Another country singer who was to have a profound influence on the future of country music was Lefty Frizzell. Born William Orville Frizzell in 1928, ‘Lefty’ as he became known, was a great proponent of the Honky Tonk sound.
His wonderfully relaxed style of singing was a big influence on a number of future country legends such as Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, John Fogerty, Merle Haggard and George Jones.
Originally called ‘Sonny’ by his family, Frizzell got the nickname ‘Lefty’ at age 14 after a schoolyard scrap, although his record company later tried to falsely suggest he had won a Golden Gloves boxing match!
By the time he was 19 Lefty had his own half hour show on a small Texas radio station. He got his big break around the same time when Don Law, a record producer at Columbia Records, heard him sing live at a club. Within weeks he had a number of hits in country music’s top ten – with some going on to reach number one.
Following an invitation to appear at the Grand Ole Opry in 1950, Lefty went on to appear at the Louisiana Hayride in ’51 and then after teaming up with his close friend ‘Cowboy’ Ralph Spicer, they went on tour with the legendary Hank Williams.
As a brilliant songwriter in his own right, Lefty achieved a rare feat in 1951 by having four songs in the country top ten at the same time – something that wouldn’t be beaten in any chart until The Beatles in 1964.
With the advent of Rock ‘n’ Roll towards the end of the 1950’s, Lefty and his fellow country artists found their sales dropping off. A number of them tried to record ‘crossover’ songs to reach the new audience with mixed results. Lefty’s 1959 hit ‘Long Black Veil’ was a good example and gained widespread appreciation. Later, in 1964, he released ‘Saginaw, Michigan’ which topped the country charts and also broke into the mainstream charts at the same time.
The early 1970’s saw Lefty Frizzell move to Bakersfield, California, and join a different record label where he recorded several more country hits and even played at the Hollywood Bowl, before his love of alcohol got the better of him.
In 1972, Frizzell was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and his song ‘If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time’ earned him a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
Success and money only added to Frizzell's alcohol addiction, and on July 19, 1975, at age 47 he died after a massive stroke. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. In October 1982, Lefty Frizzell was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
For your own taste of Lefty Frizzell’s music just enter his name in the search box to the right or go to www.countrysongscountrysingers.com