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Live Fast, Love Hard

Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story

Diane Diekman
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 296
  • Book Info
    Live Fast, Love Hard
    Book Description:

    As one of the best-known honky-tonkers to appear in the wake of Hank Williams's death, Faron Young was a popular presence on Nashville's music scene for more than four decades. The Singing Sheriff produced a string of Top Ten hits, placed more than eighty songs on the country music charts, and founded the long-running country music periodical Music City News in 1963. Flamboyant, impulsive, and generous, he helped and encouraged a new generation of talented songwriter-performers that included Willie Nelson and Bill Anderson. In 2000, four years after his untimely death, Young was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame._x000B__x000B_Presenting the first detailed portrayal of this lively and unpredictable country music star, Diane Diekman masterfully draws on extensive interviews with Young's family, band members, and colleagues. Impeccably researched, Diekman's narrative also weaves anecdotes from the Louisiana Hayride and other old-time radio shows with ones from Young's business associates, including Ralph Emery. Her unique insider's look into Young's career adds to an understanding of the burgeoning country music industry during the key years from 1950 to 1980, when the music expanded beyond its original rural roots and blossomed into a national--and ultimately, international--phenomenon. Echoing Young's characteristic ability to entertain and surprise fans, Diekman combines an account of his public career with a revealing, intimate portrait of his personal life. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09380-7
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Faron Young, a Study in Contrasts
    (pp. 1-4)

    One summer day in 1948 Faron Young drove his Ford panel truck along a street in the wealthy section of Shreveport, Louisiana. Its bad muffler and load of cow manure assaulted the senses of anyone within hearing or smelling distance. Sixteen-year-old Faron turned into the driveway of a mansion, got out of the truck, and asked a man tending a bed of flowers, “Would you like to buy a nice load of barnyard fertilizer?” “Get that wreck off my property right now,” the man answered. “Well, here’s my calling card. In case you ever need any, give me a call.”...

  6. 2 A Shreveport Beginning
    (pp. 5-15)

    Five-year-old Dorothy Young stood in the yard of her Shreveport, Louisiana, home and waved excitedly at the cars driving by. “We got a new baby brother!” she hollered.

    Faron Young had entered the world. Born February 25, 1932, in a two-bedroom rental house at 1217 Hoadley, he was the sixth and last child of Harlan and Doris Young.¹ Shortly after his birth the family moved around the corner to 2023 Seymour to save $5 on rent.² Today, all that remains of Faron’s first homes is an overgrown lot next to an expressway overpass. A tall pole near the intersection of...

  7. 3 On to Nashville
    (pp. 16-25)

    After graduating from high school Faron enrolled at Centenary Methodist College in Shreveport with a major in business administration. He wanted to attend school away from Shreveport, but Harlan wouldn’t let him. “He wanted to make me come home and feed them cows every day,” Faron said. “That’s when I decided I done had enough of all these cows. I wanted to find something to do to get away from Shreveport.”¹

    Being on the Louisiana Hayride offered his best chance. Sixty performers appeared each week, and the main artists did a six-minute segment on each half of a show. Audience...

  8. 4 “Goin’ Steady” and into the Army
    (pp. 26-36)

    “I cried like a rat eating a red onion” is how Faron described his reaction to receiving a draft notice. “I was laying over there at Mom [Upchurch’s] one day,” he said, “picking on the guitar and thinking I had the world by the tail, when here come my manager, Hubert Long, and Ken Nelson, who was in town. They had brought me greetings from Uncle Sam.” When asked if he’d been drafted or had joined the army voluntarily, he replied, “You damned right I was drafted. I didn’t join nuthin’.” He joked about his attempt to beat the draft:...

