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Webb Pierce: The King of Honky-Tonk Bling

Wikimedia Commons / Decca Records

Webb Pierce: The King of Honky-Tonk Bling

The 1950s were very good to country legend Webb Pierce (Aug. 8, 1921 – Feb. 24, 1991). The honky-tonk idol, who died 13 years ago today, joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1952 and spent the 1950s recording a string of hit singles like "Wondering" and "In the Jailhouse Now." Forty-eight of his singles broke onto the country charts, and together they spent 113 weeks at the No. 1 spot, which works out to about 20 percent of the decade. He was, arguably, the biggest singer in country music for most of the 1950s.

Here he is performing his biggest hit, "In The Jailhouse Now."

Pierce left the Opry in 1957, refusing to pay commissions on his bookings, and struck out on his own. He continued to release singles and albums, tour and work in films, but as musical tastes changed and Pierce no longer topped the charts, his flamboyant personal life began to overshadow his music.

The former master of the honky-tonk became country music's king of bling. He commissioned Hollywood designer Nudie Cohn, maker of his outlandish suits, to customize two convertibles for him. Among the after-market additions were rare silver dollars covering every wooden surface inside the car, hand-tooled leather seats, steer horns on the front of the car, revolvers as door handles, rifles mounted on the fenders and a small saddle between the two front seats for children.












Posed portrait of Webb Pierce, with car (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns) 

For relaxing at home, Pierce installed a $30,000 swimming pool in the shape of a guitar. The massive pool quickly became a tourist attraction at Pierce's Nashville mansion. Pierce charged admission to use the pool until some of his neighbors filed a complaint with the city and stopped his fun.

Precious little could halt Pierce in life, however, and he continued touring and recording until 1982. Cancer took his life in 1991, but his hard-living, hard-partying legend still burns bright in Nashville.

His car, if you'd like to see it, is one of the top attractions at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Unlike the pool, it's open to the public.

Written by Seth Joseph. Find him on Google+.