4 January 2006

FARON FIFTY-FOUR YEARS AGO: Faron signed his first recording contract on January 2, 1952, with Capitol Records. At 19, he was still a minor. His parents both signed a letter that certified, “Faron Young is our natural son [and] we have legal custody of him.” Ken Nelson hadn’t met Faron yet, but he’d heard him singing on Webb Pierce’s radio show, and he wanted to record him. He asked Hubert Long to contact Faron and get him to sign the contract. Hubert did so, and he also signed Faron to a management contract. Both the recording and management agreements lasted for over a decade. Ken and Hubert arranged for Faron’s first recording session to take place in Nashville in March 1952.

INTERVIEW: My brother Kenny went with me to interview Merle Kilgore in his Nashville office in January 2000. As might be expected, Merle was full of stories. He told us about Faron’s last visit there, a few months before his death. Faron had to rest after walking up the stairs, to get his breath back, and then he was his old self. Merle thought the funniest line he’d ever heard was when Faron said, “I’m so damn mad at my attorney. That dumb SOB. I told him, if you were a prosecutor, and you were prosecutin’ Hitler, you’d lose.” Merle told us, “I first heard about Faron Young in Shreveport, and it was about 1950. My mother was a substitute teacher at Fair Park High School in Shreveport, and Faron was a hell raiser. That section of the town was the industrial section, and they were just wild rough kids over there. I went to C.E. Byrd High School, which was a high school that had 5000 kids. It was a better class of neighborhood. Fair Park was always the enemy of Byrd High School. It was the rich kids playing the blue collars. And we beat ’em all the time.”

Paul Lanyi writes, “I really enjoyed the bio information you provided on Faron Young on Country Music Classics. Being a little younger, I didn’t grow up with his music, but I have certainly grown to appreciate it. I didn’t realize he was such as a character! – Appears he had that raucous, unpredictable Good’Ole’Boy personality so characteristic of performers from his era. The Jerry Chesnut link to ‘Four In The Morning’ cool as well. – I’m sure ‘the book’ will prove very entertaining.”

Joel Bernstein writes, “I have been enjoying your newsletters and look forward to the publication of the book. I wanted to write about your Ken Nelson story. I had the good fortune to interview Ken by phone shortly after he’d been elected to the HOF…. What stories he had, and what a memory. Discussing Harlan Howard, he said, ‘I cut the first song he had recorded, with Wynn Stewart. Or was it Skeets McDonald?’ I did some research and found that Wynn and Skeets, who played on each other’s records, each recorded their first Howard song at the same session – so I guess Ken could be excused for not being certain who was first. Ken also had a story about how he got The Beach Boys on to Capitol that I haven’t seen elsewhere, but given his sharp memory and his modesty, I’m sure it’s true. His book would have to be a fascinating one.”

Response: I talked to Ken Nelson yesterday. His autobiography will be out in September. The title is “My First Ninety Years, Plus Three.” It is 400 pages and has 70 photos. It’s written in ten-year increments, with photos after each section. He is self-publishing because he doesn’t have time to go through the slow agent/publisher process. He’s 95, and he wants to hold the book in his hand before he kicks the bucket. I told him to hang around long enough for us to promote his and Faron’s books together. Ken lives alone and cooks for himself. His daughter takes care of the things he can’t do. The shingles that attacked him two years ago still bother him. He has constant pain in his face, and he can’t see well. He sounds very chipper for 95 years old, and he feels blessed and happy.

WEB SITE: Music City News has been reborn online at http://musiccitynews.com/. Faron founded the magazine (then a newspaper) in 1963 and sold it in 1978. The magazine ceased publication with the February 2000 issue. The new version contains a mixture of current and historical material. Check out the excellent article Robyn Young wrote about Merle Kilgore at http://musiccitynews.com/nov_sher.php.

Happy New Year!

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