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Rolling Stones unreleased: Crazy Arms
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Written by: Mooney/Seals
Recorded: EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France, Nov. 11-Dec. 16 1982
From Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012:
With just Keith Richards on piano and vocals and a country steel guitar, this country and western standard by Ralph Mooney and Charles Seals was covered by Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Chuck Berry, Waylon Jennings and, of course, The Flying Burrito Brothers, to mention just a few.
“Crazy Arms” is an American country song which was a career-making hit for Ray Price. The song, released in May 1956, went on to become a number 1 country hit that year, establishing Price’s sound, and redefining honky-tonk music. It was Price’s first No. 1 hit.
The song was published in 1949 by pedal steel player Ralph Mooney and Charles “Chuck” Seals.
“Crazy Arms” first appeared in the style of a traditional country ballad. Ralph Mooney wrote the song in 1949 with Chuck Seals, at a time when he was playing in Wynn Stewart’s band on the West Coast.
In 1954 in Pasadena, California, Stewart recorded a demo version of the song on 78 rpm acetate – this version was never released. The story of the song continues with recollections by country singer Hank Cochran, who said that successful California baker Claude Caviness and his wife Marilyn Kaye both thought Kaye was a great singer, but that other musicians could tell she was not. Caviness formed the Pep record label to promote Kaye, hoping to find her a hit. Mooney sold “Crazy Arms” to Caviness, and Caviness released a duet version of the song on 45 rpm vinyl, catalog number PEP 102, featuring Kenny Brown and the Arkansas Ramblers, with accompanying vocals by Marilyn Kaye.
This version of the song was fairly well received in Tampa, Florida, broadcast on radio station WALT by disc jockey Bob Martin, and when Ray Price toured through the station, Martin played him the record, recommending the song to Price. Price reworked the music and some of the lyrics, and recorded his own version on March 1, 1956, at Bradley Recording Studio in Nashville. After the song became a hit for Price, Caviness contacted Price to tell him that he held the rights to the song. Caviness and Price joined forces in 1959 to publish music under Caviness’ reworked Pamper label, with artist manager James Harrell “Hal” Smith as the third owner.
The up-and-coming Price, who already had several successful recordings by 1956, used “Crazy Arms” to establish himself as a star and to introduce fans to his new Texas shuffle sound: fiddle, pedal steel guitar, walking electric bass and swinging 4/4 rhythm. Those hallmarks became part of many of Price’s biggest hits throughout the mid-to-late 1950s and early 1960s, and set a new standard for rockabilly songs.