Night
Great American Saturday Night • Red-Neck Hippie Romance • Kids Today • Dirty Ol' Me • The Diet Song • Paintin' Her Fingernails • Goodnight Little Houseplant • I Can't Sleep • The Living Legend • They Won't Let Us Show It At The Beach • The Day All The Yes Men Said No • Time • Whiplash Will • Me And Jimmie Rodgers • Someone To Talk To • Great American Saturday Night
CD 7 •Down & Dirty
Good For Nothing Blues (Funky Water) • Numbers • Some Days Are Diamonds • Tequila Sheila • Rock Star's Lament • Crazy Again • Tecumseh Valley • Blind Willie Harper • Rough On The Living • Down To My Last Come And Get Me • Quaaludes Again • Goin' Back To Texas • I Can't Watch The Movie Anymore
CD 8 •Drunk & Crazy
Drunk And Crazy • Food Blues • The World's Last Truck Drivin' Man • I Can Almost See Houston From Here • If That Ain't Love • Rock And Roll Hotel • This Much Rain • Song Of The South • Appaloosa Rider • Bathroom Tissue Paper Letter • Willie Jones • Gotta Get Rid Of This Band • Drinkin' And Druggin' And Watchin' TV • Your Credit Card Won't Get You Into Heaven • I've Never Gone To Bed With An Ugly Woman • Desperados Waiting For A Train