  9. 5 The Young Sheriff, Living Fast and Loving Hard
    (pp. 37-46)

    Upon arrival in Nashville, Faron and Hilda moved in with Hubert Long. During their first weekend in town, Faron appeared at the Grand Ole Opry anniversary party. The next day, November 21, 1954 , he opened a two-week tour throughout the Southwest.¹ His next tour covered states from New Jersey to Ohio. Hilda endured Thanksgiving and her seventeenth birthday without him. “I was just there at the house,” she says. “Hubert thought it would be terrible for Faron’s fans to know he was married, so he didn’t let it out for a long time. Faron got fan mail galore, people...

  10. 6 Country Music on Life Support
    (pp. 47-54)

    Faron headlined two shows at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis on Sunday, February 6, 1955. The advertising poster listed his name at the top, followed by Martha Carson, Ferlin Huskey (a variant of “Husky”), and the Wilburn Brothers, Doyle and Teddy. Near the bottom was the announcement “plus . . . Memphis’ own Elvis Presley.”

    Faron and Presley both toured with Hank Snow’s All-Star Jamboree in a hectic schedule that covered twenty mid-South cities, beginning in New Orleans on Sunday, May 1, and concluding May 19 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Col. Tom Parker served as booking agent. During the first...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. 7 Legends in the Making
    (pp. 55-68)

    By the end of 1956 only Tom Pritchard remained of the original Deputies. Shorty Lavender took Gordon Terry’s spot as fiddler; Jimmy and Johnny Fautheree headed back to Shreveport and the Louisiana Hayride, replaced by Pete Wade and his electric guitar (there would be no more Deputy rhythm guitar players); and Joe Vincent left the band because he didn’t see a future for steel players after “Brother Elvis came along and completely turned country music around.” Wanting a steady career, he attended a two-year school in respiratory care and worked at Baptist Hospital in Nashville until he retired.¹ Lloyd Green,...

  13. 8 “Hello Walls,” Goodbye Capitol Records
    (pp. 69-77)

    The false-front, violet-colored building on Nashville’s Lower Broadway still houses Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, so named when Tootsie Bess purchased the tavern in 1960. Today’s country music fans enter from street level to buy food and liquor and listen to singers hoping for stardom. Tourists climb the stairs to the back room made famous by Opry stars and assorted musicians who hung out there in the 1960s. The rear exit opens into the alley and opposite the stage door of the Ryman Auditorium. When the Ryman housed the Grand Ole Opry, Faron and the other performers routinely crossed the alley to...

  14. 9 Family Matters
    (pp. 78-85)

    Moving to a new home does not change the tone of life in an abusive household. Without having the role model of a loving father, Faron could not be a loving father himself, although in an interview worksheet for a British magazine he listed as his personal ambition “to be a good and understanding father to my two sons.”¹ It was an ambition he lacked the ability to fulfill.

    Faron and Hilda purchased a house at 5836 Hillsboro Road in April 1962. They had admired it whenever they drove down Hillsboro Road to visit friends in southwestern Nashville. Set back...

  15. 10 Wings and Wheels
    (pp. 86-91)

    Piloting personal aircraft became almost a fad among Nashville entertainers in the early 1960s. Given their tight travel schedules, they could avoid long bus and automobile trips and the hassle of airports. Comedienne Minnie Pearl believed pilots and performers had a lot in common. The work style of both occupations crammed a job into a short timeframe and demanded total concentration during that period. “This concentration is so intense while it’s happening that everything else is blocked out of the mind,” she said. “Then when it’s over and they’re ready to relax—when the pressure and the responsibilities are off...

  16. 11 The Music City News
    (pp. 92-96)

    When the first issue of theMusic City Newsrolled off the presses in July 1963 , with a one-year subscription price of $3 , Faron’s “fan journal” began a run that lasted until February 2000. He surely didn’t expect the magazine to someday sponsor a network television award show, theTNN Music City News Country Awards,which was presented until 1999 .

    Country music journals started in previous years usually went broke due to lack of industry support.¹ AlthoughBillboardandCash Boxcovered the music industry, they weren’t devoted to country music. Faron wondered why other industries had...

