Born May 25, 1936, Tom T. Hall became one of country music's most influential songwriters. The Kentucky native connected with music from an early age, even writing comedic songs to help pass the time while serving in Germany during his time in the U.S. Army. After he returned home in the early 1960s, he began a career in radio and worked as an announcer and disc jockey at various stations across his home state and West Virginia. He eventually moved to Nashville and snagged a job with a publishing company. It was then that he earned his lasting nickname "The Storyteller," because of his talents for writing an abundance of impressive songs.
Over the course of his career, he penned tracks recorded by some of country's most beloved artists, including Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and George Jones. Hall's career as a solo artist took off in the late 1960s and early 1970s, thanks to tracks like "(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine," "I Love," "The Year Clayton Delaney Died," "I Like Beer," and "That Song Is Driving Me Crazy." Although it wasn't a hit for Hall himself, "That's How I Got to Memphis" has become a country standard, going all the way to No. 3 on the country charts for Bobby Bare in 1970. In the decades since, it's been covered by an array of artists, including Rosanne Cash, The Avett Brothers and Charley Crockett.
The country music community lost one of its most impactful talents on Aug. 20, 2021, when Tom T. Hall died by suicide. He was 85 years old.
Hall's incredible catalog of music will continue to impact new generations of songwriters and country artists for decades to come. Let's take a look at some beloved country tunes that were written by "The Storyteller" himself, Tom T. Hall:
"Little Bitty"Recorded by Alan Jackson
This beloved 1996 single from Alan Jackson was notable not only as the country star's 14th career hit, but for marking Tom T. Hall's first major songwriting success since retiring from songwriting over a decade earlier.
"Harper Valley PTA"Recorded by Jeannie C. Riley
In 1968, Jeannie C. Riley made waves in the country music world with her impactful debut single "Harper Valley PTA." It became a smash success, making Riley the first woman to hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart and the all-genre Hot 100.
"All That's Left"Miranda Lambert ft. The Time Jumpers
This track, written by Hall and his wife Dixie decades earlier, became a stand out track on Miranda Lambert's massively successful 2014 record Platinum. She recruited Nashville's beloved all-star band The Time Jumpers to enhance the track's infectious, uniquely Western swing sound.
"(Margie's At) The Lincoln Park Inn"Recorded by Bobby Bare
Released in 1969 and peaking at No. 4 on the country charts, "(Margie's At) The Lincoln Park Inn" tells the story of what appears to be an all-American family man who is secretly having an affair. Although it initially became a hit for Bobby Bare, it has since been covered by a list of artists, from The Statler Brothers to Jack White.
"The Pool Shark"Recorded by Dave Dudley
Released in 1970, "The Pool Shark" became Dave Dudley's only No. 1 hit on the country charts. The story-song tells of a down-on-his-luck gambler and his run-in with a bar regular, and what happens after they play a few rounds of pool together.
"You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)"Recorded by Johnny Rodriguez
"You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)" became a breakout hit for Johnny Rodriguez in 1973. The track made it all the way to No. 1, making 21-year-old Rodriguez the youngest male artist in history to take the top spot on the country charts. He held that record until 2012, when Hunter Hayes' "Wanted" hit No. 1 when he was only 20 years old.
"I Can’t Dance"Recorded by Gram Parsons
Although Tom T. Hall was the first to release "I Can’t Dance" in 1970, the track is best known as the third track from Gram Parsons' final studio album Grievous Angel. The completion was released four months after Parsons' death in 1973 and stands as one of the most influential and important records ever released.
"Hello Vietnam"Recorded by Johnnie Wright
Released in 1965, "Hello Vietnam" spent three weeks at No. 1 on the country charts. Johnnie Wright's version of the track, which was penned in support of the Vietnam War, was later used as the opening theme for the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket.
"Ceiling, Four Walls and a Floor"Recorded by Johnny Cash
An example of classic country songwriting anchored in lyrical imagery, "Ceiling, Four Walls and a Floor" was recorded by Johnny Cash for his 1981 record The Baron.
"I'm Not Ready Yet"Recorded by George Jones
Originally released in 1968 by Jim Reeves' touring band The Blue Boys, "I'm Not Ready Yet" went on to be recorded by two major country stars. Tammy Wynette was the first to put her own spin on the song, choosing it as a track for her 1979 record Just Tammy. The following year, George Jones chose to release his own take on the track as the followup single to his now-iconic hit "He Stopped Loving Her Today." His version, produced by Billy Sherrill, made it all the way to No. 2 on the country charts.