Rual Route Music By Bluegrass Johnson
BITTERSWEET, Ky. — As I sit here in my “writing chair” contemplating this column, I thought I would try something different, in order to pick a subject related to country music to write about. (No, these ideas don’t just pop into my head – but in saying that,I decided to try a little experiment on myself.)
I closed my eyes and decided the first thing, song or person that jumped into my mind would be featured in this week’s column. So first, I had to empty my head completely.
My wife says that should be easy to do since it is half-empty to begin with. Whenever she says stuff like that, I remind her that she married me by her own free will. That usually ends the conversation! So, once my mind cleared, the first thing that popped back in my head was Cleve Francis. I know, I know, you are thinking, Who the heck is Cleve Francis and why did you think of him?
I can’t tell you why, but I can tell you this: Cleve Francis is one of the best singers I have ever heard who did not make it to the big time, or at least what we perceive as “the big time.” That’s not to say he has not been a success in the music business.
But let’s face it, it’s not a name we usually hear on the radio.
Cleveland Francis – or should I say, Dr. Cleveland Francis – is an accomplished cardiologist as well as a country music performer. I discovered him way back in the days of cassette tapes, purely by accident.
I was really drawn to his smooth voice and was sure this guy would be all over the charts. And for a while, this Louisiana native toured the country and appeared on numerous television shows and was featured in many newspaper articles. Unfortunately, he was always referred to as the “county music doctor.”
I say “unfortunately” since, in my humble opinion, he never really crossed that threshold into stardom because he was a doctor who sang country music, rather than being a country music singer who happened to be a doctor.
Francis still does some performing close to his home in Alexandria, Va., and he still practices. While that’s a good thing for his patients, it’s not so good for country music fans who were as impressed as I was that first time I heard him perform.
Here’s to the greatest voice you never heard of. I can only hope he retires from medicine and goes back on the road.
Bluegrass Johnson comes from a long line of country music performers and enjoys a passion for the rhythm and melody. From the hills of Kentucky, he will offer his opinions on a variety of new country music each week. Readers with questions or comments may write to Johnson in care of this publication.