  17. 12 Making Music in the 1960s
    (pp. 97-107)

    Faron’s first Mercury release, “The Yellow Bandana” in early 1963, went to number one onCash Boxcharts and number four onBillboard’s. Shelby Singleton, Mercury’s A& R director and also a Shreveport native, signed Faron to the label and produced his first few albums. The initial one,This Is Faron,opened with “The Yellow Bandana,” and side two contained new arrangements of previous Capitol hits. Two of the Deputies, Ben Keith and Odell Martin, played on the session, the Jordanaires, and Singleton’s wife, Margie, singing backup.¹

    Faron’s second album,Faron Young Aims at the West,showcased a dozen western...

  18. 13 Faron and Friends
    (pp. 108-117)

    Stories told by friends about Faron usually cover extremes in his behavior. Connie Smith learned early not to take his teasing seriously. When she came to Nashville in 1964 , she and Faron were standing together at a show and listening to George Jones sing. “George Jones is my favorite singer,” Smith says, “and I said something about him, and Faron insinuated that—I didn’t even know George, because I didn’t know anybody at that point—he insinuated that something was going on between me and George, and it made me mad.” A few moments later Smith’s two-year-old son came...

  19. 14 Business on Music Row
    (pp. 118-125)

    The Faron Young Executive Building overlooks Interstate 40 in Nashville. As travelers approach the Demonbreun exit, heading west, the brick building comes briefly into view on a hill to the left. Close up, the name is still visible on the front—young executive bldg . The original one-story segment is attached to the three-story structure Faron built in 1975.

    Faron set up his first Music Row office in an old house he purchased in October 1963. The once-grand home at 728 Sixteenth Avenue South boasted a striking flamingo-colored exterior and a front porch featuring Greek columns. Faron moved his fledgling...

  20. 15 A Drunk, Not an Alcoholic
    (pp. 126-134)

    Faron’s good-heartedness, need for attention, and addiction to alcohol were all tied somehow to his depression and lack of self-worth. His unpredictability kept others off balance. One day in 1970 , Hilda called for thirteen-year-old Robin to help her. Faron had taken a gun into their bathroom, the gun went off, and he wouldn’t answer the door. Robin broke it down and found Faron sitting on the floor, drunk and waiting for them. He had fired a shot out the open window and, laughing, said, “Hah, hah, I gotcha. I got both you sonsofbitches.”¹

    That same man could introduce “Little...

  21. 16 From Severed Tongue to Number One
    (pp. 135-141)

    “It was hanging there, about a quarter inch, and one blood vessel on it.” That’s how Faron described his tongue after the accident. The emergency room doctor thought an amputation might be necessary, and Faron said the doctor told him, “I wanted to wait ’til you became conscious again before I told you about it, so you wouldn’t wake up without a tongue, go into shock, and die on us.” Johnny Cash wrote him a letter, which Faron quoted as saying, “I told you if you didn’t quit cussin’ so much, the Lord’s gonna cut your tongue off.”

    After the...

  22. 17 “This Little Girl of Mine”
    (pp. 142-148)

    During most of his shows Faron would choose a little girl from the audience and bring her onstage. He’d then sing to her and give her a $5 bill before sending her back to her seat. “Hold out for ten, kid. He’s rich!” Cootie Hunley would shout from behind his drums. Some girls grabbed the cash, but others refused to take money from a stranger. Faron preferred seven-or eight-year-olds. “If you get one too young,” he explained, “they’ll cry when they leave their mama. And . . . you gotta be careful if you get a two- or three-year-old because...

  23. 18 The Sheriff and His Deputies
    (pp. 149-158)

    The Country Deputies took pride in their reputation as the “roaringest” band on the road. Others would come back to Nashville and talk about things Faron’s band did. Some came back without jobs because they tried to keep up with the Deputies; one singer fired all his musicians for partying with them.

    They stayed high on drugs and played practical jokes on each other. At the Kontiki Motel in Phoenix, Darrell McCall put on a cape, put fangs in his mouth, covered his face with white powder, and blackened under his eyes with cigarette ashes. He hid in the closet...

