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The Stewart Family

Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms) 

A hit? Not in 1951 and not ever for the Stewart Family. But a classic nonetheless. Virgil Fremont 'Pappy' Stewart (born August 5, 1907; died July 10, 1988) was a farmer near Blytheville, Arkansas. At some point in the 1940s, he assembled a family singing group with his daughters Bethel and Janet, his sister Baba, and neighbor's daughter, Wilma. "When I married Buddy Brown in 1948," said Bethel, "Buddy came in with us on guitar, and Wilma dropped out. Daddy sang with us in the early days, but he sang less and less. An announcer, Don Whitney, on the local station, KLCN, sang bass with us sometimes." Baba left soon after Buddy Brown joined, and went on to write four songs for Ernest Tubb. Bethel doesn't remember how contact was made with 4-Star Records, but Slim Rhodes had just landed a contract with 4-Star's Gilt-Edge subsidiary, and the Stewart family knew the Rhodes family very well, so Rhodes could have been the conduit to 4-Star. More likely, Don Whitney was the contact because he recorded for 4-Star. "We cut a demo at the radio station ," said Bethel. "We sent 4-Star a sample and got a contract. The records didn't make a big difference to our lives. We played schoolhouses about a day's drive from Blytheville. We knew Sonny James, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, and the others who worked in Blytheville, but we didn't get too far afield. We visited the Grand Ole Opry a couple of times but didn't play there. My husband knew fiddle player Dale Potter. They'd been in a band together." Just Out Of Reach was recorded at KLCN. Jeanette took the lead before Buddy and Bethel Brown came in. Don Whitney engineered the record and sent it to 4-Star. By the mid-1950s, the Stewarts were ready to call it quits. "We just kinda hung it up," says Bethel."I think we were all glad to get out of it."


But then the story gets interesting. Frank Simon (see 'That'll Flat Git It: 4-Star', (BCD 16876) was the first to cover Just Out Of Reach as My Two Open Arms in 1952. Faron Young also recorded it in 1952 without much success, and in 1953 it was on the flip-side of a Bonnie Lou hit, Seven Lonely Days. T. Texas Tyler recorded it in 1954 as did Patsy Cline in 1958 (both of those recordings were at the instigation of 4-Star's Bill McCall who had the artists under contract and fed them a steady diet of songs he owned). The song seemed to be dead in the water when, in 1961, it became a hit for soul singer Solomon Burke.In Burke's version of events, he told his new label, Atlantic, that he wouldn't sing R&B because he was an ordained minister, prompting Atlantic partner Jerry Wexler to come up with Just Out Of Reach. But where did Wexler find the song? The little-known Billy Brown had just issued it on Republic (a label affiliated with 4-Star) and the Stewarts' version had just been reissued on an ultra-obscure King LP, but neither was an obvious candidate to cross Wexler's desk. After Solomon Burke, Just Out Of Reach became a standard, and the artists recording it included Eddy Arnold, Johnny Burnette, reggae singer John Holt, Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson, Esther Phillips, Jim Reeves, Percy Sledge, and many, many more. Pappy Stewart used the revenue to buy more land, but never expressed any desire to return to the stage. 


Various Artists - 

Country & Western Hit Parade 1951 -

Dim Lights, Thick Smoke And Hillbilly Music

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STEWART FAMILY: Original Country Gospel
Art-Nr.: CDGT0964

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(2008/GUSTO) 11 tracks

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