Over a decade before the legendary artist Lefty Frizzell passed away, he recorded what would become his final No. 1 single on the country chart. The song was entitled “Saginaw, Michigan” after a town of the same name. The said place remained unfamiliar until 1964. When Frizzell recorded a song about it and everybody began singing the tune, that’s when the place started to gain popularity. Even those who never even saw it seemed to have lived in that town their whole lives when they sing the song. This is partly due to the very personal approach of the track.
Written from a first-person point-of-view, “Saginaw, Michigan” talks about the narrator’s life and experiences living in the titular city. Anyone who sings the song, especially if it’s from the heart, couldn’t help but feel some sort of connection with the place. Still, the best person to perform it is someone who hails from Saginaw, Michigan. But Frizzell wasn’t from that place either. How come the song became a hit record for him? But why now? He was, undeniably, an icon in the music industry.
Listen to Lefty Frizzell’s recording of “Saginaw, Michigan” below.
The Song “Saginaw, Michigan”
The composition of the song was started by the legendary country music songwriter Don Wayne. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the author of the song “Country Bumpkin” made famous by Cal Smith. But didn’t finish the song by himself. In fact, he struggled to complete the lyrics. So he sought help from another songwriter. And he’s not just any songwriter we know. He’s someone whose name appeared on the Country Music Hall Fame. He is no other than Bill Anderson. I’m sure, you are more familiar with him.
When the song got recorded, it went as high as the top of the chart giving Frizzell his sixth No. 1 hit. All in all, it spent 23 weeks on the country chart before Johnny Cash’s “Understand Your Man” replaced it. Meanwhile, the record was a minor crossover hit peaking at No. 85 on Billboard Hot 100. Finally, “Saginaw, Michigan” gave Frizzell a Grammy nomination. The best-known cover of the song was that of Bobby Bare. His version appeared on his 1966 LP, The Streets of Baltimore.
Here’s Bobby Bare’s version of the song.