Tom T. Hall, Country Music’s “Storyteller,” Dies at 85

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Tom T. Hall, Country Music’s “Storyteller,” Dies at 85

The Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame member passed at his home in Tennessee

Tom T. Hall performs on ABC special The 1974 Country Music Awards

Tom T. Hall performs on the ABC television special The 1974 Country Music Awards (Photo by Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images).

Tom T. Hall, the singer, songwriter, and Country Music Hall of Famer, died Friday (August 20) at home in Franklin, Tennessee. He was 85. 

A prolific songwriter known for his narrative prowess, Hall was once dubbed “The Storyteller” by his contemporary Tex Ritter. He was responsible for hit songs such as “That’s How I Got to Memphis,” “I Love,” and Jeannie C. Riley’s 1968 pop country crossover “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” which was later adapted for film and television.

Born May 25, 1936, in Olive Hill, Kentucky, Hall played in a band and worked as a DJ before joining the Army in 1957. He was working on the radio when a publisher heard his song “D.J. for a Day” and brought it to Jimmy C. Newman, who helped Hall score his first top 10 hit. He would go on write several number one songs, including “Hello Vietnam,” “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine,” “I Love,” “Country Is,” and “Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet).”

Hall signed with Mercury Records in 1967 and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1971. He was nominated for six Grammys, winning for Best Album Notes in 1972 for Tom T. Hall’s Greatest Hits. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978, the Kentucky Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. 

His penchant for narrative was not limited to songs. Hall released five books in his lifetime, from memoir (1979’s The Storyteller’s Nashville) to How-To (1976’s How I Write Songs, Why You Can).

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