Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters Podcast

Tom T Hall

Ep. 67 - Tom T. Hall

Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine: The Storyteller

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The Storyteller reveals how his songwriting career was launched by a criminal who was being hunted by the FBI; why Kris Kristofferson said Tom was “a great songwriter impersonating a hack;” how he learned to stop making up songs and just start writing them down; the way Ernest Hemingway influenced his writing style; why he was a  loner who didn’t party with the Nashville songwriter crowd; which of his songs drew intense criticism from a national radio preacher; how one of his biggest hits ended up not being in an actual key; the reason he doesn’t think he was a good celebrity; why he’s “not terribly fond of human beings,” what he thought of Bob Dylan attacking him in an infamous 2015 speech; and how he wound up writing two songs in one night with Johnny Cash and Paul McCartney.

Tom T. Hall was named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. Known as “The Storyteller,” the Grammy winner landed 35 songs in the Top 10 on Billboard’s country chart between 1965 and 1996. Many of those featured Hall as both writer and artist, including “Homecoming,” “Me and Jesus,” “Ravishing Ruby,” “That Song is Driving Me Crazy,” “I Like Beer,” and the #1 hits “A Week in a County Jail,” “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died,” “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine,” “Country Is,” “I Care,” “Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet),” and “I Love,” which also became a hit on the pop chart.  

Tom T. Hall songs that hit the Top 5 for other artists include “Hello Vietnam” by Johnny Wright, “How I Got to Memphis” and “(Margie’s at) The Lincoln Park Inn” by Bobby Bare, “If I Ever Fall in Love (With a Honky Tonk Girl)” by Faron Young, “Pool Shark” by Dave Dudley, “You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)” by Johnny Rodriguez, “I’m Not Ready Yet” by George Jones, “Little Bitty” by Alan Jackson, and “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” which Jeannie C. Riley took to the #1 spot on both the country and pop chart, making her the first woman to achieve that feat.   

Hall was named NSAI Songwriter of the Year in 1972, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978, joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008, was honored with the Academy of Country Music’s Poet’s Award in 2010, and earned the prestigious BMI Icon award in 2012.


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