Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story
By Diane Diekman
Published by the University of Illinois Press — Fall 2007
Who is Faron Young?
Faron gained fame as a country singer in the 1950s, in the mold of his friend Hank Williams, and was eventually inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. His best known songs are “It’s Four in the Morning” and Willie Nelson’s “Hello Walls.” Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline, in their early days, opened shows for him. He founded Music City News magazine and organized the first fan-voted country music awards show, both of which lasted over thirty years. His peers considered him one of the greatest entertainers in the business. Faron’s generosity and sense of humor usually made up for his foul language and abusive alcoholic behavior. Those who loved him excused his outrageous actions by saying, “Oh, that’s just Faron.”
Why did you choose Faron Young as a biography subject?
I’d been a fan since the first time I saw him in concert, and he wouldn’t let me walk the three miles back to my college dorm. He insisted on taking me there in his tour bus. Over the years, after graduating from college and joining the Navy, I attended Faron’s concerts whenever possible. He would salute when he recognized me. After his death in 1996, his name was seldom mentioned and his music seldom played. I feared he would be forgotten, and I didn’t want that to happen.
This sounds like a huge undertaking. Did you have a decisive “go-ahead” moment?
I attended a speech by A. Scott Berg, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lindbergh. He described writing letters to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, whom he didn’t know, and finally obtaining her acquaintance and support. His story inspired me. I decided to take a trip to Nashville in search of people who knew Faron.
Were his acquaintances ready to discuss him with you? Did you have access to his family?
I communicate regularly with his children and ex-wife, and I talked to his brother and sister before their deaths. I put together a timeline of all members of the Country Deputies band, and I stay in touch with the ones still living. Many of the people I interviewed told me, “I’m glad someone is finally writing a book about Faron.”
Did you learn anything about Faron that no one else knew?
I discovered a person who hid insecurities behind self-destructive behavior and a gregarious personality, an individual whose suicide should have not been a surprise. But during his lifetime, no one possessed enough clues to be able to see the path now evident in hindsight.
Is there a lesson in his life that might help others in similar situations? Does the book offer insights to readers who are not country music fans?
My research led me to conclude Faron suffered from undiagnosed depression, which manifested itself in alcoholism, abusive behavior, devil-may-care attitudes, and suicide. I hope people will recognize themselves or family members in some of the incidents in the book. Seeing such problems occur in Faron’s life might help readers realize changes they should make in their own lives.
I’ve heard that Faron sent you a message in a dream. Is that true?
My brother, who never met Faron or saw him in concert, dreamed he and Faron were on a cruise ship headed to Hawaii. They were discussing country music history and couldn’t think of a particular person’s name. My brother said his sister Diane would know the name and, by the way, she was writing Faron’s biography. Faron said he knew that. What my brother remembered most vividly was Faron’s blue suit, and he was surprised when I told him blue had been Faron’s favorite color. I’m no expert in dream interpretation, but I took this as a message that Faron approved of my biography project.
How did you start your writing career? What motivated a military officer to write a country singer’s biography?
Country music has always been of great interest to me, and I needed a plan for life after the Navy. I self-published two books while on active duty, as well as writing a five-year newspaper column about my travels. My childhood memoir, A Farm in the Hidewood: My South Dakota Home, preserved a piece of my family history. Navy Greenshirt: A Leader Made, Not Born covered 18 years of my career as an aircraft maintenance officer. By the time I finished those books, I had already started Faron’s biography.
What is your current writing project?
Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins is about another member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. In addition to being a famous singer and Grand Ole Opry star, Marty raced in NASCAR events and was a World War II combat veteran. I’m doing research and interviews and have written several chapters. I’d like to hear from anyone who has information about Marty Robbins.
Where can we find Faron Young’s music today?
New CDs are still being released, usually in Europe. Amazon.com has an excellent selection of his music. It’s also available through various mail order venues and in stores that carry classic county selections.