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Tom T. Hall: Still A Hero To Me

Updated on October 7, 2012
Tom T. Hall in concert.
Tom T. Hall in concert.

Tom T. Hall and Me

Tom T. Hall was magical to teenage boys like me back when I was in high school. His songs rode into our hearts on simple melodies, easy-to-play guitar chords, and lyrics that touched all our emotions, from laughter to tears. To me and the boys I hung out with, he was a hero.

When I was young, I somehow gained a reputation for knowing about music. The reputation was ill-deserved, I should point out, but I did nothing to impede the rumours. I lapped up the popularity and relished the busy jam sessions that spontaneously ocurred at my house on rainy Saturday afternoons.

In 1971 Tom T. had a hit song named "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died." That song provided my group of would-be musicians with hours upon hours of pure pleasure. A three-chord song in the key of C, it was a number every one of us could play... and play we did!

Sometimes now, when I'm in a bit of a down mood, I'll strum the opening bars in that gentle country 4/4 rhythm and allow myself to drift back to when I was 16... "...they said he got religion at the end and I'm glad he did." The words pull the same feelings I felt back then and the world becomes okay again.

Just Tom and a guitar.

A Bit of History

Tom was born in Olive Hill, a small town in northeastern Kentucky. He took an interest in music at an early age and formed his first band when he was just a teenager. Though he was writing poems and songs from childhood, it wasn't until he had served time in the Army, taken a whirl at DJ work for a couple of radio stations in West Virginia, and had one of his songs recorded by singer Jimmy Newman that he gained recognition as a songwriter. He moved to Nashville in 1963 and wrote hits for many of the big acts of the time.

He finally got his break in 1968 when Jeannie C. Riley recorded his "Harper Valley PTA" and drove record sales past six million. Shortly afterward he started his own performing career and made musical history with songs such as "A Week In The County Jail" , "I Love", "Country Is", "Old Dogs And Children", etc. He was rewarded with a Grammy in 1973.

The song "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died" is based on a true story. Tom says there was a fellow living in Olive Hill (whose real name is not Clayton Delaney) who turned him on to music and taught him a lot about guitar. When Tom was 11 or so the man died, tragically young, only in his early twenties. The events made such an impact on Tom that he was moved to write the song as a tribute, and it became the hit we all know.

Album cover from his latest CD with his wife, Miss Dixie.
Album cover from his latest CD with his wife, Miss Dixie.

Tom T. Now

Tom released his latest CD, "Tom T. Hall Sings, Miss Dixie & Tom T." in 2007 on his own label, Blue Circle Records. In 2008 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Tom reached the age of 74 years 25 May 2008. He is now retired but his lifestyle doesn't much resemble what most people think of as retired. He's up in the early morning writing songs with his wife Miss Dixie, listening to the works of up and coming bluegrass artists, or working with a band in his recording studio. It can hardly be called a life of leisure but, he does what he pleases... and what he does pleases him!

Yeah, he's still Tom T. Hall. And he's still a hero to me.

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    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 5 years ago from Canada

      Good one, junko! I like that song too. I remember Johnny Winter singing it; I believe the title is "Ain't Nothing to Me." The song might have been first sung by a group back in the 50's, before I started forming memories around music.(Edit: Google says the group was The Coasters.)

      I appreciate your ability to see wisdom where you find it. Thanks for the visit.

    • junko profile image

      junko 5 years ago

      "Now there you are, streched out on the floor buddy. Now you see what you done made him do. They have come to take him off to jail, buddy, but tomorrow someone is going to bury you" I was very young when I heard that song, there was some kind of wisdom in the song. Who sung that song, Niteriter?

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 5 years ago from Canada

      Kenneth, I had been living my life absolutely certain that I had replied to you here. Now here are the facts, dang them, quietly contradicting my certainty. Thanks for visiting; I'm glad you came by.

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 5 years ago from Canada

      Maita, it looks like I missed you too. You know how I feel when you visit; I just go all wiggly jiggly inside!

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you, moonlake, for stopping by. Anything by Tom T. is still time well spent for me. My feet are stuck in the mud I was raised in!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      My favorite song is Old Dogs And Children. I have some of his songs on my ipod. Enjoyed reading your hub. Voted up.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Niteriter, LOVE this hub. Love the subject, Tom T., "the old storyteller," who is my all-time singer, writer, performer. Thanks for doing this hub. You are a fantastic writer. Voted up and all the way across. Sincerely, Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama, a town that could pass for Mayberry, the town where Andy and Barney worked. Peace.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Niteriter, LOVE this hub. Love the subject, Tom T., "the old storyteller," who is my all-time singer, writer, performer. Thanks for doing this hub. You are a fantastic writer. Voted up and all the way across. Sincerely, Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama, a town that could pass for Mayberry, the town where Andy and Barney worked. Peace.

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

      Glad you're back niteriter. Now you need to stay!! Maita

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 7 years ago from Canada

      Hi, Itfawkes. It's a pleasure to see you here, especially since you arrive bearing compliments! Thanks for being kind; it takes the sting out of the stuff you mentioned. Cheers!

    • ltfawkes profile image

      ltfawkes 7 years ago from NE Ohio

      This is a very well-crafted piece, as is your profile. I particularly liked the section of your profile where you mention the women you've lost . . . all your stuff to.

      That reminded me of Sam Kinnison: "Gimme back my albums."

      L.T.

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 7 years ago from Canada

      To have gotten a visit from the esteemed earnestshub is honour enough, but to have gotten a compliment from him to boot? I am ecstatic!

      ...even if you did accuse me of being a rider instead if a writer!

      Thanks for stopping by. Cheers and best wishes.

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      "Old dogs and children" is a favourite of mine Niterider.

      I enjoyed your hub very much, well done!

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 8 years ago from Canada

      Many people have said that the road to greatness is a rocky one. I'm sorry you're encountering those stones in your path right now. Keep up the faith and try to not lose your sunny disposition. The gifts you have to offer the system of life are immense.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Yeah I've had to pick up a few "real" jobs that has pulled me away from the finer things like writing curly cues and eating curly fries, ah well. I don't need my big break, but a medium sized one would be swell.

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 8 years ago from Canada

      Hey, Ben, life around here had been a bit on the dull side lately. Where have you been?

      Thanks for stopping by to decorate my Hub with one of your morcels of jest. Bluegrass music has now risen to the ears of the aristocracy!

      It's good to see you back around. Thanks for the visit.

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 8 years ago from Canada

      Ralwus, your presence on one of my Hubs never fails to make me feel proud. And that you share my pleasure in the work of Tom T. Hall makes my appreciation of you that much greater.

      Thanks for visiting.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Loved it, a great compliment to the man's music. I came to bluegrass (discounting John Denver and Kenny Rogers, who are to bluegrass, what paper plates are to bone china) and it's the type of music that only a certain kind of person can enjoy. Thanks for sharing some of your youth here bud.

    • profile image

      ralwus 8 years ago

      Nice tribute to a winner Niteriter. He will be pleased I'm sure. I was a young man when he came on and I instantly became a fan.

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 8 years ago from Canada

      Hi Maita! Long time no see! I know I'm a rascal who disappears for long periods of time but the coming back is always warm when you're there to greet me. Thanks for the visit.

    • Niteriter profile image
      Author

      Niteriter 8 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for stopping by, drbj. The songs of Tom T. Hall have lit up my life with many treasured hours.

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 8 years ago from US

      very nice voice of Tom, Niteriter, welcome again, miss you at HP, Maita

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 8 years ago from south Florida

      Niteriter - what a lovely tribute to Tom. See that he gets a copy of your Hub.

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