100 Greatest Men: The Complete List
Tom T. Hall is known as the Storyteller, a fitting title for a man whose ability to spin a musical yarn led to some of the greatest country story songs of all-time, many of which he sang himself.
His childhood set the stage for a career in music. His father gave him a guitar when he was eight, and he learned music from his hometown neighbor Clayton Delaney, later the subject of Hall’s longest-running #1 single. His mother died when he was just 11, and when a hunting accident four years later made it impossible for his father to work, Hall joined the workforce of a garment factory at age 15.
While working there, Hall formed a band on the side and performed bluegrass around his native Kentucky. Before joining the army, he was already dabbling in radio as a disc jockey, and while overseas in Germany, he performed his own comic songs in German clubs and on the Armed Forces Radio. Returning to the States, he studied journalism in Virginia while continuing his disc jockey work at a station in Salem. There, a Nashville songwriter was so impressed by Hall’s writing that he helped secure him a publishing deal. He moved to Nashville and quickly found success as a songwriter, which led to Mercury Records signing him as a performer, too. He wrote major hits for Dave Dudley and Bobby Bare, among others, and was known primarily as a songwriter through most of the sixties.
His performing career got a big boost after Jeannie C. Riley recorded “Harper Valley P.T.A.”, which topped both the country and pop charts. The heightened exposure increased his profile, and soon he scored his first series of hits at country radio. He became one of the biggest hitmakers of the seventies, scoring seven #1 singles. He became a household name as the host of the popular television show, Pop! Goes the Country, reruns of which still air today on cable television.
Though hist hit slowed down as the eighties dawned, he not only kept his profile high as a tv host, but also as a novelist. He took a ten year break from recording, but returned in the nineties with Songs from Songchoppy, which included “Little Bitty”, later a #1 hit for Alan Jackson. He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opy in 1971, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008, and honored as a BMI Icon in 2012. He married his songwriter wife, Dixie, after meeting her at a BMI function in 1965, and the two continue to write and perform new material today.
Essential Singles (Artist):
- Ballad of Forty Dollars, 1966
- A Week in a Country Jail, 1969
- The Year that Clayton Delaney Died, 1971
- (Old Dogs, Chidren, and) Watermelon Wine, 1972
- I Love, 1973
- Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet), 1976
Essential Singles (Songwriter):
- Hello Vietnam (Johnnie Wright), 1965
- Harper Valley P.T.A. (Jeannie C. Riley), 1968
- (Margie’s at) The Lincoln Park Inn (Bobby Bare), 1969
- The Pool Shark (Dave Dudley), 1970
- How I Got to Memphis (Bobby Bare), 1970
- I’m Not Ready Yet (George Jones), 1980
- Little Bitty (Alan Jackson), 1996
- Ballad of Forty Dollars, 1969
- In Search of a Song, 1971
- The Rhymer and Other Five and Dimers, 1973
- Songs of Fox Hollow (For Children of All Ages), 1974
- Ole T’s in Town, 1979
Next: #24. The Statler Brothers
Previous: #26. Roy Acuff
Not a big favorite of mine.
As a songwriter, my favorite is Harper Valley P.T.A.
As an artist – the Watermelon Wine song.
I always thought he was so underrated. Probably in my top 10 songwriters. As a vocalist he was not great, but his casual vocal style made him very relatable that you felt you always knew him.
Tom T. Hall is a wonderful songwriter! I even remember “I Love” being in my music class textbook when I was a kid, back when Music class was a serious part of elementary school. I think my favorite Tom T. Hall song is “Me and Jesus.”
Quote by Leeann Ward re. “I Love”:
Tom T. Hall is a wonderful songwriter! I even remember “I Love” being in my music class textbook when I was a kid
Yes, that was one of the many good reasons why he was called “The Storyteller”; and incredibly, this song, besides topping the country singles chart, also got up to #19 on the overall Billboard Hot 100 in March 1974, where it got played alongside Elton John, among other artists (YIPE!!).
Has anyone ever listened to Tom T. Hall’s album “In Search of a Song?”
From Wikipedia: “It is the first full album to result from one of Hall’s “song-hunting” trips to Kentucky. Hall was known to make periodic visits to rural Kentucky. He didn’t actually write songs on these trips so much as take notes and gather raw material that he would later write about. He typically traveled backroads by car, sometimes with a photographer, to find inspiration by observing and visiting with the common people of his home state.”
Fascinating. I wish more songwriters would take that kind of approach.