Our Top 10 Tom T. Hall Songs list presents the best Tom T. Hall Songs like “Harper Valley PTA,” “Sneaky Snake” ” I Love,” and many more. The road Thomas T. Hall took to become one of the greatest songwriters of all time began on May 25, 1936, in Tick Ridge, Kentucky. He formed his first band when he was a teenager. Calling themselves the Kentucky Travelers, they performed on stage for traveling movies. Once he turned eighteen years old, he enlisted in the United States Army. As an officer, he served in Germany, as well as wrote and performed comedy songs about his experience with the army for the Armed Forces Radio Network. After he was discharged in 1961, he used the G.I. Bill education credits that were earned to enroll in college. While there, he worked as a disc jockey.
The early 1960s began with Hall serving as an announcer for a series of locally run radio stations in Kentucky and West Virginia. It was during this time he was married to Opal McKinney and the two had a son in 1961, Dean Hall. In 1963, he received his big songwriting break when Jimmy C. Newman recorded a song he wrote for the country music genre. It was “DJ For a Day.”
Tom T. Hall
Upon realizing his first taste of success as a songwriter, Hall picked up and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1964. For $50.00 USD per week, he wrote songs for NewKeys Music, a publishing firm that belonged to Newman and his business partner, Jimmy Key. While teamed up with them, it was Key who suggested Thomas Hall become Tom T. Hall. It was also while there he earned a reputation as “The Storyteller.”
Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, and Loretta Lynn each benefited from Tom T. Hall’s songwriting skills. For Hall, his “Hello Vietnam” was a song that served as a stark contrast to the protest songs that were produced regarding the controversial Vietnam War. While protest songs against the war were dominating the pop charts, Hall’s song of support became a hit on the country music charts for Johnnie Wright.
In 1965, Hall met Iris Lawrence (also known as Dixie Hall) at a music awards dinner and ceremony the two were invited to as hit songwriters. The chemistry between the two resulted in the two marrying each other in 1968. They shared a home in Franklin, Tennessee until the day of her death in 2015.
One of the biggest hits for Tom T. Hall as a songwriter was “Harper Valley PTA.” At the time, Jeannie C. Riley was a secretary for Jerry Chesnut in Nashville when she got to hear the song for the first time. When she was given the green light to record it, this became a breakthrough hit for the songstress. As a number one crossover hit between the country charts and pop charts, the popularity of “Harper Valley PTA” not only catapulted Riley’s career in the music industry but Hall’s as well. While Riley cashed in as a singer with sex appeal, an inspired Hall seized the opportunity to embark on a recording career of his own.
As a singer-songwriter, Tom T. Hall produced a series of hits between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. “I Love” was one of the most popular songs he recorded and released, proving he had the vocal talent to accompany his songwriting skills. In 1971, Hall became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Many songs written by Hall inspired several recording artists to perform their own versions. “Pamela Brown” became one of Hall’s most popular singles and became a signature hit for Leo Kottke. In addition to writing country hits, Tom T. Hall also made a name for himself as a storytelling songwriter for children. “I Care” was one of his most popular child-oriented hits. After 1986, Hall mostly retired from songwriting. Come 1994, he partially retired from live performances as well. It was noted he didn’t care for the corporate direction country music had taken at the time. His final public appearance as a performer was in 2011.
On August 20, 2021, while in his home in Franklin, Tennessee, Tom T. Hall took his own life with a gunshot to the head. Although there were no suicide notes, Hall was dealing with old age-related issues, as well as his own personal demons.
Tom T. Hall Legacy
There are thirty-five studio albums to Tom T. Hall’s credit, as well as nine compilation albums. Of the roster of fifty singles he’s recorded and released, eight of them became number-one hits. In addition to these accomplishments, he has a Grammy Award for Best Album Notes which was awarded to him in 1973. It was for his album, Tom T. Hall’s Greatest Hits. In 1976, his second compilation album, Greatest Hits Volume 2, became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Although it did receive the same Grammy Award nomination, it lost out to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks.
In 2002, Hall was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. Six years later, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inducted Tom T. Hall, as well as Dixie Hall, in 2018. This husband and wife team was also recognized by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America as songwriters of the year twelve times between 2002 and 2015. On top of this, Hall was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019. For Hall, he felt this latest award served as his greatest moment as a songwriter.
Top 10 Tom T. Hall Songs
# 10 – The Year Clayton Delaney Died
In 1971, Tom T. Hall released “The Year Clayton Delaney Died” as a song based on his childhood neighbor and personal hero, Lonnie Easterly. It served as Hall’s second number-one hit as a recording artist on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100 and the Canadian RPM T, “The Year Clayton Delaney Died” became Hall’s first crossover hit at number forty-two.
As for the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart, it peaked as high as number six. When it came to songwriting, Hall thrived as a storyteller as he shared personal experiences as part of the material. Whether told with a twist or as an as-is event, Hall earned his fan base by painting a picture easy and entertaining enough to understand.
# 9 – A Week in a County Jail
1969’s “A Week in a County Jail” became Tom T. Hall’s first number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart as a singer. As a man spending time in jail due to a traffic infraction, he shared his experience of being lectured by a judge. He also fined him for every nickel he had. The start of Hall’s career had him write songs with comedy and “A Week in a County Jail” was among the priceless gems he came up with. It was also popular enough to become a number thirty-two hit on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks.
