Classically trained pianist, Dr. William Pursell achieved his sole Top 40 pop hit in 1963 with the gentle piano instrumental “Our Winter Love,” which reached No. 9. The style of this song was on par with Henry Mancini’s recordings released in that that era. His next single, “Lover,” captured the powerful essence heard in Ferrante & Teicher’s work, and it peaked at No. 121, shortly after “Our Winter Love” left the Top 100 in 1963. Both songs appeared on Bill’s 1963 album Our Winter Love, which reached No. 15.
In the early 1960s, Bill’s extensive session work included a Patsy Cline flip side “Strange,” which his he and his daughter Laura Pursell released as part of their album The Very Last Dance Hall in L.A. In our Goldmine July 2016 issue, we conducted an interview with the father and daughter duo. Bill asked, “Did you catch our use of ‘Our Winter Love’ on the beginning of ‘Strange,’ on this new recording? I was hired for Patsy Cline’s album for several songs. Fred Burch and Mel Tillis wrote ‘Strange.’ On this new recording, I put a bit of the ‘fuzz sound’ we had in ‘Our Winter Love.’ In 1963, it was on Harold Bradley’s bass and then echoed it with Boots Randolph’s saxophone. On this new version, we did it with guitar on 16th Avenue in Nashville in the instrumental break. The fuzz sound actually happened first by accident when we recorded Marty Robbins’ ‘Don’t Worry’ in 1961 with Grady Martin on bass and that solo became a key part of that record for Columbia.”
Building on the positive reaction to The Very Last Dance Hall Left in L.A., on the Netcom Music label, the record company released Bill’s 2000-2001 fourteen song soothing collection Millennium. Laura was a guest vocalist on the record. Their version of “Walk on By” not only captured the essence of Dionne Warwick’s Top 10 hit from 1964, but the arrangement opened with a fluid electric guitar part, drawing on Isaac’s Hayes’ 1969 Top 40 cover. Bill also re-recorded an amazing replication of “Our Winter Love” as the CD’s opening track.
The Very Last Dance Hall Left in L.A. and Millenium were Bill’s most recent recordings in a career that spanned decades on record and in Tennessee classrooms as a music professor. After these two albums were released, Bill retired from Belmont University after 37 years. Since then, Bill and Laura were collaborating on songs for another album.
After spending a week in Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Bill passed away on September 3 at the age of 94 from COVID-19. Laura said, “My dad and I were so touched by our wonderful in-depth interview with Goldmine. Now, our hearts are saddened, and our lives are forever changed. He was so loved.”