Tell it Like it is: A Biography of Faron Young

I first 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 after the late show, and he insisted on taking me there in his bus.


Over the years, after graduating from college and joining the Navy, I attended Faron’s concerts whenever his tour schedule matched my Navy assignment. He would salute when he saw me. We exchanged occasional letters and telephone calls.


Our last conversation took place shortly before my transfer to Japan in August 1996.


The American Forces Network radio announcement of Faron’s suicide left me in shock.


Few acquaintances in Japan had heard of him, and I grieved alone. I saturated myself in his music on New Year’s Day by cranking up the volume on my stereo and letting Faron’s voice envelop me.


During the next several years, I started thinking about writing Faron’s biography. He was in danger of being forgotten by the general public and the country music industry. The prospect of listening to Faron Young stories and meeting country music entertainers I’d admired from afar tantalized me.


Three people were instrumental in helping me get started–Ralph Emery, Robyn Young, and Ed Gregory.


Ralph Emery met with me during my first visit to Nashville. He said he didn’t want me to go home and say nobody in Nashville would talk to me. Later he provided tapes of his radio shows with Faron. His advice and encouragement were priceless to a beginner who had no contacts and didn’t know what to do to write a biography.


Faron’s son Robyn offered his support and provided introductions. I swelled with pride when he introduced me at a party by saying, “She’s writing the official biography of my daddy.” It was my first acknowledgement as Faron’s biographer.


Robyn put me in touch with Ed Gregory, the man who purchased Faron’s estate. Ed allowed me go through Faron’s papers and possessions, and he introduced me to many people.


The editor of Music City News also provided early assistance by opening the magazine’s archives to me.


I was trying to find the source of a quote where Faron named the autobiography he might someday write. Mike Jones invited me to search through 600 interview tapes.


The only tape with Faron’s name on it was the right one. I now have heard Faron’s voice say, “But I’ll tell it–that’s what I think I may call the book–Tell It Like It Is.”


My brother Ron, who never met Faron or saw him in concert, sent me an e-mail about a dream of being on a cruise ship headed toward Hawaii.


He said, “I was up on a sun deck in a lounge chair next to Faron Young and we were having a good conversation about some of the old time country music people. Faron was dressed in a light blue suit. We were talking about a fellow and Faron couldn’t remember the name.


“I told Faron that my sister Diane would know and, by the way, she was writing his biography. He said he knew that.”


This felt to me like a message from heaven. Perhaps Faron was giving his approval.


Ron told me the shiny blue suit was what stood out most about Faron’s appearance in the dream. It surprised him when I said blue had been Faron’s favorite color.


A question my interview subjects frequently asked me was whether I knew why Faron shot himself.


His suicide took most people by surprise; it seemed so unlike something he would do. But my research brought me to the conclusion that he suffered from depression, and suicide was a logical action.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is often associated with depression.


Four times as many men as women die by suicide in the United States, which suggests men are less likely to seek treatment for depression.


Alcohol abuse can mask depression and keep it from being recognized as a separate illness. Instead of acknowledging their feelings and asking for help, men may turn to alcohol or become discouraged, angry, and even violently abusive.


They might hide their depression by engaging in reckless behavior and putting themselves in harm’s way. That description sounds like Faron.


In writing this biography, I have tried to follow the mandate given me by Faron’s big sister, Dorothy Young: “Be kind to him.”


© 2004 by Diane Diekman

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