Tom T. Hall the Songwriter

Tom T. Hall didn’t move to Nashville to make records. He went there to write songs. His songs have supplied other performers with a bunch of hits. After moving to Nashville in January 1964, he wrote a massive number of compositions. Songs that were admired, but seemingly ill-suited for the existing artists. A friend of his, Jerry Kennedy suggested that Hall signs with Mercury as an artist to be assured of getting his songs recorded. A year after his first hit, Tom T. Hall released “A Week In A Country Jail” which reached the No. 1 on January 31, 1970. The song stayed at the peak of the charts for two consecutive weeks.

The story of the Song

The inspiration for the song came from a neighbor of Tom T. Hall in Brentwood. Tennessee named Stonewall Jackson. Jackson requested Hall to write a prison song for a concept album he was planning. However, when Tom tried to write one, he lamented to his wife “Miss Dixie” that he had never been to prison – only to jail. So she said:

“Well, write about being in jail.”

Tom T. Hall gave the idea some thought. But, he realized he didn’t lay claim to very much in that regard either. He did, however, remember a time when he was jailed on a minor charge in a small town in Kentucky. The judge had been called away to attend the funeral of his grandmother. Not only that, he was in absolutely no hurry to get back to his courtroom. All the cases were shelved until the judge returned and Hall ended up being in jail for nearly a week.

After “A Week In A Country Jail” became a No. 1 hit, Tom T. Hall decided to use its autobiographical approach as a foundation for future successes. He said:

“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.”

That procedure ended up working very successfully for him. He was dubbed “The Storyteller” henceforth and many big hits followed, including seven number ones.

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