Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hello: Hello Walls

Faron Young: Hello Walls


Willie Nelson: Hello Walls


In 1960, Willie Nelson was struggling as a songwriter in Nashville. His name didn't even appear on best-known composition to date, "Family Bible." Nelson sold the songwriting credit for $50.

Some of that "Family Bible" money was spent at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a Nashville watering hole around the corner from the Grand Ole Opry. Soon, Nelson made the acquaintance of another Tootsie's habitue, Faron Young. A country music superstar and bona fide wildman, Young had enjoyed a decade of uninterrupted chart success with fast-paced twangers like “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young,” “If You Ain’t Loving, You Ain’t Living” and “That’s the Way I Feel.”

At Tootsie's, Nelson pitched Young two freshly written songs. Young liked both compositions and committed to recording them. In the studio, everyone figured the more mainstream number, “Congratulations,” would be Young’s next hit single. But, the singer favored the more offbeat song Nelson had offered, “Hello Walls,” in which the narrator anthropomorphizes his broken home. Apparently, Young was alone in seeing the commercial potential of the song; his producer and the session musicians ridiculed it. In an interview quoted in a biography of Young, Live Fast, Love Hard, he describes the scene:

    They said "Hello guitar, hello there microphone, hello chair." Everyone was just dying laughing because they thought this song was so stupid...I said, "That’s the reason that song’s gonna be a hit. It sticks in your mind.”

He was right. “Hello Walls” became Nelson’s first number one song as a writer. It stayed atop the country charts for nine weeks and broke into the pop top 20. Again in need of spending money, Nelson offered to sell Young the rights to the hit song. Young convinced Nelson that wasn’t a good idea. “I gave him five $100 bills, and I made him swear on a stack of bibles he wouldn’t sell that song,” Young said. Once the money started rolling in, Nelson offered to repay the advance, but Young refused. Nelson was grateful. “I was sitting at Tootsies," Young recalled, "and all of a sudden this big hairy arm came around my neck, and Willie French-kissed me. Probably the best kiss I ever had.”

In 1987, long after Young’s star had faded, Nelson again demonstrated his appreciation by insisting his record label put out a Willie 'n' Faron duet album. It was Young’s last major-label release. Faced with health problems and financial woes, Faron Young committed suicide in 1996.

blog comments powered by Disqus