One of Alabama's itinerant country & western songsmiths, Jack Cardwell has had two major scores. He hit number three on the country charts in 1953 recording his own song, "The Death of Hank Williams," and 16 years later had a minor country hit with "Jesus Was a Soul Man." In fact, the playwright and songwriting team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice have stated in interviews that this song was a major influence for their Broadway hit Jesus Christ Superstar. At any rate, it was one of a group of "funky Jesus" hits during this period which also included "Jesus Is Just Alright With Me" and "Nobody Wants to Play Rhythm Guitar Behind Jesus, Everyone Wants to Be the Lead Singer in the Band." This includes Cardwell, to be sure. His desire to be out in front resulted in his hosting the Friendly Variety Show television broadcast out of Mobile for nearly 15 years, ending in 1967. His activities with this show ran the gamut from presenting superstars such as Elvis Presley to encouraging new talent such as Curly Brooks, who got his start through Cardwell's status as host. Cardwell was also the founder of the Mobile Country Music Association, one of the goals of which is to bring more attention to the country music legacy of this busy port, whose musical inhabitants also include the fine country guitar picker Jody Payne. Lest anyone think Cardwell's association with gimmicky country gospel numbers precludes any hell raising, it should be pointed out that one of the better songs he cut for labels such as Starday and King in the '50s was entitled "Whisky, Women and Loaded Dice." As almost a slap in Jesus' face, this track was included on a rockabilly compilation with the catalog number of "6666."
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