“Honky-Tonk Man” is a song by American country music singer Johnny Horton. Mr. Horton co-wrote the track with two other men. Johnny himself made his own cover of “Honky-Tonk Man”. Released in March 1956, it was his debut single for Columbia records. The said tune landed on the 9th spot on the US Country Singles Charts. Six years later, Horton re-launched his single. Eventually, it just reached number 11 on the same chart.
Johnny Horton and the Gang
The names Johnny Horton, Howard Hausey, and Tillman Franks come about for the lyrics credit of “Honky-Tonk Man”. In late 1955, Hausey went to Shreveport, Louisiana. The aspiring composer traveled to Louisiana to pitch three of his songs to Johnny Horton. Horton and Tillman Franks, who happened to be his manager, fell for the up-tempo rhythm of “Honky-Tonk Man”. However, before its recording took place, they had a deal to include Horton and Franks in the publishing royalties. In this negotiation, the parties agreed that they would remake the melody of the song.
At the Bradley Barn Studio in Nashville, Johnny recorded “Honky-Tonk Man” on January 11, 1956. The other musicians on the recording session were Grady Martin and Harold Bradley. In addition Bill Black, who was Elvis Presley’s bassist at that time, was present. After some time, Columbia released “Honky-Tonk Man” as a single having the label 4-21504. During the same session, they paired the track with another song entitled “I’m Ready if You’re Willing”. Lastly, in order to advertise the single, Horton’s label subsequently arranged live shows. In the show, the band featured Tillman Franks on bass and Tommy Tomlinson on guitar.
The Story of “Honky-Tonk Man”
The character of the song narrates the lyrics in the first-person.
I’m a honky-tonk man
It describes a life of drinking and dancing, a life with young women in honky-tonk bars. It suggests a compelling or addictive quality to the lead role’s lifestyle.
I can’t seem to stop
The chorus of the song contrasts the narrator’s fixation and high-spiritedness with what happens when all of his money is gone.
I’m on the telephone callin’
‘Hey hey mama, can your daddy come home?’
honky-tonk man, Johnny Horton
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