Lefty Frizzell

From Academic Kids

Lefty Frizzell (March 31, 1928July 19, 1975) was a country music singer and songwriter.

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William Orville Frizzell was born in Corsicana but moved with his family shortly after his birth to El Dorado, Arkansas, where they remained until the early 1940s. Frizzell began playing the guitar as a very young boy and by age 12 he was appearing regularly on a children's show at a local radio station.

The family moved back to Texas when Frizzell was still a teenager, and his music career got a boost when he won a Dallas talent contest. He acquired the nickname "Lefty" after a schoolyard scrap with another student. In his late teens, he was performing at fairgrounds and other venues, developing a unique, soulful voice. Like his father, he got work in the oilfields, but his growing popularity as a singer soon gave him regular work on the "Honky-Tonk" nightclub circuit. At age 19 he had a half-hour show on a small Texas radio station, getting a big break when a record producer heard him sing. Signed to Columbia Records, he immediately had a string of hits that broke into country music's top ten; several of them reached # 1. In 1950 he was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry; the following year he appeared on the Louisiana Hayride and then began touring with country music's biggest star of the era, Hank Williams. A prolific songwriter, Frizzell had four songs in the country top ten at the same time in 1951 a feat that would not be repeated on any chart until The Beatles accomplished it on the popular chart in 1964.

In the mid-1950s, Frizzell changed record labels and moved to California, where he recorded several more country music hits and became the first country singer to perform at the Hollywood Bowl. By then, however, his problems with alcohol were already taking their toll. Mood shifts and outbreaks of irrational anger became a trademark, and his constant failure to meet recording commitments strained his relationship with his recording company.

By the end of the 1950s, rock and roll was dominating the North American music scene, but although no one would ever mistake Frizzell's music for anything but country, his 1959 hit titled "Long Black Veil" gained wide acceptance with a variety of music fans. A few years later, Frizzell recorded "Saginaw, Michigan," which took the #1 spot on the country music charts and broke into the pop charts as well. The song earned him a Grammy Award nomination.

In 1972 Lefty 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. Unfortunately, success and money only added to Frizzell's alcohol addiction, and on July 19, 1975, he suffered a massive stroke and passed away at age 47. He was buried on "Music Row" at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

Frizzell's style of singing influenced a great many singers, particularly Merle Haggard, and in addition he was widely recognized for his songwriting talents. Willie Nelson's 1977 album To Lefty From Willie was a tribute to Frizzell and consisted entirely of cover versions of Frizzell songs. Frizzell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Fellow Texan and son of an oilfield worker Roy Orbison (1936-1988) was a devout fan of Frizzell's sound, and in 1988, when Orbison briefly became a part of the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, he chose the name "Lefty Wilbury" to honor his musical Frizzell


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