The first time I saw Faron Young was in January 1972 at Bell Auditorium. He got drunk between the afternoon and evening shows, cursed repeatedly on stage, then picked a fight with a guy in the audience, who later thrashed the country singer behind the building.
The last time I saw Mr. Young he was a sober, professional entertainer who staged two entertaining shows at the National Guard Armory on Milledge Road in March 1987.
Many memories and stories came back last week on learning that Mr. Young had died Dec. 10 in Nashville after shooting himself. He was 64.
Mr. Young was never boring. One of his big songs was (I'm Going to) Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young, and he lived up to two of those predictions.
From his first hit single in 1953, Goin' Steady, to his last in 1974, Some Kind of Woman, Mr. Young had 32 No. 1 singles on country charts and 79 Top 10 singles.
The Grand Ole Opry star recorded more than 120 singles and 50 albums, producing such major hits as Hello Walls, Four In The Morning, Step Aside, Wind Me Up and This Little Girl of Mine.
With Minnie Pearl, Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Bill Monroe, Patsy Cline and Bill Monroe, he appeared on the first major country music show in New York City's Carnegie Hall, on Nov. 29, 1961. Mr. Young also was instrumental in founding Music City News, the trade paper for the country music industry, in 1963.
Mr. Young had a great eye for young talent. He took Patsy Cline on the road with him when she moved to Nashville and needed work.
Roger Miller was a bellboy at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville when he was hired to play drums in Mr. Young's band.
Mr. Young paid Buck Owens and George Jones $50 a day to be on his road shows, and he hired Donnie Lytle (later to become Donnie Young and then Johnny Paycheck) to be in his band.
"When I built the Young Executive Building on Division Street," Mr. Young told me in 1987, "Kris Kristofferson (a Rhodes scholar) was looking for a job while trying to make it as a songwriter. I told him I had some carpentry work I needed done. He put up the paneling in my office."
When Willie Nelson tried to sell Mr. Young the copyright to his song Hello Walls because he desperately needed the money, Mr. Young - who already had recorded the song and was receiving sizable checks for it - made Mr. Nelson promise not to sell the song to anyone.
"He said, `I need $500,'°" Mr. Young told me. "I reached in my pocket and gave him $500.
"Eight weeks later, his next royalty check was for something like $21,000. I was sitting in the upstairs back section at Tootsie's (Orchid Lounge) when Willie came in. He grabbed me and kissed me on the mouth. It was that money that he used to buy his farm in Tennessee, and, after that hit, everybody wanted Willie's songs. .°.°. I went on to sell nearly 2.5 million copies of my version, and I guess it probably has been cut by about 200 singers."
Mr. Young's fiesty lifestyle and to-hell-with-you-if-you-don't-like-me attitude cost him many awards, including induction into the Country Music Association's Hall of Fame.
"Some people think I'm 140 years old, they've been listening to me so long," he told me in 1972, when he was about to turn 40. "I just plan to keep on doing what I'm doing. I'm happy as a pig in a mud pie."
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