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100 Greatest Men: #79. Hank Locklin

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

He’s best known for his handful of big hits for RCA in the late fifties and early sixties, but Hank Locklin’s career stretched more than a decade in both directions.

A leg injury at the age of eight was the first significant event in his musical career, as he picked up the guitar during his recovery and its lingering effects later exempted him from service in World War II.  While he didn’t finish high school, he did win a talent contest at the age of eighteen, which led to a spot on local radio stations in panhandle Florida and the surrounding states.

During the war, he played in bands in Alabama, and was soon a guitarist in Jimmy Swan’s band.  He formed the Rocky Mountain Boys in 1947, and their popularity on the radio led to a series of independent and regional recording contracts.   When they didn’t find success, Locklin went solo, and spent the early fifties on the Four Star label, where he enjoyed his first #1 hit in 1953, “Let Me Be the One.”

Locklin’s career skyrocketed when he joined RCA in 1955, under the guidance of producer Chet Atkins.   Simple production was used to showcase Locklin’s distinctive tenor, and he became a mainstay on country radio for many years.  His career reached its peak with “Please Help Me, I”m Falling”, a 1960 hit that has since become a country music standard.

A series of concept albums followed, the most notable being a collection of Irish songs done in a country style.   He immortalized many of his greatest influences, including Ernest Tubb, in his 1968 hit “The Country Hall of Fame.”    When the radio hits faded, life on the road remained, and his popularity abroad led to tours of Europe.   He was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry since 1960, and on the eve of his death at age 91, he  was that venerable institution’s oldest living member.

Essential Singles:

  • The Same Sweet Girl, 1948
  • Let Me Be the One, 1953
  • Geisha Girl, 1957
  • Send Me the Pillow You Dream On, 1958
  • Please Help Me, I’m Falling, 1960
  • The Country Hall of Fame, 1968

Essential Albums:

  • Please Help Me, I’m Falling, 1960
  • Ways of Life, 1963
  • Irish Songs, Country Style, 1964
  • My Kind of Country Music, 1965
  • Nashville Women, 1967
  • Country Hall of Fame, 1968

Next: #79. Brad Paisley

Previous: #80. The Everly Brothers

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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