5 Songs You Didn’t Know Tom T. Hall Wrote For Other Artists

As Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame once put it, Tom T. Hall “wrote without judgment or anger, offering rhyming journalism of the heart.” When listening to his stunning vignettes it’s hard to argue the contrary.

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Oft dubbed “The Storyteller,” Hall’s music was hallowed by artists like Johnny Cash and George Jones, who continually delivered renditions of songs taken from his golden discography. The songwriting community certainly felt a critical loss upon Hall’s death in 2021.

Hall had such a plethora of golden material, that he often gave up songs to other musicians. Below, we’re going through five songs penned by the Hall of Famer that you didn’t know were recorded by other artists first.

1. “A Million Miles to the City,” Bobby Bare (1971)

Written by Tom T. Hall

“A Million Miles to the City” talks about the small-town ambition to move on to a bigger pond. Bobby Bare recorded this song in July 1971, with Hall recording his own version in August of the same year. Like anyone who has ever moved to “the big city” from small, provincial surroundings, it can often feel like a million miles away from everything you know and hold dear.

I remember it now we were kids back then living down on the farm
We were told that the city could only bring us harm
Well how far away is the city you know that’s a great big town
And Barbara said why it’s a million miles and then the story got around
It’s a million miles to the city from the hills and valleys we know
It’s a million miles to the city and some day we all wanna go

2. “Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman,” Nancy & Lee (1968)

Written by Tom T. Hall

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood were the first to record this Hall tale about a vagabond songwriter staking a claim at a coffee shop in Greenwich Village. The accompanying album, Nancy and Lee, peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 upon its release. Hall himself never recorded this track, though bluegrass duo Jim and Jesse McReynolds also released a memorable rendition.

I met him in a Greenwich Village coffee nook
He was selling folk songs and little dirty books
The place was full of happy hop’d up hippies at the time
All mornin’ long he hadn’t made a dime

He was a Greenwich village folk song salesman
You should have heard the bag he was in
He was a Greenwich village folk song salesman
He’d jump up and sing one now and then

3. “Hello Vietnam,” Johnny Wright (1965)

Written by Tom T. Hall

If you’ve ever watched Stanley Kubrick’s war epic, Full Metal Jacket, you’ve heard the countryfied croon of “Hello Vietnam.” Thanks to its inclusion in the film, Johnny Wright spent three weeks atop the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. With lyrics penned by Hall, the track is one of Wright’s most enduring offerings.

Kiss me goodbye and write me while I’m gone
Goodbye my sweetheart, Hello Vietnam
America has heard the bugle call
And you know it involves us one and all
I don’t suppose that war will ever end
There’s fighting that will break us up again
Goodbye my darling, Hello Vietnam

4. “It Was Only the Wind,” Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs (1967)

Written by Louise Certain, Tom T. Hall

This bluegrass gem has been recorded by a number of artists, but Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were the first to try their hand at it in 1967. The lyrics, penned by Hall and Louise Certain, tell the story of an old woman who has watched her children fly the nest. She sits by the window and wishes that they would come down the lane – to no avail. Hall didn’t get the nickname “The Storyteller” for nothing. Like many of his songs, “It Was Only the Wind” is a stunning, albeit somber vignette.

She would sit by her window and gaze out
Down the road where her children had gone
One by one they left seeking their fortune
And left their old mother alone

Sometime late at night she would call me
Sir did I here a knock at the door
I would say it was only the wind man
Just as I had told her before

It’s only the wind
Your children are not at the door
It’s only the wind
The wind restless wind nothing more

5. “Red Hot Memories (Ice Cold Beer),” Jerry Lee Lewis (1975)

Written by Tom T. Hall

Jerry Lee Lewis’ Boogie Woogie Country Man saw “The Killer” return to the hardcore, honky-tonk flavors he pushed out in the late ’60s. Among the album was the Hall-penned “Red Hot Memories (Ice Cold Beer).” Though Hall himself would go on to record this soulful shuffle, Lewis was the first to release it in 1975. The lyrics play in the typical country vein of drowning your sorrows in a barroom. Lewis’ accompanying album rose to No. 16 on the Billboard country albums chart.

Red hot memories and ice cold beer
Lord, that jukebox sounds so good to my ear
That’s the reason I came in here
Red hot memories and ice cold beer

I can’t believe how she burned me down
Her love made me a big man in this town
Then she tells me I’m no prize
So I just came in here to drink me down to size

Photo of Tom T. Hall Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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