How Lefty Frizzell’s Death Shook the Country Music World

Lefty Frizzell was one of the most influential country singers of all time, whose smooth and expressive voice inspired generations of artists like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and many more. He was also a prolific songwriter, who penned many classic hits such as “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time”, “Saginaw, Michigan”, and “The Long Black Veil”. But his life and career were cut short by a sudden stroke that claimed his life at the age of 47. How did this tragic event happen and what was its impact on the country music scene? Here is a brief overview of Lefty Frizzell’s death and its aftermath.

The Rise and Fall of Lefty Frizzell

Lefty Frizzell was born William Orville Frizzell in Corsicana, Texas, on March 31, 1928. He grew up in a musical family and was influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Tubb, and Ted Daffan. He began singing professionally as a teenager, traveling across the South and performing in radio shows, nightclubs, and talent contests. He developed his own distinctive style of singing, with long and flowing phrases that conveyed emotion and nuance.

In 1950, he caught the attention of Jim Beck, a local recording studio owner, who helped him secure a contract with Columbia Records. His first single, “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time”, was an instant hit, reaching number one on the country charts. He followed it with three more number one hits: “I Love You a Thousand Ways”, “Look What Thoughts Will Do”, and “Shine, Shave, Shower”. He became the first artist to have four songs in the top ten at the same time on the country charts.

Lefty Frizzell quickly became a star, touring with Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Ray Price, and others. He also appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and the Louisiana Hayride. He continued to record successful songs throughout the early and mid-1950s, such as “Always Late (With Your Kisses)”, “Mom and Dad’s Waltz”, “Give Me More, More, More (Of Your Kisses)”, and “I Want to Be With You Always”. He also wrote songs for other artists, such as “Long Black Veil” for Johnny Cash and “That’s the Way Love Goes” for Merle Haggard.

However, his career began to decline in the late 1950s, as rock and roll and pop music became more popular. He also struggled with alcoholism, marital problems, financial troubles, and legal issues. He tried to adapt to the changing musical trends by recording more pop-oriented songs, but he lost some of his core fan base. He also faced competition from younger singers who were influenced by his style but had more contemporary appeal.

The Final Years and Death of Lefty Frizzell

By the early 1970s, Lefty Frizzell had faded from the spotlight. He still performed occasionally in clubs and festivals, but he did not have any major hits. He also suffered from health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. He tried to make a comeback in 1972 with a new album called Listen to Lefty Again!, which featured some of his old hits re-recorded with new arrangements. The album received some positive reviews but did not sell well.

In 1973, he recorded another album called The Legendary Lefty Frizzell: His Last Recordings!, which was released posthumously. The album contained some new songs that showed his maturity and depth as a songwriter. One of them was “I Never Go Around Mirrors”, which expressed his self-loathing and regret over his wasted life. The song became a hit for Keith Whitley in 1983.

On July 19, 1975, Lefty Frizzell suffered a massive stroke at his home in Nashville, Tennessee. He was rushed to the hospital but he never regained consciousness. He died later that day at the age of 47. His death shocked and saddened his fans and peers in the country music industry. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

The Legacy of Lefty Frizzell

Lefty Frizzell’s death marked the end of an era in country music history. He was one of the pioneers of honky tonk music, which blended elements of blues, folk, western swing, and traditional country. He influenced countless singers who followed him with his smooth and expressive voice that could convey a range of emotions from joy to sorrow. He also wrote many timeless songs that have been covered by numerous artists across different genres.

Lefty Frizzell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1997. He has also received many awards and honors, such as the Grammy Hall of Fame Award, the Academy of Country Music Pioneer Award, and the BMI Icon Award. He has been ranked among the greatest country singers of all time by various publications and polls.

Lefty Frizzell’s death was a tragic loss for country music, but his music lives on in the hearts and minds of his fans and admirers. He left behind a rich and lasting legacy that continues to inspire and entertain generations of listeners. He was truly a legend in his own right.

Doms Desk

Leave a Comment