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Hall, Tom T.

Tom T. Hall

Songwriter, singer, guitar

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

A master storyteller cut from the same cloth as Mark Twain and Edgar Lee Masters, Tom T. Halls keen powers of observation and insight have helped him create some of country musics most poignant lyrics and vivid musical images. Country Music magazines Bob Allan wrote, In my estimation Tom T. Hall is one of the greatest country songwriters that ever lived. Maybe Hank Williams or Harlan Howard have written more hits, but in his heyday Hall took country music someplace it had never been before and has seldom been since. The characters he sings about are likable, and empathetic listeners find themselves humming along to homespun tunes such as Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine, Mama Bake a Pie, and The Year that Clayton Delaney Died. Hall was nicknamed The Storyteller because of his narrative approach to music. Patrick Carr of Country Music wrote, Hall has broadened and deepened the country river significantly, and is one of the major architects of the musics modern form. Whether writing songs for other artists, such as his famous Harper Valley P.T. A., orsinging his own compositions, Hall has been a distinctive, successful part of country music scene since the 1960s, attracting fans such as author Kurt Vonnegut and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Hall was born on May 25, 1936, in Olive Hill, Kentucky, one of eight children born to a bricklayer and part-time minister and his wife. His childhood home was made of pale gray boards and featured a porch with a view of a dusty road. Hall learned to play a schoolmates guitar at the age of ten. His mother died of cancer when he was 13, and two years later, his father was shotthough not fatallyin an accident. As a result, Hall had to drop out of high school to help support his siblings by working in a factory. Halls neighbor had a small traveling cinema show, and Hall began to accompany him when a teen, playing bluegrass with other musicians. He and his bandmates in The Kentucky Travelers were also featured on the local radio station WMOR, where Hall also worked as a disc jockey.

Hall did not consider a career in music because he aspired to be a writer or a journalist. He joined the U.S. Army in 1957, and earned a high school diploma while enlisted. After the Army, Hall enrolled at Roanoke College in Virginia to pursue writing. He admired Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, but discovered that he was actually better at writing country songs than stories or articles. While working as a disc jockey in Roanoke, he sent some of his compositions to Nashville, Tennessee, where music publishers liked his work. One company in particular, New Keys, urged Hall to relocate to Nashville. He did, and his first song recorded, D.J. for a Day, was sung by Jimmy C. Newman. Hall married Iris

For the Record

Born May 25, 1936, in Olive Hill, KY; one of eight children born to a bricklayer and part-time minister and his wife; married Iris Dixie Dean, 1964. Education: Attended Roanoke College after serving in the Army.

Began playing the guitar at the age of ten; performed in a local band and worked as a disc jockey while in high school; joined the U.S. Army in 1957; worked as a songwriter and performer from the early 1960s throughout the 1990s to the present; author of The Storytellers Nashville and The Laughing Man of Woodmont Cove.

Awards: Grammy Award for Tom T. Halls Greatest Hits; inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Addresses: Record company RCA Records, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, (212) 930-4000; 6363 Sunset Boulevard, #429, Los Angeles, CA 90028, (213) 468-4000; Internet http://www.mercuryrecords.com.

Dixie Dean in 1964, an emigre from Weston-super-Mare, England, who worked as editor of Music City News in Nashville.

D.J. fora Day did well for Newman, but Halls smash hit came in 1968 with Harper Valley P.T.A., which was recorded by Jeannie C. Riley. The song sold more than six million copies and inspired a television movie and a series. Like many of Halls narratives, Harper Valley P.T.A. was inspired by a real event: a woman in Halls hometown who threw wild parties, which irked the towns more upstanding citizens. Her child was singled out for extra discipline at school, so the woman finally went to a P.T.A. meeting and pointed out the hypocrisy of these so-called upstanding citizens. By the time Harper Valley P.T.A. was released, Hall had begun recording his own works on the Mercury label.

