Marvin Rainwater, a popular country recording artist of the 1950s, died on Sept. 17 after a brief illness. He was 88.
Born July 2, 1925 in Wichita, Kansas, Rainwater grew up during the Great Depression. He was enamored by music – but it wasn’t country that captivated him initially. He took classical piano lessons as a child, but any hopes of pursuing that as a career ended after he lost part of his right thumb in an accident as a teen. He then focused his aspirations on becoming a veterinarian, but a stint in the Navy sparked his musical fire once again.
Influenced heavily by the sound of Roy Acuff, Rainwater began to write songs and played concerts around Virginia with his brothers. One of his songs, “I Gotta Go Get My Baby,” was recorded by pop singer Teresa Brewer.
His exposure in the area led him to a May 1955 appearance on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” — arguably the “American Idol” of the day. He won the appearance, which led to a stint on ABC’s Ozark Jubilee and a recording contract with MGM.
While early numbers for the label included non-hits like the rockabilly-flavored “Hot and Cold,” he hit the brass ring in 1957 with “Gonna Find Me A Bluebird.” A No. 3 country single, it also crossed over to the top-20 on the Hot 100.
He achieved three more top-40 country hits through the end of the decade – “Whole Lotta Woman,” “Nothin’ Needs Nothin’ (Like I Need You),” and “Half-Breed,” which became his final charted hit – hitting No. 16 in 1959.
Vocal problems began to plague the singer, and he parted ways with MGM in 1960. After taking some time away, he recorded for a series of labels, including United Artists and Warner Brothers, but was never to chart again, though he did continue to write, with his biggest success coming with “I Miss You Already,” a hit in 1956 for Faron Young, and 1986 for Billy Joe Royal. He continued to perform on the rockabilly circuit, particularly in Europe, and was a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
He was noted for his Native American-inspired stage attire, and was 25% Cherokee. He is survived by wife Sheree, five children, eleven grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren, and five great-great grandchildren.