Monday, March 7, 2011
#10 Merrilee Rush "Angel of the Morning" 1968
It is June 1968.
An assassin guns down another Kennedy.
Police arrest Martin Luther King Jr's killer.
War rages in Vietnam.
And racing up the pop charts is a steamy million-selling love song about a one night stand, "Angel of the Morning", by Seattle singer Merrilee Rush.
"The lyric was revolutionary for its time." Merrilee says, "Because this hasn't been said this way before. It was an overnight stand but it was said beautifully."
And sung beautifully by Rush, a dazzling brunette Johnny Cash called "the prettiest, sweetest apple the state of Washington ever produced."
"I was the Marlo Thomas of Rock n Roll," She laughs.
More than 40 years after that Grammy nominated performance, Merrilee has still got it. The voice. The stage presence. The mile wide smile. But she spends most of her time, these days, with her first true loves: her English sheepdogs. She bought her first sheepdog with babysitting money.
"I don't breed a lot, " she says. " but I've been breeding for 25 years and handling in the show room for 23 years and I love it. When you have a great moving dog that's really put together
and flows with you it's just my happy place!"
Her other happy place is an old dairy farm where her grandparents once lived. The cows are gone and so is the barn.
"And the outhouse," She points out. "I used to go in the outhouse .I was a mere child and I'd have to get up in the middle of the night, go out in the dark and I'd have to go to the outhouse."
A shy girl growing up, Merrilee had to be coaxed to front the bands she played in. Those were the days of bold patterned dresses and not one but two sets of false eyelashes.
"I was groovy." she laughs.
How groovy? Check out this 1969 clip from The Johnny Cash show.
Merrilee says looking back it all seems so foreign. Of course there were supposed to be other hits but that meant playing a game Merrilee wasn't interested in.
"I hated Vegas." she said."I hated the whole 'do the same thing three times a night every night'. There's no creativity. There's no room to move."
Now , with the farm she shares with musician husband Billy Mac and all those shaggy angels by her side, Merrilee has plenty of room.
Every so often she gets up on stage and sings her old hit, written incidentally by Jon Voight's brother Chip Taylor ( who also wrote "Wild Thing" for the Troggs).
The fans she considers most special? That's easy.
"The Vietnam vets that were over there at the time," She says."There was one fellow who said 'Yeah we played that before we'd fly out in the morning and some of them would tear up just talking about that period and that song so that means a lot."
By the way Merrilee is no angel of the morning. She's more of a night owl and prefers to sleep in.