A Personal Remembrance Of Meeting Tom T. Hall
It was 1979. I was a young guy back then, a radio announcer at KKAA Radio in Aberdeen, South Dakota. About 5 years into a radio career that now is tip toeing close to a half-century.
Tom T. Hall, meanwhile, was one of the biggest stars in Country Music. By this time he already charted nearly twenty Top 10 hits, including multiple Number One's including A Week In A Country Jail, The Year That Clayton Delaney Died, Country Is, Faster Horses, I Love and Old Dogs And Children And Watermelon Wine. Plus of course, he had written Number One hits for a host of other artists, including the worldwide smash Harper Valley P.T.A.
And now he was coming to Aberdeen, South Dakota, to the Brown County Fair. And I was going to interview him. Me, this kid in Northeast South Dakota.
I had set up a time for the interview the afternoon of the show. I'd meet Tom T. Hall at his room at the Holiday Inn. So, I left the radio station with my trusty cassette tape recorder (remember, this was '79) and with, I'm sure, shaking nervous hands knocked on the door of the room.
"Just a minute" came a voice from inside, and then the door opened.
"Well, you must be Randy". It was him, the Storyteller, a future Country Music Hall of Famer and one of the biggest country stars in the world.
He welcomed me in, shook my hand and we sat down at a small table. I'm sure he could tell I was nervous and we just talked for 10 minutes or so before I started the tape recorder. What we talked about was...me.
He asked me where I was from, how long I'd been in Aberdeen, what I liked best about the town, how big was the Brown Country Fair, and on and on. He was, in effect, interviewing me. Wow.
I turned on the tape recorder and I asked questions, questions for about 15 minutes or so and that was that. After all, he had a concert to get ready for, so we were done.
Except we weren't.
Tom T. said "If you'd like you can ask me about how I wrote four or five songs and play them through the week next week".
Wait. What? You'll be long gone, off to other shows in other parts of the country. I'll be here in Northeast South Dakota pretending I wasn't nervous and was just visiting with my old friend Tom T. Hall every day next week and talking about his biggest hits and playing them.
If I'd like? Yeah, Tom T., I'd like!
So we spent another 15 minutes, maybe 20 doing...that.
Over the past 50 years or so I've always admired most the songwriters, the men and women who are word-stringers, those people who can arrange words in such a way that they rise up and dance. Those folks that have the magic, that can move you (and me) to laughter, to tears, to think. There's a reason Tom T. Hall was famously known as "The Storyteller", not "The Songwriter".
Oh, he was an elite world-class songwriter alright. But I think his true genius was taking a wonderful story, one we all could relate to, and weaving it in such a way that, not only could we sing along, we could take it along on our journey through life.
Tom T. Hall has died. His stories never will.
And with all that being said, it's not the songs and stories of Tom T. Hall that I'll remember and cherish the most. It's how this man, this giant country music star, took the time in Aberdeen, South Dakota to make a young radio guy feel like a close friend.
Thank you Mr. Hall. I pray you will Rest In Peace.
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