America’s ‘Storyteller’ Tom T. Hall Dead at 85

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Country Music Hall of Famer Tom T. Hall died at his home in Franklin, Tennessee on August 20th according to his son, Dean Hall. He was 85.

Photo from the Country Music Hall of Fame

Born Thomas Hall on May 25th, 1936 in Olive Hill, Kentucky, Hall benefited greatly from the tutelage of his childhood friend and mentor, Lonnie Easterly, writing his first song at age nine. In 1971, Hall penned a tribute to his friend and mentor, “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died.” It became his second number 1 song on the country charts.

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I started playing the guitar when I was four years old and I’m just as good today as I was then.

In all, he wrote 12 number one songs, and 26 more that landed in the Top 10. Country music legend Tex Ritter dubbed Hall, “The Storyteller.”

After a stint in the army, Hall worked as a radio DJ on stations in West Virginia and Kentucky. In 1964 he moved to Nashville, and began working as a $50-a-week songwriter, writing up to half a dozen songs per day. Dozens of country music stars recorded his songs including Johnny Cash, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, and of course, Jeannie C. Riley who took Hall’s “Harper Valley PTA” to the number one spot in 1968.

A multi-instrumentalist and wordsmith like no other, Hall penned hundreds of songs and from 1976 to 1996 wrote nine books. His way of using intimate details in lighthearted lyrics set him apart. Hall himself released 35 studio albums, 9 compilation albums and 50 singles in his career. Some of his most famous tunes include “A Week in a Country Jail,” “I Love,” “I Like Beer,” “Faster Horses (The Cowboy and The Poet),” “Fox on the Run,” and my personal favorite “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine.”

Hall largely retired from writing new music in the mid-1980s and from performing in the early 1990s. His last public performance was also his first in several years, taking place in 2011.

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Hall became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1971. He won a Grammy® in 1973 and was nominated again in 1976, both for liner notes he wrote for his albums. He won Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year 12 times, and is an inductee in the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame.

*Feature image Tyler Mahan Coe

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