January 11

“Saginaw, Michigan”: The Legacy Of Lefty Frizzell

Historically tied to the lumber industry in the 19th century, a river named after its city, “Saginaw, Michigan,” floated awards for William Orville “Lefty” Frizzell the same way it floated its logs within the Saginaw River.

An American honky-tonk singer, Lefty Frizzell, performed “Saginaw, Michigan,” a track written by Bill Anderson and Don Wayne back in 1964. The song became a big hit in the country music scene through its wacky and entertaining narrative and Frizzell’s distinct delivery. The song spent over a year (23 weeks to be exact) on top of the U.S. country chart and peaked at number 85 on the Billboard Hot 100. It even earned him a prestigious Grammy Award nomination. 

From being his sixth and final number-one, the song evolved into Frizzell’s legacy as a country music artist. 

Meaning Behind The Song

The entire catch of the “Saginaw, Michigan” lyrics was how a man’s crazy lie earned him the hand of the one he loved.

The song is set in Saginaw, Michigan, and to those unfamiliar with it, this isn’t a made-up place. It’s an actual city on the eastern side of the state of Michigan with a river flowing through. The river, named after the city, became the city’s reason for the region’s growth by acting as a free mode of transporting logs. 

Back to the story, a man born and raised in Saginaw meets the love of his life in his hometown. But his lady’s rich father thinks he is no good to her. To win his heart, the man goes to Alaska and returns home, claiming to have found himself the riches of anybody’s lifetime. 

The man gave up the plot of land carrying abundant wealth in exchange for the rich man’s daughter’s hand in marriage. The rich man agreed only to find out he was outwitted by the poor man from “Saginaw, Michigan.”

Accompanied by slurs and slides coming from the honky-tonk he came from, added a better sense of storytelling. It was so relatable, like a story a friend tells you while drinking in a bar and having a good time.

The song’s catchy melody, storytelling style, and Lefty Frizzell’s distinct delivery all combined to make “Saginaw, Michigan” a standout in country music and a beloved classic that continues to resonate with audiences. Check it out in the video below, and while you’re at it, give other Lefty Frizzell songs a chance, too. 


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Lefty Frizzell


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