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Live Fast, Love Hard

The Faron Young Story

Diane Diekman

Publication Year: 2007

One of the best-known honky-tonkers since Hank Williams, Faron Young was a popular presence on Nashville's music scene for more than four decades. The Singing Sheriff produced a string of Top Ten hits, placed more than eighty songs on the country music charts, founded the long-running country music periodical Music City News in 1963, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. Flamboyant, impulsive, and generous, he helped and encouraged a new generation of talented songwriter-performers that included Willie Nelson and Bill Anderson. Presenting the first detailed portrayal of this mercurial country music star, Diane Diekman masterfully draws on extensive interviews with Young's family, band members, and colleagues. Echoing Young's characteristic ability to entertain and surprise fans, Diekman combines an account of his public career with a revealing, intimate portrait of his personal life.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Music in American Life

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I met Faron Young on St. Patrick’s Day 1970 at a concert in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He wouldn’t let me walk the three miles back to my college dorm at midnight and insisted on taking me there in his bus. ...

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pp. xi-xii

It’s an impossible task to mention everyone who assisted and supported me through almost seven years of research and writing. I am extremely grateful to all who helped make this book possible. My thanks begin with Ralph Emery for his advice, encouragement, books, and copies of his radio shows with Faron ...

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1. Faron Young, A Study in Contrasts

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pp. 1-4

One summer day in 1948 Faron Young drove his Ford panel truck along a street in the wealthy section of Shreveport, Louisiana. Its bad muffler and load of cow manure assaulted the senses of anyone within hearing or smelling distance. ...

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2. A Shreveport Beginning

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pp. 5-15

Faron Young had entered the world. Born February 25, 1932, in a two-bedroom rental house at 1217 Hoadley, he was the sixth and last child of Harlan and Doris Young.1 Shortly after his birth the family moved around the corner to 2023 Seymour to save $5 on rent.2 ...

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3. On to Nashville

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pp. 16-25

After graduating from high school Faron enrolled at Centenary Methodist College in Shreveport with a major in business administration. He wanted to attend school away from Shreveport, but Harlan wouldn’t let him. “He wanted to make me come home and feed them cows every day,” Faron said. ...

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4. "Goin' Steady" and into the Army

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pp. 26-36

“I cried like a rat eating a red onion” is how Faron described his reaction to receiving a draft notice. “I was laying over there at Mom [Upchurch’s] one day,” he said, “picking on the guitar and thinking I had the world by the tail, when here come my manager, Hubert Long, and Ken Nelson, who was in town. ...

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5. The Young Sheriff, Living Fast and Loving Hard

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pp. 37-46

Upon arrival in Nashville, Faron and Hilda moved in with Hubert Long. During their first weekend in town, Faron appeared at the Grand Ole Opry anniversary party. The next day, November 21, 1954, he opened a two-week tour throughout the Southwest.1 His next tour covered states from New Jersey to Ohio. ...

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6. Country Music on Life Support

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pp. 47-54

Faron headlined two shows at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis on Sunday, February 6, 1955. The advertising poster listed his name at the top, followed by Martha Carson, Ferlin Huskey (a variant of “Husky”), and the Wilburn Brothers, Doyle and Teddy. Near the bottom was the announcement “plus . . . Memphis’ own Elvis Presley.” ...

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7. Legends in the Making

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pp. 55-68

By the end of 1956 only Tom Pritchard remained of the original Deputies. Shorty Lavender took Gordon Terry’s spot as fiddler; Jimmy and Johnny Fautheree headed back to Shreveport and the Louisiana Hayride, replaced by Pete Wade and his electric guitar (there would be no more Deputy rhythm guitar players); ...

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8. "Hello Walls," Goodbye Capitol Records

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pp. 69-77

The false-front, violet-colored building on Nashville’s Lower Broadway still houses Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, so named when Tootsie Bess purchased the tavern in 1960. Today’s country music fans enter from street level to buy food and liquor and listen to singers hoping for stardom. ...

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9. Family Matters

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pp. 78-85

Moving to a new home does not change the tone of life in an abusive household. Without having the role model of a loving father, Faron could not be a loving father himself, although in an interview worksheet for a British magazine he listed as his personal ambition “to be a good and understanding father to my two sons.”1 ...

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10. Wings and Wheels

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pp. 86-91

Piloting personal aircraft became almost a fad among Nashville entertainers in the early 1960s. Given their tight travel schedules, they could avoid long bus and automobile trips and the hassle of airports. Comedienne Minnie Pearl believed pilots and performers had a lot in common. ...

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11. The Music City News

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pp. 92-96

When the first issue of the Music City News rolled off the presses in July 1963, with a one-year subscription price of $3, Faron’s “fan journal” began a run that lasted until February 2000. He surely didn’t expect the magazine to someday sponsor a network television award show, the TNN Music City News Country Awards, which was presented until 1999. ...

