January 13

The Song That Launched Tom T. Hall as The Storyteller That He Is: “A Week In A Country Jail” 

“A Week in a Country Jail” is absolutely one of Tom T. Hall‘s biggest hits.

The song was released in 1969 as the third and final single off his studio album Homecoming. It quickly reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles, maintaining that position for two weeks and spending a total of thirteen weeks on the chart.

“A Week in a Country Jail” is Hall’s first-ever No. 1 hit, paving the way to five more.

A True-to-Life Experience From The “The Storyteller”

Like most of his songs, Tom T Hall wrote “A Week In A Country Jail” about a true-to-life experience that took place in his hometown. 

Inspiration for the song came from Hall’s neighbor Stonewall Jackson, who already had a string of hits at that time, including two No. 1 tracks: “Waterloo” and “B.J. The D.J.” Jackson was planning to create a concept album, and he asked Hall to write a prison song for him, in which Hall happily obliged.

However, when Hall started writing one, he lamented to his wife – Dixie Hall – that he had never been to prison but only to jail. So his wife told her, “Well, write about being in jail.”

The songwriter then started recalling being jailed on a minor charge in a small town in Kentucky. Unfortunately for Hall, the judge was out of town to attend his grandmother’s funeral and was definitely not in a hurry to return to his courtroom. As a result, all the cases were shelved until the judge gets back and Hall ended up being in jail for almost a week.

“Well, next morning, they just let us sleep, but I was up real early. Wonderin’ when I’d get my release. Later on, we got more hot bologna, eggs, and gravy. And by now, I wasn’t quite so hard to please,” the song goes.

A few things in the song were made more exciting by Hall, like his wish to run away with the jailer’s wife. Though it was quite humorous, it did not happen in real life. It was just thrown in there to make the story more entertaining and the recording a bit longer. But the rest is basically true.

After the song’s success in the country chart, Hall decided to use its autobiographical approach as a foundation for future successes. “I’ve lived an interesting and varied life, and if people want to hear about that sort of thing, I’ll start writing about places I’ve been and things I’ve done,” he said. 

That method ended up working very successfully for him that he was even dubbed as “The Storyteller.”

You can listen to “A Week In A Country Jail” in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4cG8CiF7Zk


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tom t hall


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