#8 – Ballad of Forty Dollars
From the album with the same name, “Ballad of Forty Dollars” became Tom T. Hall’s first top ten hit as a recording artist. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart, it became a number-four hit. Narrating as a caretaker for a cemetery, Hall observed the people at a war veteran’s funeral. Those in attendance seemed to care more about money than the man’s estate.
For Hall, this was a song that came from personal experience as he worked with his aunt at a cemetery. It was at that time he witnessed a disgruntled mourner upset with the deceased man as there was an unpaid debt of forty dollars that would forever remain unsettled.
# 7 – That Song is Driving Me Crazy
We all have one. “That Song is Driving Me Crazy” was Tom T. Hall’s 1974 take about that one song that drives a person to the brink of insanity. From the album, Country Is, this song peaked as high as number two on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. It also became a crossover hit by peaking as high as number twenty-four on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and at number sixty-three on the US Billboard Hot 100.
#6 – Sneaky Snake
Released on the B-side of the same record that produced “I Care,” “Sneaky Snake” was a novelty song that became just as popular as the number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Both were recorded on 1974’s Songs of Fox Hollow. “I Care” was released as a single while “Sneaky Snake” won over the hearts of fans who appreciated the song’s humor. Tom T. Hall earned “The Storyteller” reputation for good reason as the featured snake in his song had a habit of sneaking up on people and stealing their root beer.
#5 – Faster Horses (the Cowboy and the Poet)
Released in 1975 from the album, Faster Horses, “Faster Horses (the Cowboy and the Poet)” became yet another number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for Tom T. Hall. In Canada, it peaked as high as number two on its RPM Country Tracks chart. As far as the Western Writers of America are concerned, this is one of its Top 100 Western songs of all time.
In this song, a young poet meets a cowboy in a local bar and became impressed by how he carried himself. When he asked for words of wisdom, he was told only faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money is what matters in life. Unhappy with the answer, the poet opted to fight the cowboy until he realized that would be a losing battle.
Philosophical and entertaining, “Faster Horses” as a single, as well as an album, featured Tom T. Hall’s storytelling expertise at its best. It should be noted here that this song was used in a political discussion between a banking consultant named Alex Sheshunoff as he addressed the US Senate. According to Sheshunoff’s statement, the American people wanted the exact same thing out of life as the cowboy in the song suggested.
#4 – I Like Beer
Released in 1975 as a single, “I Like Beer” became a number four hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as a number twelve hit on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. In the album, I Wrote a Song About It, Tom T. Hall once again did what he became famous for. The Storyteller shared his passion for beer. He lyrically shared his preference for it over hard alcohol, as well as his dreamed-up perception of heaven. Instead of water turning into beer as he hoped, it turned to wine instead. In Australia and New Zealand, it turns out they like beer too. “I Like Beer” became a number seventy and number thirty hit, respectively.
#3 – I Love
1973’s “I Love” became a number twelve hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. It served as one of Tom T. Hall’s crossover hits that not only made an appearance on the pop charts but in the country genre as well. This song inspired several recording artists, as well as advertising agencies, to come up with their own versions. “I Love” was Hall’s most successful single as a hit on the pop charts.
It was his fourth chart-topper on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. On the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart, it also peaked as high as number one. In Australia and New Zealand, the song peaked as high as number twenty-eight and number twenty, respectively. “I Love” was the one and only single released from the album For the People in the Last Hard Town.
The song “I Love” was also featured in the 2012 documentary film, For No Good Reason. The list-off of everything Hall loved in the song also peaked as high as number two on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart as an easy listening favorite.
#2 – (Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine
In 1972, “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine” became a number-one hit for Tom T. Hall on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. It came from his album, The Storyteller, and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Country Song. In 1998, it became a major fan favorite in the UK. BBC Radio 2’s deejay at the time, Terry Wogan played it occasionally as a fan of this easy-listening number.
For Hall, the inspiration came after attending a 1972 Democratic National Convention. He had a conversation with the janitor at a hotel in Miami Beach that had three of his favorite things mentioned. It was enough for Hall to turn it into a song. Among the European, North American, and Oceana nations, “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine” has become a cult classic that has stood the test of time. International artists have covered this song with their own language dialects and in some cases, became chart hits of their own.
#1 – Harper Valley PTA
If there is that one song that identifies Tom T. Hall and his accomplishments as “The Storyteller,” it’s “Harper Valley PTA.” This hit single served as his biggest crossover hit by peaking at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also topped the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
Originally recorded and performed in 1968 by Jeannie C. Riley, Hall recorded a version of this himself for his album, The Definitive Collection. “Harper Valley PTA” is an iconic song about a certain widowed mother named Mrs. Johnson. Judged by the school community for her lifestyle and wardrobe choices, she paid the committee an unannounced visit.
While there, she exposed their hypocrisy, along with each of their own indiscretions. “Harper Valley PTA” became popular enough to spawn a movie with the same name, in 1978. In 1981, a television series, also featuring the same name also popped up. Adding to the legacy of “Harper Valley PTA” is a 1969 Grammy Award win for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female. It was also a number-one hit in Australia and Canada.
Top 10 Tom T. Hall Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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