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Retro Redux: Faron Young – The Hillbilly Heartthrob

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Faron Young experienced most of the highs – and the lows – that sometimes accompany country music fame. He was not only a big star, with several number-one hits and the adulation of fans, but he was also tremendously influential, helping many young performers get their start. And yet his life spiraled downward in later years and tragically ended in suicide.

Born and raised as a Louisiana farm boy, Faron began his musical life as did many others — by the gift of a guitar. He worked hard and by the time he was out of high school he was playing regularly in country bands. After a brief try at college, he decided to stick with music and continued performing everywhere he could. By 1951 he was able to work himself into a regular spot on the Louisiana Hayride, a radio show that was second only to the Grand Ole Opry in the world of country music. He also began making a few records and doing some road shows, often as part of a duet with friend Webb Pierce.

As Faron's career began to build he found a new recording company and also moved up to the Grand Ole Opry (where he would star for many years). He was a natural performer and soon became a favorite, his good looks and singing style earning him the nickname "the Hillbilly Heartthrob."

Unfortunately Uncle Sam came calling, and in 1952 Faron was drafted into the Army as part of the Korean War build-up. He spent the next couple of years as part of Special Services entertaining the troops, but was also able to record some records, including top ten hits "Goin' Steady," and "I Can't Wait (For the Sun to Go Down)."

His record sales began to boom and by the time he was discharged in 1954 he had a big seller with "If You Ain't Lovin," followed in 1955 by "Forgive Me, Dear," and "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young." For the rest of the decade he churned out top ten hits regularly, including "Alone With You," and "Country Girl."

In the late 1950's, he also began appearing on the movie screen in a variety of parts in Westerns, one of which led to another of his nicknames, "The Singing Sheriff." Combined with his huge record sales and appearances on the Opry, it was the high point of his career.

In the 1960's he turned a little more to a country-pop sound, and although he career still continued with strong record sales and regular appearances, things began to slow down a little for him. Still, he continued to have some top ten hits, and also a very big number one. "Hello Walls," written by the then relatively unknown Willie Nelson, was turned into gold by Faron's 1961 recording. It was just one of many instances of young songwriters being helped along by Faron.

As the decades passed, Faron's popularity inevitably lessened, although he continued performing when and where he could, and still managed to sell a few records. By the early 1990's he became very ill with emphysema, particularly disheartening for a singer. By 1996 he was depressed enough to reach a sad ending — but his legacy will always be in his music.

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  • http://dianediekman.com/ Diane Diekman

    Great summary! I’m Faron’s biographer, and anyone who wants to know more about him can read “Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story,” published last year by the University of Illinois Press.