Anyone who remembers the jaunty hit single, This Ole House, released by Shakin’ Stevens in 1981, may be surprised to learn it’s a rather melancholy song, underneath the pulsating rock ‘n’ roll beat.
While Welsh crooner Shaky sang it with a smile on his face as he gyrated through his familiar raunchy dance moves, the lyrics told a different story – bemoaning the fact that a once happy, lively house had fallen into disrepair after its owner’s death.
Photo Credit: Dudek1337/Slide or Fold
As a number one record in the UK, Australia, Ireland and Sweden, the single was certified gold, becoming his biggest hit after launching his solo recording career in 1980. It was his third solo single – the first two, Hot Dog and Marie Marie, had earned moderate chart success, peaking at number 24 and number 19 respectively.
This Ole House was written by American “singing cowboy” Stuart Hamblen in 1954. The Texas-born artist who hosted the radio show, Family Album, in the 1930s and who also acted in cowboy films, had written This Ole House based on a true story.
After signing to Decca Records in 1934, Hamblen had become the original “wild man” of country music, rather than rock, getting a reputation as a hell-raiser for fighting and drinking. He was often in trouble with the police, but was always bailed out by his bosses, as he was such a popular star.
He discovered religion in 1949 and launched his new radio show, The Cowboy Church of the Air, which was broadcast until 1952. He released This Ole House in 1954, after feeling inspired to write the rather sad song during a fishing trip with his friends in a remote area.
It saddened him when they came across an old empty house that had fallen into a tatty state. Following the owner’s death, the house had been allowed to crumble, with the happy family life that once took place there being nothing but a distant memory.
After the fishing trip, Hamblen wrote how the house had once provided “comfort as we fought the storms of life.” The narrator remembers how “this old house once rang with laughter”, but now it “lets in the rain” and is “gettin’ shaky.”
Hamblen’s version of the song offered more of a country music slant, rather than the rock ‘n’ roll version that Stevens released.
Born in Ely, Cardiff, in March 1948, Stevens was by no means an overnight star when he released This Ole House. Although his solo career was in its infancy, he had been performing for 13 years when he had his first mega-hit.
Singing in clubs in his spare time, he had worked as a milkman on leaving school, before forming his first professional band, Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets, in 1968. Promoter Paul Barrett devised the name, Shakin’ Stevens, as it was a bit more exciting than his real name, Michael Barratt!
The band toured around Europe in the 1970s and earned a recording contract with Parlophone, but had little commercial success with their records.
Then, at the age of 29, Stevens successfully auditioned for the title role in the stage musical, Elvis, signalling the end of The Sunsets, as the show ran for two-and-a-half years because it was such a big hit.
After the musical ended, Shaky embarked on his solo career and This Ole House came along to assure his success. He is celebrating 50 years as a professional artist this year. Despite being 70 now, he completed a 33-date tour in 2017 and is showing no sign of slowing down his gruelling schedule.
It’s always sad when an old house is allowed to fall into disrepair, as there’s such a lot of scope for refurbishment to turn it into a comfortable abode.
With more than 30 years’ experience, Slide or Fold manufactures and installs bifold doors, patio doors, front doors and windows. As an approved Schuco and Reynaers specialist, we have a team of fully-trained fabricators.
We are committed to providing unprecedented customer satisfaction, thanks to our full and complete service package. Please give us a call on 0121 525 1977 for further details of how our bespoke packages can turn your “ole house” into a warm and inviting home.