Hall resisted a recording contract for years, hoping to first gain a reputation in Nashville as a songwriter. Hall gave in, however, during the late 1960s, and the result was astounding: throughout the next two decades his musical output rivaled the most prolific country singers of that time. His earliest hits included The Ballad of Forty Dollars in 1968which depicted the memorial service of a man who died without paying back the money he owed the songs narratorand A Week in a Country Jail in 1969, which described the unusual conditions of the titles locale. One of Halls most famous early releases was The Year that Clayton Delaney Died. As with Harper Valley P.T.A., the song was gleaned from a true story; the song is a tribute to a drunken guitar player who fell on hard times and taught Hall how to play the guitar when he was a boy. Hall told Carr, It started out with just me sitting down with a guitar and thinking, Well, I want to thank Clayton. Another of Halls acclaimed songs, the philosophic Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine, was drawn from a conversation he enjoyed with an elderly black man in a Miami bar. Halls own favorite song was I Love in 1974, which lists all the things in life that he holds most dear.

Some of Halls hit songs strayed from his trademark narrative style and became sing-along favorites. The gospel-tinged Me and Jesus advocates an individualistic approach to religion and is noted for being a toe-tapping, feel good song. The straightforward I Like Beer turned out to be more popular in Germany than in the United States, and at least 60 singers in Germany have recorded versions of Halls song. He also garnered a loyal following in Poland. Hall switched from Mercury Records to RCA in the 1980s and fell into what could best described as a slump. He explained to Carr in 1989, There are so many writers and publishers; everybodys writing songs. Where there were maybe a dozen guys who were really putting the hot tunes together when I started in Nashville, now there must be hundreds. Hall attributed his musical dry spell to changing tastes among country music fans. In response, Hall focused more intently on his prose, authoring the autobiographical The Storytellers Nashville and the novel The Laughing Man of Woodmont Cove. He also continued to compose songs and told Carr, Ive got the songs, and one day next week someone will pick up that one tune thats just right for that one singer, and itll be Number One.

Hall reemerged on the musical scene in 1996 with the release of Songs from Sopchoppy, an album recorded at his winter home on a Gulf Coast island. His timing seemed impeccable, as his reputation was enjoying a renaissance due to the fact that Alan Jackson had just released a hit with Halls Little Bitty, a song that appeared on Songs from Sopchoppy, and Deryl Dodd had recently taken Halls classic Thats How I Got So Memphis back up on the charts. Buddy Miller, too, offered an impressive version of the song on Poison Love. In 1995 Mercury released a 50-song retrospective called Tom T: Hall: Storyteller, Poet, Philosopher. Iris DeMent and other notable musicians agreed to work on an album-length tribute to Hall in 1998. In 1998 Hall released Home Grown, an all-acoustic album that recaptured much of the eloquence and brilliance of his earlier releases. Hall cowrote the bluegrass/gospel number The Beautiful River of life with his wife, Dixie. Halllike many of the greatest storytellers, songwriters, and musicians of our timeilluminates the higher meaning in the small, familiar things that comprise our lives.

Selected discography

with Mercury

The Ballad of Forty Dollars, 1968.

A Week in a Country Jail, 1969.

(With Dave Dudley) Day Drinkin, 1970.

The Year That Clayton Delaney Died, 1971.

Me and Jesus, 1972.

The Monkey That Became President, 1972.

Ravishing Ruby, 1973.

I Love, 1974.

This Song is Driving Me Crazy, 1974.

Country Is, 1974.

I Care/Sneaky Snake, 1975.

Deal, 1975.

I Like Beer, 1975.

Faster Horses (the cowboy and the Poet), 1976.

Negatory Romance, 1976.

Its All in the Game, 1977.

with RCA

What Have You Got to Lose, 1978.

There is a Miracle in You, 1979.

You Show Me Your Heart (and Ill Show You Mine), 1979.

Son of Clayton Delaney, 1979.

The Old Side of Town/Jesus on the Radio (Daddy on the Phone), 1980.

Soldier of Fortune, 1980.

Back When Gas Was Thirty Cents A Gallon, 1980.

Im Not Ready Yet, 1980.

Albums

Ballad of Forty Dollars, Mercury, 1968.

Ballad of Forty Dollars/Homecoming, Mercury, 1969.

