Given the moniker “The Storyteller” by the legendary country singer Tex Ritter, Country Music and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Tom T. Hall has typically told stories in songs like the Grammy-winning CMA Single of the Year “Harper Valley PTA,” which allowed Jeannie C. Riley to top both the pop and country singles charts in 1968, and Hall’s own No. 1 country hit “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine,” which Rolling Stone has ranked in its list of 100 greatest country songs. His songs are known for their richly detailed narrative structure and keen understanding of real people and their lives, and have brought to country music both thematic sophistication and social consciousness.
Other major hits penned by Hall include Alan Jackson’s chart-topper “Little Bitty,” and “That’s How I Got to Memphis”—which was covered by artists including Bobby Bare, Solomon Burke, Rosanne Cash, Eric Church, Bill Haley and Buddy Miller. Among his other 33 Top 20 hits (including seven No. 1s) that he recorded himself are “Ballad of Forty Dollars,” “Ravishing Ruby,” “Sneaky Snake,” “Your Man Loves You, Honey,” “A Week in a Country Jail,” “Country Is,” “I Like Beer,” “Faster Horses (the Cowboy and the Poet),” “The Year Clayton Delaney Died” and “I Love.” Johnny Cash, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Duane Eddy, Patty Griffin, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Dave Dudley and Gram Parsons are some of the other artists who have covered Hall’s songs.
Hall was born May 25, 1936, in Olive Hill, Kentucky, wrote his first song at nine (with mentoring from local musician Clayton Delaney), and played bluegrass in his teens. He performed on radio in Morehead, Kentucky, and wrote a jingle for a sponsor and was a DJ prior to serving in the Army in Germany, where he performed on the Armed Forces Radio Network. Back in the States, he was a DJ in Virginia when a Nashville publisher placed his “D.J. for a Day” with Jimmy C. Newman, who took it Top 10. He moved to Nashville in 1964 to pursue a songwriting career, and had his first No. 1 with Johnny Wright’s “Hello Vietnam” in 1965.
Hall’s career as country singer-songwriter commenced in 1967 with his signing to Mercury Records. But he also excelled as a prose writer, winning the 1972 Grammy for Best Album Notes for his liner notes to Tom T. Hall’s Greatest Hits. His books include the autobiographical The Storyteller’s Nashville and the novels The Laughing Man of Woodmont Cove and The Acts of Life. For aspiring songwriters, he also wrote How I Write Songs, Why You Can.
For bluegrass songwriting and singing—and advancing the careers of bluegrass artists—he received the International Bluegrass Music Assocaition’s Distinguished Achievement Award, with late wife and collaborator Dixie, in 2004. They were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2018. Meanwhile, Hall was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978, the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
In 2011, a stellar artist roster including Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, Bobby Bare and Patty Griffin released I Love: Tom T. Hall's Songs of Fox Hollow, a tribute to his renowned 1974 children’s album. He was named a BMI Icon in 2012.
He was named a BMI Icon in 2012