Tom T. Hall has always been one of my favorites. He is known as the storyteller in country music. He was born May 25, 1936 in Olive Hill, Kentucky and as a teenager formed a band, the Kentucky Travelers, who performed before movies for a traveling theater.
After a stint in the Army, where he performed on Armed Forces Radio Network, he went to Roanoke College and worked there as a DJ. He then had several jobs as an announcer in the 1960’s. In 1962 Jimmy C. Newman recorded “DJ For a Day” that Tom had written. He moved to Nashville in 1964 and worked as a songwriter for Newkeys Music, the publishing company belonging to Newman and his business partner Jimmy Key.
I think a song is just a song, they can do it with all kinds of different bands. It’s just a lyric and a melody. I was talking to Kris Kristofferson one time. They asked him what was country, and he said, ‘If it sounds country, it’s country.’ So that’s my philosophy.Tom T. Hall
Tom T. Hall has penned songs for the likes of Johnny Cash, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Alan Jackson, and Bobby Bare. He wrote “Hello Vietnam”, a hit for Johnnie Wright and used in the 1987 movie “Full Metal Jacket”.
Well, listen ain’t that pretty when the bugler plays the Military “TAPS”. I think that when you’s in the war they always have to play a song like that. Well, here I am and there they go and I guess you’d just call it my bad luck. I hope he rests in peace, the trouble is the fellow owes me forty bucksTom T. Hall (“The Ballad of Forty Dollars” lyrics)
One of his earliest songwriting successes was “Harper Valley PTA”, recorded in 1968 by Jeannie C. Riley, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Country Singles charts.
One of the greatest story telling songwriters ever!Travis Tritt
In 1967 is when he started recording his own songs with success with the first, reaching number 30 on the country chart, “I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew”. “Ballad of Forty Dollars” (one of my all-time favorites) was released in 1968 and reached number 4. “Homecoming” reached number 5 and “A Week in a Country Jail” made it to number 1.
Well my poet days are over and I’m back to being me as I enjoy the peace and comfort of reality. If my boy ever asked what it is that I have learned I think that I will readily confirm, son it’s faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, more money.Tom T. Hall (“Faster Horses” lyrics)
The 1970’s were packed full of Tom T. Hall stories like, “Shoeshine Man”, “Salute to a Switchblade”, “Ode to Half a Pound of Ground Round”, “One Hundred Children”, “The Monkey That Became President”, “That Song Is Driving Me Crazy”, “I Like Beer” and “Fox on the Run”.
Tom T. Hall’s masterworks vary in plot, tone, and tempo, but they are bound by his ceaseless and unyielding empathy for the triumphs and losses of othersCountry Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young
Six number ones came for Tom in the 1970’s. “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died”, “(Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine”, “I Love”, “Country Is”, “I Care” and “Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet)”. Tom T. Hall would have 28 studio albums overall. He wrote 12 No. 1 hit songs, with 26 more reaching the Top 10.
I love little baby ducks, Old pick-up trucks, Slow moving trains, and rain. I love little country streams, Sleep without dreams, Sunday school in May, and hay. And I love you too.Tom T. Hall (“I Love”, Lyrics)
Tex Ritter (the singing cowboy, country music singer and actor popular from the mid 1930s into the 1960s) nicknamed Tom “The Storyteller” for writing songs distinguished by their narrative quality, their rich detail , and their keen insight into the beauty of everyday life.
Few could tell a story like Tom T. Hall. As a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, he was one of those triple threat artists who continued to make an impact on the next generation. I’ll always remember growing up listening to Tom T.’s music with my father, who was a huge bluegrass and Country fan.Sarah Trahern, Country Music Association, CEO
Tom T. Hall died August 20, 2021 at the age of 85 at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978. He also penned songs for children on his records “Songs of Fox Hollow (for Children of All Ages)” in 1974 and “Country Songs for Kids,” in 1988. He was also an author, writing a book about songwriting, “The Songwriter’s Handbook,” and an autobiography, “The Storyteller’s Nashville,” as well as fiction novels. He was host of the syndicated TV show “Pop Goes the Country” from 1980 to 1983