Great Country Hits, Vol. 1 &11, Mercury, 1972,

Great Country Hits, Vol. 111, Mercury, 1975.

I Witness Life/100 Children, Mercury, 1975.

Soldier of Fortune, RCA, 1980.

The Essential Tom T. Hall: The Story Songs, RCA, 1988.

Country Songs for Children, RCA, 1995.

Loves Lost& Found, RCA, 1995.

Tom T. Hall: Storyteller, Poet, Philosopher, RCA, 1995.

Songs From Sopchoppy, RCA, 1995.

Home Grown, RCA, 1998.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 4, Gale Research, 1991.

Periodicals

Country Music, January/February 1998; January/February 1989; March/April 1987.

Online

The Authorized Tom T. Hall Page, http://www.cnct.com/~tomthall (September 24, 1999).

Tom T. Hall, Yahoo Music, http://musicfinder.yahoo.com/shop?d=p8id=halltomt&cf=11 (September 24, 1999).

B. Kimberly Taylor

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Hall, Tom T.

Tom T. Hall

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Nicknamed The Storyteller because of the narrative nature of most of his songs, country singersongwriter Tom T. Hall has broadened and deepened the country river significantly, according to Patrick Carr in Country Music, and is one of the major architects of the musics modern form. Whether writing songs for other artists interpretation, such as the famous Harper Valley P.T.A., or singing his own compositions, including the classics The Year That Clayton Delaney Died and Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine, Hall has been a successful part of the country music genre since the 1960s. Yet he is not the typical country artist. Though some of his bestloved songs are simple, many others are sophisticated examinations of issues in story form, and Hall has attracted fans from the world of literature and politics, including author Kurt Vonnegut and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.

Hall was born May 25,1936, in Olive Hill, Kentucky, to a minister and his wife. Though he formed a musical group in his late teens that eventually performed on a local radio station, Hall did not initially consider music as a career. Rather, he wanted to become a writer or a journalist, but there were many obstacles in his way. When Hall was sixteen, his father was accidentally shot, and the young man had to quit school to help support his nine brothers and sisters by working in a factory. After an eight-year stint in the U.S. Army, where he picked up his high school diploma, he enrolled in Roanoke College in Virginia to pursue this goal. Though he admired authors such as Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, Hall soon came to believe that he was better at writing country songs than stories or articles. While working as a disc jockey in Roanoke, he sent some of his compositions to Nashville, Tennessee. Music publishers liked his work, and one company in particular, New Keys, urged Hall to relocate to Nashville. He did, and his first song recorded, D.J. for a Day, was sung by Jimmy C. Newman.

D.J. for a Day did well for Newman, but Halls most successful composition for another singer was 1968s Harper Valley P.T.A., recorded by Jeannie C. Riley. The song has sold over six million copies, and inspired a television movie and a series. Like many of Halls musical narratives, Harper Valley is based on real incidents; apparently a woman in the songwriters hometown threw wild parties, and the more upstanding citizens criticized her to such an extent that her child was singled out for extra discipline at school. The woman finally went to a P.T.A. meeting and publicly pointed out the hypocrisy of these so-called responsible people.

By the time Harper Valley was released, Hall had

For the Record

Born May 25, 1936, in Olive Hill, Kentucky; married, wifes name Dixie. Education: Attended Roanoke College.

Worked in a factory and as a disc jockey in Kentucky and Virginia; served eight years in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany; songwriter from the 1960s to present; recording artist and concert performer, 1967. Has also written books, including The Storytellers Nashville and the novel The Laughing Man of Woodmont Cove.

