Researching a Biography

Faron Young died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1996, while I was stationed with the U.S. Navy in Japan. One of my favorite singers, he was also an acquaintance. After his death, he seemed to be almost forgotten, and I started thinking about writing his biography. I wanted to write books as a retirement career, and it would be great to meet famous country musicsingers and listen to their memories of Faron.

But I didn’t know anyone in the music business, or the publishing business, or anyone who knew Faron. And I didn’t know how to write a biography.

A. Scott Berg, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lindbergh,” motivated me to commit myself to the project. At a 1999 writers’ conference in San Francisco, he spoke about his attempts to meet Anne Morrow Lindbergh and his eventual success in getting permission to write her husband’s biography. When I told him I’d like to write Faron’s biography, he encouraged me to start.

I made a list of possible contacts and flew to Nashville from Los Angeles one weekend to begin my research. Hundreds of phone calls and several trips later, along with numerous dead ends, I’d amassed enough information to write a book. I quickly learned the importance of this commitment. My interview subjects frequently expressed pleasure that Faron’s biography was being written. I couldn’t let them down. Their comments provided additional incentive to keep going.

I transcribed every interview I conducted and every Faron interview or video I acquired. These electronic files helped tremendously when searching for a particular nugget of information or copying a quote. I also purchased record albums on eBay to build a complete collection. I detest making phone calls, and that was my greatest hurdle. It never got any easier, but the telephone is essential for biography research.

The U.S. Census records helped me trace Faron’s genealogy. Whereas I looked through microfiche reels in the National Archives building, these records can now be perused on-line.

No books had been written about Faron, and most of my material came from interviews, newspaper articles, and legal documents. I searched the newspaper files in the Nashville Public Library, visited the archives of the Country Music Hall of Fame and “Music City News,” and collected magazines. Research at the Davidson County Courthouse provided me with records of Faron’s land purchases, arrests, and court battles.

Such an enormous project can’t be accomplished alone. My brother and sister joined me on research trips to help find documents and talk to people. Several individuals from Faron’s band and family readily answered my questions whenever I called. I’m grateful for the assistance and proud of the result.

2 Responses to “Researching a Biography”

  1. vern miller Says:

    In the late 80s Faron played a political function for Constable James Douglas in Baytown, just east of Houston. I was a Deputy at that time. I picked Faron up at the airport in Houston. He was a very friendly person and we had fun. He called again to be picked up at the airport. I picked him up in my patrol car. I took him to the old Music Hall in Houston. While driving through the busy streets downtown Faron sang Johnny Cash on my loud speaker. We laughed a lot and between shows myself and Deputy Milton Casey took him to eat fried chicken. We also tried to help him find a cabbage patch doll he wanted for a gift to a little girl. He also wanted to see “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Faron told us where he lived in Nashville and invited us up. I saw him in a show a year later and he knew me and called me by name. I sure miss him. He told Ralph Emery he became the singing Constable in Houston….

  2. Billy Phillips Says:

    What a nice reply Vern. Diane, I will look forward to reading your book. I have always been a Faron Young fan. He could curl those rapid singing vocal triplets as well as anyone else ever could.
    A voice all his own too. Incredible stage presense, a great “winker” to his audience, and I bet he smelled real good too.

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