When Gene Pitney emulated Buck Owens by dying in his sleep after his finale concert it was more than just serendipitous timing and modern history repeating.

Gene died just 11 days after Buck and left a hefty country catalogue for collectors.

But it was in Cardiff, Wales - not Victoria, Queensland or New South Wales where he toured frequently - that he met his maker.

The tear jerking tenor may have best known for his pop hits but many borrowed from the country narrative form.

Three of his biggest hits 24 Hours From Tulsa, Town Without Pity and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance were perfect examples.

Town Without Pity was the title track of the 1961 Kirk Douglas movie and Gene's hit version of Burt Bacharach-Hal David song The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was also featured in 1962 John Wayne-James Stewart western Liberty Valance.

Gene also wrote Hello Mary Lou - a country pop hit for Ricky Nelson - and Today's Teardrops and 22 Days for Texan Roy Orbison.

And Pitney also recorded two country albums with Texan legend George Jones and another with The Possum's frequent duet partner Melba Montgomery.

Yes, more of that below.


Gene was the middle of five children of a lathe operator - a descendant of a private in the Royal Marines who served in victory in The Battle Of Trafalgar.

As a young boy he trapped muskrats, minks and raccoon and taught himself to skin and stuff them - a handy skill in show business.

At Rockville High School he learned guitar and piano and formed the band Gene and the Genials.

He also teamed with singer Ginny Arnell and recorded for Decca as Jamie & June.

After a stop at Blaze and solo recordings under the assumed name, Billy Bryan, Gene recorded under his own name for Festival in 1960.

Pitney's writing skills landed a New York publishing deal with Aaaron Schroeder.

He supplemented meagre income from performing as he penned B-sides for Tommy Edwards and Roy Orbison before he scored hits for Bobby Vee.

It was in 1961 he hooked up with Bacharach and David and scored with I Wanna Love My Life Away and Town Without Pity.

Other major collaborations included Only Love Can Break A Heart, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and 24 Hours From Tulsa.

At 22 he had sold a million albums and penned hits such as Rubber Ball for Bobby Vee and He's A Rebel for The Crystals.


Pitney played piano on Rolling Stones tune Little by Little and maracas on Not Fade Away.

In return, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote That Girl Belongs to Yesterday for him and he charted with it on January 18, 1964.

It was their first song to chart in the U.S.

Pitney also worked with Phil Spector on the Goffin-King hit Every Breath I Take and had hits in 1964 and 1965 with It Hurts To Be In Love and I'm Gonna Be Strong.

His six Top 10 hits in 1965-6 included Randy Newman penned pair Nobody Needs Your Love and Just One Smile.

Although Gene toured frequently his last #1 U.K. hit was the 1989 duet with Marc Almond on the reprise of his 1967 smash Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart.

In 1966 he married childhood sweetheart Lynne Gayton after a marathon eight-year engagement.

He lived in a Dutch colonial in Somers, Connecticut, where he had a home studio and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Pitney was survived by Lynne and their sons David, Todd and Chris.


Pitney cut two country albums with Texan legend George Jones, now 74, and another with The Possum's frequent duet partner Melba Montgomery.

The first Pitney-Jones disc For The First Time! Two Great Stars - was recorded in Nashville and released on March 24, 1965.

Their second album followed the same year as It's Country Time Again!

Pitney and Jones recorded the original albums for Musicor with the Jordanaires on backing vocals.

Although the majority of the tracks are duets there are three solos by each.

Gene's solos are I Really Don't Want To Know (an Eddy Arnold song), I Can't Stop Loving You (the Don Gibson classic that became an international pop hit when Ray Charles covered it) and Born To Lose.

George's solos were Things Have Gone To Pieces, Love Bug and My Favourite Lies.

The first two were released as singles and both were country top ten hits.

Several of the duets were released as singles but were less successful than George's solos.

I've Got Five Dollars and It's Saturday Night made the country #20 while Louisiana Man made #30.

Duets included covers of My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You, Sweeter Than The Flowers, Don't Rob Another Man's Castle, Wreck On The Highway, Mockin' Bird Hill, Y'all Come, Someday You'll Want Me To Want You and Why Baby Why.

The Musicor discs were re-released by Bear Family as a compilation on November 17, 1994.


Jones introduced Pitney to his performing partner and prolific songwriter Melba Montgomery.

Montgomery, now 67 and daughter of a Methodist church fiddler and guitarist, was born in Iron City, Tennessee and raised in Florence, Alabama.

Her duet partners included Jones, Charlie Louvin, George Hamilton 1V, John Prine and Dr Ralph Stanley.

A George Jones-Melba Montgomery-Gene Pitney compilation Famous Country Duets was also released in 1965.

That was after Melba and George's duet on We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds, reached #3 in 1963.

The sequel What's in Our Heart/Let's Invite Them Over, was a two-sided Top 20 hit.

Between 1963 and 1967, the Jones-Montgomery team had five Top 40 hits and two LPs 1966's Close Together and 1967's Let's Get Together.

So it was natural that Gene and Melba recorded a duets disc Being Together in 1966 for Musicor - it was released in the U.K. on Stateside.

Since then Shock Records has released the triple CD Pitney compilation 24 Hours From Tulsa - featuring Gene's duets with Melba and George - in Australia.


The Jones-Pitney Bear Family compilation CD was released on November 17, 1994
The tracks are -
1. Why Baby Why - George Jones/Gene Pitney
2. Someday You'll Want Me To Want You - George Jones/Gene Pitney
3. For Me This Is Happy - Gene Pitney
4. That's All It Took - George Jones/Gene Pitney
5. I'm Gonna Listen To Me - Gene Pitney
6. I'm A Fool To Care - George Jones/Gene Pitney
7. She Thinks I Still Care - Gene Pitney
8. Big Job - George Jones/Gene Pitney
9. I'm Up To My Neck In I.O.U.'s - Gene Pitney
10. Sweeter Than The Flowers - George Jones/Gene Pitney
11. Wreck On The Highway - George Jones/Gene Pitney
12. The More I Saw Of Her - Gene Pitney
13. A Thousand Arms (Five Hundred Hearts) - Gene Pitney
14. I've Got Five Dollars And It's A Saturday Night - George Jones/Gene Pitney
15. Louisiana Man - George Jones/Gene Pitney
16. Drinking From The Well Of Your Love - Gene Pitney
17. Life To Go - Gene Pitney
18. One Has My Name - George Jones/Gene Pitney
19. Mockin' Bird Hill - George Jones/Gene Pitney
20. I'd Like To See Me Stop You - Gene Pitney

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