Stalin Kicked The Bucket: Ray Anderson [1953]

If Joseph Stalin inspired some harsh songs during his lifetime, his death ignited even more vitriol. Anderson’s unforgiving lyrics (« He died with a hemorrhage in the brain, they have a new fireman on the devil’s train« ) are set against such a cheerful country melody that someone unfamiliar with the English language might mistake the tune for a square dance record.

Anderson recorded « Stalin Kicked The Bucket » while signed to Carl Burkhart’s Queen’s City Records in Cincinnati, Ohio. Queen’s City was the parent company to a line of ‘value’ labels such as Big 4 Hits, Worthmore and Supervalue. Ostensibly, Anderson was contracted to record a series of Hank Williams covers or religious songs, but at some point during his tenure fate intervened and Stalin keeled over. Anderson jotted down some lyrics with the common man’s reaction to the momentous event and before he knew it, Burkhart had hustled him into the studio to record it. Burkhart must have recognized the commercial value of the topical song because he issued it on his premier label, Kentucky, where the record went on to sell approximately 5,000 copies.

Ray Anderson was born in Webster County, West Virginia in 1924 to a poor family and was raised in Zanesville, Ohio. When Anderson wasn’t busy listening to the family’s enormous music collection on a hand-cranked record player, he was learning how to play guitar from his uncle. It was during this early period of his life that Anderson determined that his goal in life was to become a country music performer and recording artist.

Upon being discharged from U.S. Air Force following World War II, Anderson went straight to Nashville, Tennessee and managed to get an audition with the Grand Ole Opry’s George D. Hay, better known as the ‘Solemn Old Judge.’ Unfortunately Anderson flunked his try-out and was told to come back when he sounded more like himself and less like Hank Williams.

While in Nashville, Anderson succeeded in getting a recording contract with Dixie Jamboree Records where he cut four tracks, including the wry « Draft Board Blues » (# 513). Anderson soon moved back to West Virginia where he found employment with the act of Radio Dot and Smokey as well as on radio station WHTN in Huntington. He also managed to get one of his compositions, « Secret Weapon », recorded by Shannon Grayson on RCA Victor in 1950.

In 1951 Anderson teamed with Cliff Allen to record on the Cozy label and released « I’m A-Gonna Leave You » (# 283) as a duet. In 1953 Anderson signed with Carl Burkhart during which time he recorded his Stalin number. In 1954 Anderson moved to Ohio where he got a job on WCHO where he filled a lot of airtime on several different shows throughout the day. As a result of his work on WCHO, Anderson signed a deal with George E. Blackmore who engaged him to record on the Mountaineer label, out of Washington Cty, Ohio. Anderson would continue to work at the radio station during this period. Two of Anderson’s releases during his stint at Mountaineer were the mild Bluegrass sides « Don’t Wait No Longer (Poor Sinner) » (# 260) and « Forgotten Grave » (# 261)

During the early-to-mid 50s, there was a Ray Anderson who cut for the Staunton, Ill. Blue Ribbon label. It must be the same Anderson as he is backed by the Tennessee Mountaineers doing « It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame », a fine Hillbilly bop for the years. I could not trace the flipside yet, « No Good At Lyin’« . Praguefrank dates this record in 1952.

At some point during his tenure at WCHO Anderson met Stoney Cooper (Wilma Lee’s singing partner) who helped get him a job at WWVA’s ‘World’s Original Jamboree’ in Wheeling, West Virginia. While in Wheeling, Anderson recorded for the Admiral label (« Living Too Fast », a great fast hillbilly bopper, and its flipside « At Last »). It was at the ‘Jamboree’ that Anderson met The Osborne Brothers, Bob and Sonny and they performed together.

He must have had something with the Russians, as late 1957 he cut for Admiral a fast, very energetic hillbilly song later issued by Starday (# 342), « Sputnicks and Mutnicks ». He later had an EP 354 (untraced) in 1958.

In 1961 Anderson quit playing with the Osborne Brothers and the following year he became a born again Christian. The musician subsequently became an ordained minister. In 1965, while still a pastor in Richmond Dale, Ohio, Anderson returned to the profession of music by starting the gospel label G.R.S (Gospel Recording Service). Anderson continued to manage the label and its subsidiary, Victory, until 1969. Anderson was interviewed by country music scholar Ivan M. Tribe in 1970. Biographical information on Anderson after 1970 is unavailable, except that he died in Camden, Ohio on August 11, 2010.

LYRICS/TRANSCRIPTION:

Stalin Kicked The Bucket: Ray Anderson [1953]

Old Joe kicked the bucket, he’s long gone

He won’t worry us from now on

He lived in a place they call Moscow

His number came up and he had to go

Refrain: Yes, old Joe’s dead and gone

He stayed around too long

And nobody now can save his hide

‘Cause old Joe laid right down and died

Old Joe won’t worry us no more

He killed the helpless by the score

Now I hope he’s satisfied

Since old Joe’s taken his last ride

While near the end, he couldn’t talk

He’s paralyzed and he couldn’t walk

He died with a hemorrhage in the brain

They have a new fireman on the devil’s train

Although he was a man of power

He was scared of Eisenhower

So now the devil can retire

‘Cause old Joe Stalin will keep the fire

Notes taken from atomicplatters.com, amended by bopping’s editor.