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12. Making Music in the 1960s

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pp. 97-107

Faron’s first Mercury release, “The Yellow Bandana” in early 1963, went to number one on Cash Box charts and number four on Billboard’s. Shelby Singleton, Mercury’s A&R director and also a Shreveport native, signed Faron to the label and produced his first few albums. ...

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13. Faron and Friends

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pp. 108-117

Stories told by friends about Faron usually cover extremes in his behavior. Connie Smith learned early not to take his teasing seriously. When she came to Nashville in 1964, she and Faron were standing together at a show and listening to George Jones sing. ...

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14. Business on Music Row

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pp. 118-125

The Faron Young Executive Building overlooks Interstate 40 in Nashville. As travelers approach the Demonbreun exit, heading west, the brick building comes briefly into view on a hill to the left. Close up, the name is still visible on the front—Young Executive Bldg. ...

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15. A Drunk Not an Alcoholic

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pp. 126-134

Faron’s good-heartedness, need for attention, and addiction to alcohol were all tied somehow to his depression and lack of self-worth. His unpredictability kept others off balance. One day in 1970, Hilda called for thirteen-year-old Robin to help her. Faron had taken a gun into their bathroom, the gun went off, and he wouldn’t answer the door. ...

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16. From Severed Tongue to Number One

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pp. 135-141

“It was hanging there, about a quarter inch, and one blood vessel on it.” That’s how Faron described his tongue after the accident. The emergency room doctor thought an amputation might be necessary, and Faron said the doctor told him, “I wanted to wait ’til you became conscious again before I told you about it, so you wouldn’t wake up without a tongue, go into shock, and die on us.” ...

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17. "This Little Girl of Mine"

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pp. 142-148

During most of his shows Faron would choose a little girl from the audience and bring her onstage. He’d then sing to her and give her a $5 bill before sending her back to her seat. “Hold out for ten, kid. He’s rich!” Cootie Hunley would shout from behind his drums. Some girls grabbed the cash, but others refused to take money from a stranger. ...

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18. The Sheriff and His Deputies

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pp. 149-158

The Country Deputies took pride in their reputation as the “roaringest” band on the road. Others would come back to Nashville and talk about things Faron’s band did. Some came back without jobs because they tried to keep up with the Deputies; one singer fired all his musicians for partying with them. ...

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19. There He Was in Tulsa

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pp. 159-166

Following the success of “It’s Four in the Morning,” Faron tried for a second hit in Great Britain. He recorded “She Fights That Lovin’ Feelin’” just for the English market and thought that adding an orchestra would increase its chances of being played on BBC Radio. ...

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20. Giving Hilda a Break

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pp. 167-176

From the time Hilda married Faron in 1954 at age sixteen, she kept a home for him and raised their four children. She appeared with him at music award dinners and in fan magazine photo spreads that showed the singing star relaxing at home with his family. ...

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21. After the Top Tens

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pp. 177-184

When asked what had been his biggest hit Faron sometimes said, “I hope I haven’t had it yet.”1 The extensive promotion that Mercury Records promised when he renewed his contract in 1971 didn’t last long. His string of top-ten hits ended in 1974, largely because promotion dollars went to newer, bigger artists. ...

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22. D-I-V-O-R-C-E

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pp. 185-193

“We never did quit loving each other,” Faron said about his five-year separation from Hilda. “We were both having some trouble, and I said, well, the way to stop is to get away from each other.” He acknowledged being miserable during the years of separation but wouldn’t admit Hilda’s “trouble” came from his drinking. ...

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23. Closing Out a Career

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pp. 194-202

During the period before the divorce trial Faron appeared in November 1985 at a small nightclub in Frederick, Maryland. Eddie Stubbs, who became a Grand Ole Opry announcer and WSM deejay a decade later, sat at a table directly in front of the stage. ...

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24. Last Call

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pp. 203-216

After Faron retired he still participated in his favorite sport—golf. But he lived alone in his Montchanin house and began to withdraw from most of his friends. Damion visited him on special occasions—Father’s Day, Christmas, and Faron’s birthday. Although Damion started drinking at age fourteen, he inherited no tendencies toward violence. ...

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pp. 217-218

“Who would want to visit the grave of a forgotten old hillbilly singer?” That’s what Faron told me when I stopped at his house on my way through Nashville one summer afternoon in 1992. I don’t remember what led him to say he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered. ...

Appendix: Faron Young's Country Deputies

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pp. 219-222


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pp. 223-252


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pp. 253-260

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About the Author, Further Reading, Publication Information

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Diane Diekman is a retired U.S. Navy captain and the author of two memoirs, A Farm in the Hidewood: My South Dakota Home and Navy Greenshirt: A Leader Made, Not Born. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093807
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252032486

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Music in American Life