65 Years Ago: Webb Pierce Hits No. 1 With ‘Slowly’
During the week of Feb. 20, 1954, Webb Pierce started his 17-week reign atop Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores country chart with "Slowly."
Co-written by Pierce and Tommy Hill, the song derives strength from simplicity. Thematically, its lyrics are direct when talking about love ("Now I can't hide my feelings no matter what I do / For, slowly, I'm falling more in love with you"), and the music is sparse, with fiddle and brushed drums playing prominent roles.
"Slowly," which was recorded on Nov. 29, 1953, also has the distinction of being the first Billboard country chart-topper to feature pedal steel. It came courtesy of legendary musician Bud Isaacs, who said in a Fretboard Journal interview years later he was paid $41 to perform on "Slowly." Still, his contribution to the song was immeasurable.
"He would change music history forever with his playing on Webb Pierce’s "Slowly,"" wrote Fretboard Journal's Jon Rauhouse in the article's intro. "The guitar that he had altered with simple equipment from a hardware store created a pitch-changing sound that had never been heard before."
Pierce scored two other chart-topping hits in 1954, "There Stands the Glass" and "More And More," and added three more big hits in 1955 with "In the Jailhouse Now," "Love, Love, Love" and "I Don't Care." As for "Slowly," the song has also been covered by Connie Smith, in 1966, and by Kippi Brannon, in 1981. The latter version scraped into the country Top 40 at No. 37 — although Jimmy Dean and Dottie West landed at No. 29 with their 1971 duet of the song.
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