February 2, 2015

101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes 89: Kenny Rogers & the First Edition ~ The Ballad of Calico

photos by Styrous®

In addition to my 20,000 Vinyl LP collection I'm selling, I have reel-to-reel, pre-recorded tapes for sale. If interested, contact me by email please, not by a comment. 

I will have the Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, The Ballad of Calicoreel-to-reel tape for sale on eBay in March. I have others for sale on eBay now (see links below).    

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You can listen to the complete Ballad of Calico album on YouTube while you're reading this. It is in 19 parts but be aware, there are long, silent spaces at the end of each part.

Kenny Rogers & the First Edition ~ The Ballad of Calico 

The Ballad of Calico was the eighth studio album by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition and released as Reprise Records 6476. It reached #118 on the albums chart and produced one single, "School Teacher" which reach #91. The album was released in 1972. The album is a country-rock concept album about the real-life town of Calico, California. The entire double album was written by Michael Murphey and Larry Cansler and the songs tell the stories of individuals who lived in the town.

 The various members, not just Rogers, took lead vocals on the different songs, giving the album the sound of it coming from the characters themselves. A booklet with the vinyl LP album includes pictures of the group in period costumes, pictures of the town, and the lyrics written in long-hand with explanations by Murphey about the origins of the individual songs. As of March, 2007, the album remains out of print, though several songs from the album have been released on compilation LPs and CDs.

Sunrise Overture opens the album with a slow, very beautiful orchestral piece that is pensive and evocative of the spaciousness of the west. 

Calico Silver begins with a Rogers vocal and quiet piano intro that goes into a slow rock piece with a male chorus backup. It's about a man leaving his farm after a drought to a take a job in the silver mines near the town of Calico. Write Me Down is about the people who were forgotten over time. The Way It Used to be is about day-to-day life in Calico. Madame De Lil and Diaboilical Bill, the saloon keeper who scares her boyfriend out of town when she finds out he's stealing from her. 

School Teacher, is about the teacher who faces being an old maid (The teacher, Virginia Merritt, was actually 24 years old at the time and married soon after she left Calico). Road Agent, about a dead road agent. Sally Grey's Epitaph was based almost verbatim on a gravestone in the town cemetery. Dorsey, the Mail-Carrying Dog, the dog who delivers mail for the disabled postmaster. This song has each member of the group bark like a dog (which is broken by them laughing). The last song suddenly ends with the last phrase "your carrying dog" cut off.    

Side Two begins with the missing phrase appearing and immediately going into the first song, Harbor for My Soul. Calico Saturday Night is an instrumental, followed by Trigger Happy Kid about a young boy who idolizes gunfighters. Vachel Carling's Rubilator, is about a con man who creates a machine which takes over the town.  

Empty Handed Compadres is about prospectors who returned without anything. One Lonely Room is about a man who never leaves the town after it becomes a ghost town. Rockin' Chair Theme is a brief instrumental leading into the next song, Old Mojave Highway about the road itself which crossed the desert (now the pathway of Interstate 15). Man Came up from Town is about remains of early man later found in the mountains. The album closes with Calico Silver (reprise) in which the silver runs out and the town becomes a ghost town.  

There is more really great information about the Kenny Rogers & the First Edition album, The Ballad of Calico, on John's Top 10 CDs

Track listing

Side one

  1. "Sunrise Overture"
  2. "Calico Silver"
  3. "Write Me Down (Don't Forget My Name)"
  4. "The Way It Used to be"
  5. "Madame De Lil and Diabolical Bill"

Side two

  1. "School Teacher"
  2. "Road Agent"
  3. "Sally Grey's Epitaph"
  4. "Dorsey, the Mail-Carrying Dog"

Side three

  1. "Harbor for My Soul"
  2. "Calico Saturday Night"
  3. "Trigger Happy Kid"
  4. "Vachel Carling's Rubilator"

Side four

  1. "Empty Handed Compadres"
  2. "One Lonely Room"
  3. "Rockin' Chair Theme"
  4. "Old Mojave Highway"
  5. "Man Came up from Town"
  6. "Calico Silver (reprise)"

Reprise Records, 1972.


Kenny Rogers & the First Edition ~ The Ballad of Calico reel-to-reel tape is for sale on eBay

reel-to-reel tapes now on eBay 

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