Lawson inspires story teller Tom
T. Hall to set his poetry to music
On With the Show’s
Flashback to Variety Today 1994
By SHIRLEY BROUN
WHEN Tom T. Hall tours Australia in September (1994) he’ll be bringing a few words from one of the nation’s most renowned story tellers Henry Lawson.
Promoters Bernie Stahl and John Hansen with Tom T. Hall on one of his Australian tours.
Tom, who has built up an impressive reputation as a story teller in his own right, has put a couple of Henry Lawson’s poems to music. “We write the same meter and sense of poetic structure. I never have to change a word of his poems to sing them,” said Tom T. Hall in an exclusive interview from his Franklin, Tennessee headquarters.
Tom, who arrives in Australia on September 5 and who starts his tour at Caloundra Civic Centre in Queensland two days later, is looking forward to his visit. “When I get to Australia I am going to buy a meat pie from a small market, stand on the sidewalk eating the pie and staring into the clear blue sky,” he said.
The man who had international hits with songs such as `Harper Valley PTA’(recorded by Jeannie C Riley) and his personal favourite `Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine’ is a committed songwriter and story teller who finds inspiration in life itself.
“Harper Valley PTA was inspired by an incident in my youth, much like the story in the song, and the values depicted in `Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine’ seem more apparent with each passing day,” he said.
Artists including Perry Como, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Johnny Rodrigeuz, George Burns, Patti Page and Phil Harris have all recorded songs written by Tom T. Hall and even in his early career his songs were quickly put to record by the likes of Jimmy C. Newman, Dave Dudley, Bobby Bare and Burl Ives.
Tom’s first single `I Wash My Face in the Morning Dew’ in 1968 for Mercury Records was a Top 10 hit. His next song `A Week In a Country Jail’ climbed to the number one position on the Country Charts.
The song-writing legend also became a much sought after recording artist in his own right, easily recognisable by the gritty straight forward texture of his vocal style.
Tom, who lives with his wife Dixie on a 24ha (60 acres) farm just outside Nashville where he raises chickens, fish, horses, goats, vegetables, cats and dogs (his children are grown and left home), is also a successful author. He has written five books including an autobiography, a novel, two song-writing textbooks, and a collection of short stories.
Tom carries his literary career into the classroom and onto the lecture circuit.
Whether he is teaching song-writing, as he did for two years at Middle Tennessee State University, or speaking at the National Conference of Behavioural Psychologists, Hall’s insightful enthusiasm draws the audience in and makes the subject enjoyable.
Tom enjoys his writing and can often be found at his hunting hideaway, which he built … a place where his creative juices flow freely. “It is a turn-of-the-century cabin with all the disadvantages of such structures. I love it,” said Tom.
Tom believes his song-writing has been the most rewarding endeavour to date. “Those things will be here when I’m gone.”
It is an ambition to see one of his books made into a movie. “A good movie,” he said.
He would also like to write a best-selling book this winter (in America), says Tom with a smile.
For a little `fun and adventure’ Tom is planning to next year work some of the Riverboat Gambling Casinos which cruise down the mighty Mississippi River.
When in Australia, Tom plans to spend time with good friends Slim Dusty and promoters Bernie Stahl and John Hansen. “They are my heroes. We have had some good times together at Slim’s house – singing songs and telling stories. I have read Slim’s autobiography a couple of times, seems we had similar hard times coming along,” he said.
Tom T Hall shares a few stories with two of his `heroes’ Bernie Stahl and Slim Dusty.
Asked to relate a couple of his favourite stories, Tom T. Hall delivered in style. “My wife and I spent a night in the White House. Next morning President Carter and Mrs Carter flew off to Camp David, a presidential retreat, and left me in charge … so to speak?”
He also had a tale to tell from a previous Aussie visit. “I have many fond memories of my five trips to Australia. My favourite memory is of the time I was kidnapped by a group of fans on my first trip there. Gent name of Jumbo Jim and his mates found me back stage and told me they were my escort back to the hotel. They loaded me into what I later learned was an old police van. We went roaring down the streets of Sydney with sirens going full blast. We didn’t get back to my hotel for a while, but they did take me to a heluva party.”
Tom T’s tour, which ends on September 25, will take him from Caloundra Civic Centre to `Rumours’ Toowoomba, Seagulls RLFC on the Queensland New South Wales border, Lismore Workers Club, Coff’s Harbour Ex-Services Club, Tamworth Workers Club, Newcastle Entertainment Centre, Bankstown Sports Club, Yallah Woolshed Recreation Centre, Ettalong Beach Memorial Club and Rooty Hill RSL.
After seeing this inspirational entertainer, you are sure to have a few stories to tell of your own.
NOW retired from touring, Tom T Hall continues to write songs and gather awards. On October 30, 2012, his incredible songwriting career was celebrated by being named a `Broadcast Music Inc (BMI) Icon’ at the 60th annual BMI Country Awards in Nashville.In total, Hall, born in Olive Hill, May 25, 1936, has earned a staggering 31 BMI Awards for songwriting spanning country and pop genres, and six of his songs have accumulated more than one million performances each. In 2008, he was welcomed into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Since Hall’s retirement from touring, he has enjoyed mega writing success in the worlds of both traditional and modern bluegrass music and old time country, as well as classic and progressive country. He has collaborated extensively with his wife Miss Dixie whom he married in 1964, and the Halls were named SPBGMA Songwriter of the Year for 10 consecutive years, garnering them the Master’s Gold and Grand Master’s Gold award. He has written 11 No. 1 hit songs, with 26 more that reached the Top 10, including the No. 1 international pop crossover smash “Harper Valley PTA” and the hit “I Love”, which reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. He became known to fans as “The Storyteller,” thanks to his storytelling skills in his song-writing.