On any given Saturday night, the Grand Ole Opry may be hosted by the lean and silver-haired Faron Young, an Opry regular since 1952. Young’s strong, virile voice and his ability to range from traditional country to middle-of-the-road pop numbers made him one of the biggest country stars of the 1950s and 1960s. For almost two decades he regularly placed songs on the country charts, and, having been boosted in his own career by other stars, he helped guarantee the success of some promising young performers.
Young continues to pursue an active schedule of touring and appearing on the Opry. Much of his show consists of the dozens of hits he produced between 1952 and 1971, including “Go Back You Fool” and “Live Fast, Love Hard, and Die Young.” In Country Music U.S.A., Bill C. Malone referred to Young as an artist “who flirted with the country-pop idiom, yet never really strayed very far from the mainstream.” “Young seems never to have consciously sought pop acceptance,” Malone continued, “and has always shown a fondness for twin fiddle accompaniment; nevertheless, his big voice, precise articulation, and pop phrasing made him a likely candidate for country-pop stardom.”
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1932, Faron was still a baby when his father purchased a small farm outside of town; Young grew up there amidst a herd of dairy cows. He was still in grade school when he got his first guitar, and he more or less taught himself how to play it by experimenting with chords and melody. By high school he could sing all the latest country hits he heard on the radio, providing his own guitar accompaniment.
Young formed his first band while attending Fair Park High School in Shreveport. The group kept busy playing at school functions and at country fairs in the area, and before long young Faron had amassed some local popularity. Nevertheless, he decided to continue his education after high school, spending part of 1950 at Centenary College in Louisiana. The lure of the music business was strong, however, and he soon left college, signing a contract at KWKH radio in Shreveport.
KWKH was a well-known station with a strong signal and offered Saturday night competition for the Grand Ole Opry with its own show, Louisiana Hayride. Young joined the Hayride cast and quickly became a favorite. His budding career was helped immensely when he sparked the interest of Webb Pierce, then a major country star. Pierce invited Young to be a featured vocalist on his tours, and the young singer was soon traveling across the entire South, performing at fairs and in concert halls.
Capitol Records signed Young in 1951, and he produced two hit singles, “Tattle Tale Tears” and “Have I
Born February 25, 1932, in Shreveport, LA; son of a dairy farmer; married Hilda Margot Macon; children: Damion, Robin, Kevin, Alana. Education: Attended Centenary College.
Country singer and guitarist, 1950—. Formed first band during high school; left college to perform on KWKH Radio, Shreveport, LA, c. 1950; became regular on Louisiana Hayride, KWKH, 1951. Signed with Capitol Records and released first hit, “Tattle Tale Tears,” 1951; regular cast member on Grand Ole Opry, beginning in 1952. Toured the United States, Canada, and Europe. Appeared on numerous television programs and in films, including Country Music Holiday, Daniel Boone, and Hidden Guns.
Addresses: Record company —c/o CEMA Distribution, 21700 Oxnard St., No. 700, Woodland Hills, CA 91367.
Waited Too Long.” Though still in his teens, he seemed to be an entertainer blessed with all the qualities stardom requires: he had a dark, handsome face, an easy way with an audience, and a fine baritone voice. The same year he turned 20 he was made a regular cast member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Even the Korean War could not slow the advance of Young’s career. He was drafted in the fall of 1952, but as soon as he had completed basic training, he won an Army talent show on ABC-TV and was placed in an entertainment unit. Young served his tour of duty singing for troops stationed all over the world, and he also starred on the Army’s radio recruiting show. While still in the service, he wrote and recorded “Goin’ Steady,” a song that made the Top Ten in 1953. An unusual number for Young, “Goin’ Steady” was an up-tempo tune aimed at the teen market; it remains a staple of early rockabilly anthologies.
After his discharge from the Army, Young returned to the Opry and was given a royal welcome. Between 1954 and 1964—a time when the country music industry was striving valiantly to survive the onslaught of rock and roll—Young was a certified headliner, turning out hit after hit. His best-known works from the period include “Live Fast, Love Hard and Die Young,” “It’s a Great Life,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Country Girl,” “The Yellow Bandana,” and “You’ll Drive Me Back (Into Her Arms Again).”
One of Young’s Number One hits during the period was “Hello, Walls,” a song written by Willie Nelson. Nelson was a newcomer on the Nashville scene when Young chose to record his song, and the single was instrumental in boosting both men’s careers. Young also helped singer Roger Miller get his foot in the door in Nashville. Miller—who had a wealth of musical experience—was working as a bellhop at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville in the late 1950s. Young hired him as a percussionist and got not only a drummer, but a songwriter as well.
In the 1960s—a time when record producers took desperate measures to move country music toward middle-of-the-road acceptance—Young was willing to experiment with a country-pop sound and did some Frank Sinatra-like crooning. Still, the core of his fans remained the country stalwarts, and the singer was more than willing to drift back in the direction of pure country. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s he maintained a dizzying touring schedule and was always in demand at county fair shows.
Though Young’s once jet-black hair has been silver for some time, he remains a country favorite. In addition to his work as a performer, he has widely diversified business interests, including part ownership of Nashville’s trade paper, Music City News. Affectionately known as “The Sheriff”—after a part he once played in a low-budget movie—Young has been a Nashville staple for some 40 years and has said that retirement is simply out of the question.
On Capitol Records
Sweethearts or Strangers.
This Is Faron Young.
Talk About Hits.
The Best of Faron Young.
Fan Club Favorites.
All Time Great Hits.
On Mercury Records
This Is Faron.
Faron Young Aims at the West.
Songs for Country Folks.
Songs of Mountains and Valleys.
Faron Young’s Greatest Hits.
Faron Young Sings the Best of Jim Reeves.
I’d Just Be Fool Enough.
Best of Faron Young, Volume 2.
(With others) Hillbilly Music … Thank God! Volume 1, Bug/Capitol, 1989.
All Time Greatest Hits, Curb/CEMA, 1990.
Country Spotlight, Dominion, 1991.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, Harmony, 1977.
Malone, Bill C., Country Music U.S.A., revised edition, University of Texas Press, 1985.
Shestack, Melvin, The Country Music Encyclopedia, Crowell, 1974.
Stambler, Irwin, and Grelun Landon, The Encyclopedia of Folk, Country, and Western Music, St. Martin’s, 1969.
Country Music, May/June 1985; September/October 1985; July/August 1986; March/April 1987; January/February 1989; July/August 1989; September/October 1990.
Newsweek, March 20, 1989.
Rolling Stone, April 20, 1989.
—Anne Janette Johnson
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