Look What Thoughts Will Do

Lefty Frizzell

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These Are the Songs That Made Honky-Tonk Mainstream

William Orville "Lefty" Frizzell (1928–1975) entered a recording studio for the first time in 1950, to cut a carefree tune he'd written called "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time." The version was intended as a demo, to show Frizzell's skills, but Columbia Records liked the performance enough to put it out as a single, and by October of that year it reached number 2 on the country charts. This began an incredible couple of years in which Frizzell generated a string of hits. At one point in October 1951, the son of a traveling oil driller, who grew up in boom-and-bust oil towns, had four singles in the country Top 10 at the same time.

Frizzell sang with no affectation, and made no attempt to hide (or play up) his drawl—he sounded like an ordinary guy and wrote ordinary-guy songs, many of them about having a good time on a Saturday night. These established him as a poet of the honky-tonks, someone who could even make the grooming involved in getting ready for a date sound enchanted. When he wasn't painting the town, Frizzell also sang convincingly about home, and the redeeming love of a devoted woman. These pieces, which depend on his steady guitar accompaniment, are not always as straightforward as they seem: The early "I Love You a Thousand Ways" is mostly an earnest expression of devotion, with traces of guilt and regret creeping into the narrative as it goes along.

This anthology collects all of Frizzell's early singles, including the essay in brooding magnificence entitled "Always Late (With Your Kisses)," one of the radio standbys from his peak year of 1951. These singles reached just about every kid with a Nashville dream; they're mentioned by such luminaries as Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, and Keith Whitley as important early influences. Frizzell faded from the front lines of country music after 1954, and though he continued to record had very few chart successes. He once attributed this to the common problem of "too much success too soon," a hard-luck tale that's all too familiar in the realm of honky-tonk country.

Genre: Country
Released: 1997, Columbia
Key Tracks: "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time," "Always Late (With Your Kisses)," "I Love You a Thousand Ways," "Look What Thoughts Will Do"
Catalog Choice: Listen to Lefty; Songs of Jimmie Rodgers; Saginaw, Michigan
Next Stop: Merle Haggard: I'm a Lonesome Fugitive
After That: Willie Nelson: To Lefty from Willie
Book Pages: 290–291

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#1 from James S, Memphis, TN - 09/05/2009 7:32

...just wondering why you got the title of this album wrong in the book and on the website.

(Editor’s Note: Thank you for pointing this out. We’ve updated the title here.)

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