Friday, April 6, 2012
Yet More Great Country Artists from the Seventies ~ Faron Young
I don't know how I talked my dad into driving 100 miles to the State Fair to see Faron Young in concert.
At the age of fifteen or sixteen, I was barely even talking to my parents. I was a sullen teenager with a giant chip on my shoulder. I don't clearly remember those years, but I do remember being perpetually mad at my mom and dad for something they did, or something they didn't do, or just because. They needn't have taken it personally, though. I was mad at everything, including myself.
Teenaged girls are the worst. Maybe it's all those hormones. I have sons. My sons were nothing compared to me at the same age. I don't know how my parents refrained from killing me. I remember a lot of slamming doors (by me). That was always a favorite. Those hollow wooden doors would make just the right "crack!", with a delicious echo. They were the punctuation on a sentence that I never uttered.
It's not that my parents did anything to me. They just were. They were perfectly fine people. Although unreasonable. At least my mom. At least to me. Then.
But I must have managed to utter a sentence, at least, to my dad, which most likely contained the words, "please, please!" in it, because, you see, Faron Young, at one time, was my very favorite singer.
I don't even know why my dad agreed to the whole scheme, because, while he was a music lover, he never expressed any particular love of Faron Young's music, nor did my mom. My mom and dad liked whatever they heard on the radio. They weren't buying records in those days. They listened to the radio in the car.
I, however, had my component stereo system, purchased at JC Penney, with my own earnings. I don't think it was cheap, either. I think it cost about $100.00. Bear in mind, I was fifteen-ish, and this was the early 1970's. $100.00 was a lot of moolah to me.
My "sound system" had those detachable speakers, that I could separate within the room space, for maximum sound quality. It had a turntable. It had AM/FM radio. I also had a reel-to-reel tape recorder that I'd bought earlier for, I'll say, about $40.00, so I was constantly recording stuff off the radio, too.
I listened to WHO from Des Moines, Iowa, with Mike Hoyer, "from coast to coast, border to border, and then some". I sometimes listened to Ralph Emery on WSM out of Nashville, when I could actually get the signal. I listened to Bill Mack out of Fort Worth, Texas. WBAP.
And I heard a lot of songs I liked by Faron Young.
Faron had a storied history in the music business. He started out in the 1950's, on Capitol Records. He was best friends with Hank Williams. Faron's stories are legendary in Nashville.
Willie talked him into "Hello Walls" one night at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Faron thought it was corny. He kidded Willie about "hello lamp, hello table", etc. Willie and Faron, though, laughed all the way to the bank. "Hello Walls" is likely the song that Faron will be remembered by.
By the late sixties, early seventies, Faron had moved on to Mercury Records. He had a new producer, the renowned Jerry Kennedy. And he had a bunch of great songs.
Do you know a bar band that hasn't done this song?
This song was written by Jeannie Seely:
Faron had been in a car accident shortly before he recorded this next song. (Don't ask ~ okay, yea, there was drinking involved ~ there was always drinking involved with Faron Young). He ended up with a lacerated tongue, and still had to go into the studio to record the song. He joked about it later ~ saying that he sang the song like Sylvester the Cat. And on the record, one can definitely hear him singing, "Thhep attthide". But it's still great, regardleth:
There was a bit of Dean Martin in Faron. And yet, his voice is unmistakably country. I think a country voice is an intangible, but you know it when you hear it. Faron was from Shreveport, Louisiana, after all. It was hard to not sound country. I don't think it was an affectation, and if it was, then everybody was copying Faron, considering he'd been around for a long while, but he sang his words much like Marty Robbins. "To-noight" for "Tonight". "Toime" for "time".
Faron also recorded a song by a young, unknown songwriter, named Kris Kristofferson. Kris was sweeping floors, and writing songs, and getting nowhere. People think Johnny Cash launched Kris's career. I beg to differ:
Nobody, except Faron Young geeks, will remember "(I've Got) Precious Memories". I, of course, am raising my hand, because, after all, that was the title of the album, and yes, I have it. Some, however, may remember, "I Just Came To Get My Baby", mostly because George Strait covered it. Yes, George Strait covered Faron Young.
I was not surprised to find that there is no performance video of my very, absolute favorite, Faron Young recording. No, it wasn't a number one song. It was a number four. Maybe, I guess, other people didn't love it like I did, so that's why there is no YouTube performance video.
I remember the first time I heard the single. Ralph Emery played it. I swooned over it. I just wanted to hear it again. But, alas, this was AM radio. It would come around again when it came around again.
Tom T. Hall wrote the song. Tom ("no chorus") T. Hall. For not writing a chorus, I think this was a damn good song. Or, at least, it was, after Faron got hold of it:
Alas, my trip to the State Fair and to the Faron Young concert was sort of a letdown.
Faron, you see, was a drinker. And I think (I'm conjecturing) that he was kind of bored. So, his live performances were silly; a joke that nobody was in on. He couldn't seem to get through a song without breaking out in the giggles. That's all well and good, if you're Marty Robbins. I saw Marty Robbins in concert, and while he was semi-silly, he made sure to include the audience in the joke. Faron didn't.
So, I went home in the back seat of the car, sort of embarrassed that I'd cajoled my dad into driving all those miles; knowing that he and my mom were thinking, well, this was time well wasted.
I went back to my Faron records and to WSM radio, and to Bill Mack, and to Mike Hoyer.
I never held it against Faron. I just chalked the whole concert up to a (slightly seamy) slice of life.
And, later, my dad became somewhat enamored of this song, which, aside from "Hello Walls", became Faron's biggest hit. And, to be honest, I don't like it that much. I can't tell you why (as the Eagles said). Maybe I just like the "twin fiddles Faron"; not the "cheesy strings Faron".
But here is "Four In The Mornin'":
I'm not, however, going to just leave it here.
As I said, Faron started out in the nineteen fifties. And he had some great records, even if I obviously heard them as oldies.
This is one that he re-recorded, thankfully, in the seventies, because I would have known nothing about it, if he hadn't.
If you're ever looking for a great country karaoke song, you could not go wrong with this next song. Connie Smith recorded it, and that's good enough for me. And it's a good song!
Much as my dad liked, "Four In The Mornin'", if we're going to nominate one song as Faron Young's best (or at least, "best known"), we have to choose this one, written by Willie:
Faron Young's life ended wrongfully. He killed himself with a shotgun. I understand he was in ill health. But I also understand how the music industry tossed aside the legends, unless their name was Johnny Cash.
The Country Music Hall of Fame, in its benevolence, elected Faron to the Hall of Fame after he died. Would that they had had the foresight to elect him while he was still around to accept.
I was visiting my mom during the CMA Awards that year. We had the TV on, and my mom said to me, "I bet that makes you feel good, that Faron Young's been inducted into the Hall of Fame". She actually remembered that the geeky teenager, the belligerent one, had once worshiped Faron Young. My dad was, well, not gone, but his being was gone. But my mom remembered.
I mumbled something about, "yes, he was a great artist", but I was mourning, and I couldn't bring myself to share that.
How could I put into words what Faron's music meant to me?
Even now, today, when I watch these videos, I'm transformed. It's a combination of a bunch of things. My dad, driving those hundred miles, in his white Ford LTD, just to satisfy a geeky teenager's longing to see her idol. A selfless act, for a daughter who was self-absorbed, self-centered; self-indulgent.
My dad, and Faron, somehow, are intertwined in my memory.
I leave the topic of the great artists of the nineteen seventies here. I have no more to say about that.