In February 1980, KET (Kentucky Educational Television) asked me to record three short videos to be used as fillers in between programs.
In those days, I made music — “composed” is too formal a word — by playing piano improvisations with a tape recorder running. I would listen to the recordings, and if I heard something I liked, I would refine it for a few weeks until I had something with which I was relatively satisfied.
Not a great system, I’ll admit. I realize now that I needed to work much harder at it to produce music that was really good. Still, there’s something to be said for music that just comes out naturally. This was one piece that didn’t change much after the first time I played it; it pretty much came out in this form, and just sort of meanders from one little melody to another.
By the way, the tux and ruffled cuffs were not my idea, or my style, but I was so happy to have the opportunity to do this that I went along with the producer’s suggestions. And he also asked me to take off my glasses, so any stumbles you hear happened because I couldn’t see the keys. At least, that’s my story.
I first heard this recording of “Faded Coat of Blue” on the radio in California, more than 25 years ago. More than any other song I can think of, it has changed my life.
I was captivated by the singer’s voice, and for years I sought to learn more about her. At first, I knew only her name, Betsy Rutherford. I eventually learned that she was from Galax, Va., that she had recorded an album entitled “Traditional Country Music” in 1970, and that she had died in 1991.
This was the first song on Betsy’s only LP, a wonderful album that beautifully showcased her strong voice and smooth singing style. With the support of Betsy’s family, I made this video and posted it on YouTube almost four years ago. I’m pleased to see that it has now been seen by 4,000 people who otherwise might not have heard her music.
Although she didn’t record any other albums, I have been able to track down some recordings of her performances, and I have posted more than 20 of those songs on YouTube. But this was the first, and it remains my favorite.
I taped this song off the radio in 1982, and had never known who the singer was — until today. It was a mystery to me, and I believe it was that air of mystery that helped make this one of my favorite country-pop songs of the 1980s.
I had been pretty sure the name of the song must be “Falling in Love” (or perhaps “Fallin’ in Love”), for obvious reasons. But searches under that name never turned up this song.
I thought her voice sounded a little like Donna Fargo, but I couldn’t find it in her discography. Just an obscure song by an obscure singer, I had concluded.
Occasionally I would search on a snippet of lyrics from the song, without success. Until today. I tried again, and this time I got hits for a Juice Newton song called “Falling in Love” — and the lyrics matched. So while it might have been an obscure song, it turns out that the singer is pretty well known.
“Falling in Love” was a track from Juice Newton’s 1982 album “Quiet Lies,” and it was written by two of Nashville’s leading songwriters, Wayland Holyfield and Bob McDill. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since McDill, in particular, wrote some of my favorite songs from that era.
I still think it is a little gem of a song, even if the mystery is gone.