  24. 19 There He Was in Tulsa
    (pp. 159-166)

    Following the success of “It’s Four in the Morning,” Faron tried for a second hit in Great Britain. He recorded “She Fights That Lovin’ Feelin’” just for the English market and thought that adding an orchestra would increase its chances of being played on BBC Radio. The song appeared in the United States on his third Mercury album of 1972,This Time the Hurtin’s on Me,and was released as a single in both nations shortly before his February 1973 tour of Great Britain.

    Faron called “She Fights That Lovin’ Feelin’” a fantastic song and thought he had sung it...

  25. 20 Giving Hilda a Break
    (pp. 167-176)

    From the time Hilda married Faron in 1954 at age sixteen, she kept a home for him and raised their four children. She appeared with him at music award dinners and in fan magazine photo spreads that showed the singing star relaxing at home with his family. Hubert Long arranged for trips with Faron to Hawaii in the late 1950s, and in the 1960s Hilda joined her husband for tours of U.S. military bases in Germany. She’d rarely spoken the language since immigrating to the United States at age twelve, when her mother told her, “We’re in America now; we’re...

  26. 21 After the Top Tens
    (pp. 177-184)

    When asked what had been his biggest hit Faron sometimes said, “I hope I haven’t had it yet.”¹ The extensive promotion that Mercury Records promised when he renewed his contract in 1971 didn’t last long. His string of top-ten hits ended in 1974, largely because promotion dollars went to newer, bigger artists. When his Mercury contract expired in 1977 Faron took a break from recording. “I was dejected because the last couple years, I’d been busting my ass, cutting some good records, and they weren’t even putting them out,” he said. “It just got to where I said the hell...

  27. 22 DIVORCE
    (pp. 185-193)

    “We never did quit loving each other,” Faron said about his five-year separation from Hilda. “We were both having some trouble, and I said, well, the way to stop is to get away from each other.” He acknowledged being miserable during the years of separation but wouldn’t admit Hilda’s “trouble” came from his drinking. In June 1984 he told an interviewer that they’d ironed out their differences “and everything’s pretty smooth. We still fight. That’s good because we have a lot of fun making up.” “They don’t understand what you’re doing; you don’t understand why they don’t understand you,” Faron...

  28. 23 Closing Out a Career
    (pp. 194-202)

    During the period before the divorce trial Faron appeared in November 1985 at a small nightclub in Frederick, Maryland. Eddie Stubbs, who became a Grand Ole Opry announcer and WSM deejay a decade later, sat at a table directly in front of the stage. “He came out and he opened up with ‘Step Aside,’” Stubbs recalls, “and it just about blew me out of my chair. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. It was absolutely wonderful. . . . There were only twelve people [in the audience], but he entertained and worked as hard as if there’d...

  29. 24 Last Call
    (pp. 203-216)

    After Faron retired he still participated in his favorite sport—golf. But he lived alone in his Montchanin house and began to withdraw from most of his friends. Damion visited him on special occasions—Father’s Day, Christmas, and Faron’s birthday. Although Damion started drinking at age fourteen, he inherited no tendencies toward violence. “I may cuss ya out,” he says, “but I’ve never been in a fight in my life.” He and Faron usually went to the golf club for lunch and a few drinks. “After he had about two, I’d come up with some bull story about how I...

  30. Epilogue
    (pp. 217-218)

    “Who would want to visit the grave of a forgotten old hillbilly singer?” That’s what Faron told me when I stopped at his house on my way through Nashville one summer afternoon in 1992. I don’t remember what led him to say he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered. I told him I thought it was important to have a grave people could visit, and Faron said he didn’t want anybody staring at him. Although his comment astonished me, I didn’t ask why he felt that way. Such an eventuality seemed far in the future, and we...

  31. Appendix: Faron Young’s Country Deputies
    (pp. 219-222)
  32. Notes
    (pp. 223-252)
  33. Index
    (pp. 253-260)
  34. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-268)