|One of the influences on Phil Ochs was “the Hillbilly Heartthrob” Faron Young. Phil grew up in Texas and Ohio and, like Dylan, listened to and admired some C&W performers. Odd isn’t it, that some of our favorite artists admired and sometimes copied artists that most of us can’t stand. Be honest. If you’re the average Dylan fan, how many times have you played Woody Guthrie or Leadbelly or all those Blind Mississippi Delta guys? If you’re the average Beatles fan, how big is your collection of Carl Perkins? Or even Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. So it is, that one generation admires and then adapts another generation’s work, which has been going on ever since Mozart was influenced by Haydn or Green was influenced by Sleeves.
Phil Ochs fans? If you bothered to take a poll of all 50 of them, you’d probably find that none of ’em owns an album by Faron Young. The reason all of this comes up is a few weeks ago, I was talking with a guitarist in a famous (still touring) 60’s band who hung out with Phil: “One time I told Phil that I thought he sounded like Faron Young…his phrasing. And Phil’s eyes lit up. He was very happy to hear it.”
If you doubt Faron Young’s influence on Phil Ochs, just compare “Country Girl” to “Gas Station Women.” The melody is fairly similar and so is the delivery. As for the lyrics, there’s a nod to another Phil influence: Johnny Cash. Johnny’s “Give My Love to Rose (please, won’t you Mister)” becomes “fill her up with love please, won’t you Mister.”
Faron Young’s early fame was at Capitol, where the kid scored a Top Five hit on the country charts with “Goin’ Steady” before goin’ into the Army. When he came back home, he had a 1954 #1 hit with “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young,” and how prophetic that title would be. After all, he did die Young. And by his own hand. But let’s talk about some of the good times, first.
Willie Nelson penned Faron’s most famous #1, the 1961 smash “Hello Walls.” Nelson also wrote ‘Life Is a Picture,” also covered by Mr. Young. “Swinging Doors” was written by Merle Haggard (whose “Okie from Muskogee” was covered by Phil Ochs.) In 1963 Young switched over to Mercury and averaged two albums a year through 1976, when the hits began to evaporate. In 1979 he moved to MCA for a pair of albums “Chapter Two” and “Free and Easy,” which the label hoped would appeal to a wider audience than Faron’s hardcore rockabillies. Singles from those albums didn’t reach the Top 50: “The Great Chicago Fire” (#67) and “If I’d Only Known It Was the Last Time” (#56). That was pretty much the end for Faron, though he released a few more singles, the aptly titled” Until the Bitter End” and in 1988 “Stop and take the Time.”
In 1996, grieving over the death of his daughter, and despondent over his failing health, Faron Young killed himself. While Phil had used the hangman’s noose back in 1976, rough ‘n’ ready Faron did himself in with a revolver.
And so, in a salute to an influence on Phil Ochs, Illfolks offers a “greatest hits” compilation of Capitol and Mercury recordings, and another download for the two MCA albums that aren’t widely available: “Chapter Two” (actually first one for the label) and “Free and Easy.” That’s more than fair…and may you stay forever Young.
TWO FARON YOUNG ALBUMS 20 FARON YOUNG FAVORITES
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