Awards: Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Addresses: Residence 1512 Hawkins St., Nashville, TN 37203.

begun recording his own works on the Mercury label. He had resisted a recording contract for years, wishing first to gain a reputation in Nashville as a songwriter. But finally, during the late 1960s, Hall gave inwith astounding results. Through the next two decades his number of releases rivaled the most prolific country singers. His early hits include 1968s The Ballad of Forty Dollars, depicting the memorial service of a man who died without paying back the money he owed the narrator, and 1969s A Week in a Country Jail, describing the interesting conditions of the title locale. But perhaps Halls most famous earlier release was the 1971 smash, The Year That Clayton Delaney Died. Like Harper Valley, it sprung from a true story, and the song is a tribute to a drunken guitar player fallen on hard times who taught Hall to play as a boy. As he confided to Carr, It started out with just me sitting down with a guitar and thinking, Well, I want to thank Clayton. Another of Halls songs, the philosophic Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine, was taken from a conversation the songwriter had with an old black man in a bar in Miami, Florida. Reportedly Halls own favorite from among his many hits is 1974s I Love, in which he lists all the things most dear to him.

Some of Halls hit songs, however, have strayed from the narrative mode to become singalong favorites. The gospel-flavored Me and Jesus, while it advocates an individualistic approach to religion, is primarily a toetapping, feel-good song. So is the simplistic I Like Beer, which has proved even more popular in Germany than in the United States. Carr reported that at least sixty different singers in Germany have recorded versions of the song. Halls work has also earned him many fans in Poland; people defy the authorities to buy his records on the black market and thank him for his music by sending him watercolor portraits of himself, [and] even Polish money, according to Carr.

During the 1980s, after Hall had switched from Mercury Records to RCA, his songwriting career fell somewhat into decline. Now, he admitted to Carr, there are so many writers and publishers;everybodys writing songs. Where there were maybe a dozen guys who were really putting the hot tunes together when I started in Nashville, now there must be hundreds. Hall also attributes his dry spell to a change in taste among country fans. Undaunted, he put more of his concentration into his prose, authoring the autobiographical history of country music The Storytellers Nashville, and the novel The Laughing Man of Woodmont Cove. He also keeps active in charity work with his wife Dixie, but he continues to compose. Ive got the songs, Hall told Carr, and one day next week someone will pick up that one tune thats just right for that one singer, and itll be Number One.

Selected discography

Singles

The Ballad of Forty Dollars, Mercury, 1968.

A Week in a Country Jail, Mercury, 1969.

(With Dave Dudley) Day Drinkin, Mercury, 1970.

The Year That Clayton Delaney Died, Mercury, 1971.

Me and Jesus, Mercury, 1972.

The Monkey That Became President, Mercury, 1972.

Ravishing Ruby, Mercury, 1973.

I Love, Mercury, 1974.

This Song Is Driving Me Crazy, Mercury, 1974.

Country Is, Mercury, 1974.

I Care/ Sneaky Snake, Mercury, 1975.

Deal, Mercury, 1975.

I Like Beer, Mercury, 1975.

Faster Horses (the Cowboy and the Poet), Mercury, 1976.

Negatory Romance, Mercury, 1976.

Its All in the Game, Mercury, 1977.

What Have You Got to Lose, RCA, 1978.

There Is a Miracle in You, RCA, 1979.

You Show Me Your Heart (and Ill Show You Mine), RCA, 1979.

Son of Clayton Delaney, RCA, 1979.

The Old Side of Town/Jesus on the Radio (Daddy on the Phone), RCA, 1980.

Soldier of Fortune, RCA, 1980.

Back When Gas Was Thirty Cents a Gallon, RCA, 1980.

Im Not Ready Yet, RCA, 1980.

Also recorded singles Margies at the Lincoln Park Inn, Salute to a Switchblade, Turn It On, and Shoeshine Man.

LPs

Has recorded many albums, including Homecoming, Witness Life, One Hundred Children, In Search of a Song, We All Got Together, And, The Storyteller, Tom T. Halls Greatest Hits, Volume One, For the People in the Last Hard Town, Songs of Fox Hollow, Rhymer and Other Five and Dimers, Country Is, I Wrote a Song About It, Tom T. Halls Greatest Hits, Volume Two, Faster Horses, Magnificent Music Machine, About Love, New Train Same Rider, Places Ive Done Time, OI Ts in Town, Country Songs for Children, and The Essential Tom T. Hall.

Sources

Country Music, March/April, 1987; January/February, 1989.

Elizabeth Thomas

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"Hall, Tom T.." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Hall, Tom T.." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved September 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/hall-tom-t-0