Published on December 7, 2010 by John
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Marvin Karlton Rainwater (born July 2, 1925), better known as Marvin Rainwater, is an American country and rockabilly singer and songwriter who had several hits during the late 1950s, including “Gonna Find Me A Bluebird” and “Whole Lotta Woman”. He is known for wearing Native American-themed outfits on stage and is 25 percent Cherokee.
Early life and rise to fame
Rainwater was born in Wichita, Kansas to Stella and Cicero Percy Rainwater, and grew up during the Great Depression. As a child, instead of listening to the Grand Ole Opry with his father, he took classical piano lessons, which ended after he lost part of his right thumb to a work accident as a teenager. He originally trained to be a veterinarian, but after some time in the Navy in WWII took up the guitar.
He became fascinated with Roy Acuff and started playing and writing songs. With his brothers, he played concerts around Virginia. He sometimes wore a buckskin jacket and headband. Rising guitarist Roy Clark worked with Rainwater and together they cut a few demos for 4 Star Records. Pop singer Teresa Brewer turned one of his compositions, “I Gotta Go Get My Baby”, into a big hit. Others were overdubbed and released on budget record labels.
Rainwater got his big break in the music business when he performed on Arthur Godfrey’s programs. He won first place on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts on May 9, 1955. He had a regular role on ABC-TV’s Ozark Jubilee for several years in Springfield, Missouri beginning in 1955. He signed with MGM Records and recorded a series of songs for the label, including peppy numbers like “Hot and Cold”. Such songs were showcases for Rainwater’s voice, and his energy and versatility led him to record rockabilly.
Height of his career (late 1950s)
Rainwater was one of country’s most noteworthy stars in the 1950s, when his good looks and baritone voice made him popular. One of the first country songs he recorded was “Gonna Find Me A Bluebird”, which he wrote.Released in 1957, the song became a big country-pop crossover hit, making Rainwater among the first country singers to appeal to a pop market. The song reached number five on the country chart and 18 on the pop chart. It sold one million copies by 1957, and gave Rainwater his first gold record. During the song’s success, Rainwater relocated to the New Jersey-New York area
“The Majesty of Love” (1957) was a duet with Connie Francis, which also sold over one million copies. His next single, “So You Think You Got Troubles”, was a successful follow-up on the country charts, but not on the pop charts. His self-penned”Whole Lotta Woman” reached UK number one for three weeks in April and May 1958. A second UK single, “I Dig You Baby”, made number 19 in June 1958. Another hit was “Nothin’ Needs Nothin’ (Like I Need You)”.
Rainwater performed and toured throughout the rest of the 1950s. In 1959, he added three more gold records: “My Love Is Real”, “My Brand Of Blues” and “Half Breed” all sold in excess of one million records. “Half Breed” was a cover version of a John D. Loudermilk song, and in 1959, Rainwater recorded another Loudermilk song, “The Pale Faced Indian”. His original version went unnoticed, but later efforts by Don Fardon and Paul Revere & The Raiders under the title “Indian Reservation” were hits.
His voice began to give out, and he developed calluses on his vocal cords. As a result, Rainwater and MGM Records parted ways in 1960. He went into brief retirement to rest his voice and then recorded sporadically for Warwick Records, although without any hits. In the 1960s, he recorded for a series of record labels including United Artists, Warner Bros. and Sonet; and started his own record company called Brave Records.
In the 1970s, Rainwater developed throat cancer, from which he slowly recovered, and moved to his current home in Aitkin, Minnesota. He has appeared occasionally at rockabilly festivals in Europe and is still loved by many fans. He has three daughters: Judi, who lives in Wenatchee, Washington; Lora, who lives in Columbia Heights, Minnesota; and Barbara, who lives in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. His son, Wade, also lives in Minnesota.
Rainwater was the 73rd inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Rainwater’s song “Gamblin’ Man” was covered by Mike Ness on his 1999 album, Under the Influences. “So You Think You’ve Got Troubles” was covered by Harry Nilsson, as evidenced on his 1966 Spotlight on Nilsson compilation album. “Gonna Find Me a Bluebird” was covered by Steve Young on his 1969 album, Rock Salt & Nails. “Hot and Cold” was featured on Bob Dylan’s radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour.
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions|
|1957||“Gonna Find Me a Bluebird”||3||18||—|
|“So You Think You’ve Got Troubles”||flip||—||—|
|“The Majesty of Love” (with Connie Francis)||—||93||—|
|1958||“Whole Lotta Woman”||15||60||1|
|“I Dig You Baby”||—||—||19|
|“Nothin’ Needs Nothin’ (Like I Need You)”||11||—||—|
1957 Songs By Marvin Rainwater (MGM E3534)
1958 Sings With A Heart – With A Beat (MGM E3721) (1985:Bear Family BFX 15132)
1960 Sing for You (Audio Lab)
1962 Gonna Find Me A Bluebird (MGM E4046)
1963 Marvin Rainwater (Crown CST307)
1985 Rockin’ Rollin’ (Bear Family BFX15079) (MGM Whole Lotta Woman)
1970 Country’s Favorite Singer (Mount Vernon MVM146)
1972 Gets Country Fever (Philips)