Writer of "Little Green Apples," "Honey"

Dies in Nicholasville

By Bill Ede

Songwriter Bobby Russell died of heart failure on November 19 in his 52nd year. A Nashville native, he lived his last couple of years in the Nicholasville, Ky. area.

Russell is best remembered for "Honey" and "Little Green Apples" — songs from the late 1960s which enjoyed countless covers by recording artists in both the country and pop fields, but also authored "Sure Gonna Miss Her," a Top 10 pop record for Gary Lewis and the Playboys in 1966, and "The Joker Went Wild," which went No. 20 in the same year for Brian Hyland. He also wrote 1973's No. 1 hit for his then-wife Vicki Lawrence, "The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia," recently revived by Reba McEntire. (Lawrence and Russell were divorced in the late 1970s.) Jan and Dean had a late-'60s hit with "Popsicle," written by Russell and long-time friend Buzz Cason.

Bobby also enjoyed some success as a solo recording artist, starting with "1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero," a No. 36 pop record in 1968, and the better-known "Saturday Morning Confusion," which went to No. 28 on the pop charts in 1971. Other singles include "Carlie," "Better Homes and Gardens" and "Then She's a Lover," all of which enjoyed moderate success in various markets. He was also (along with Cason) one of the background voices for the pop group Ronny and the Daytonas (with John Buck Wilkin on lead vocals), and can be heard on their hits "G.T.O.," "Bucket T" and others (The latter song, not written by Russell or Cason, is surprisingly reminiscent of their very first songwriting hit from 1958, "Jennie Lee," by [the pre-Jan and Dean] Jan and Arnie.)

Because his songs tended toward the sentimental, Russell is often dismissed as a lyrical lightweight by post-Kristofferson "realists." A more thorough examination of his song span, however, indeed reveals the romantic of "Little Green Apples" (and its natural extension "1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero"), but also a writer capable of the wit and humor of a Ray Stevens or a Dick Feller (as in "Mid American Manufacturing Tycoon") and the hard-earned wisdom of a Willie Nelson or a Roger Miller (as in the 1969 Russell-penned Miller hit "Vance").