A picture is worth a thousand words, right? This one, taken on break at a photo shoot is very telling. It documents the comfort level these two country music giants had with one another on a personal level. I don’t know who captured it but Tammy is given memory after memory from adoring fans and old friends of Hals’ year after year and this is one of my favorites. It’s obviously from a day gone by when everyone including NBA players at half time smoked. I’ve learned from hearing family stories that the relationship between Hal and Loretta was a very important one to both of them.
After hearing Hal at Bradley’s barn (a famous studio in Mt. Juliet Tennessee) in the sixties, just before her meteoric rise to the top of the country music world, her and her producer Owen Bradley wanted Hal on Loretta’s songs. If you listen to “Coal Miner’s Daughter” you will hear a legendary intro that was a result of Hal’s instincts and creativity. Those were two things that over the years the better producers decided not to shackle.
In the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame plaque awarded Hal it mentions him as being steel guitar’s “media man” because of all the TV work he performed for the Wilburn Brothers and Statlers, to name a few, plus the many awards shows he performed in as a member of the Bill Walker Orchestra. Loretta was a regular on the Wilburn Brothers. Hal was her trusted on stage musical coach. Loretta had natural, God-given, authentic musical talent but couldn’t (as they say in Nashville) “read a lick of music” so she would ask Hal to nod at her after intros and instrumentals to remind her of her “gettin’ in places.”
A few years back she was gracious, as she always has been and visited with us and our youngest daughter backstage. As usual she was as down to earth and unstarlike as ever. I remember when Hal’s wife, Vicky, passed a beautiful arrangement of flowers with a pure white King James version of the bible, was in the funeral parlor… sent from Loretta.
Here is an observation from an outsider who has been blessed to be around the stars of the industry – folks like Hal and Loretta* were very grounded and humble. They sincerely cared about others and never acted like they had anything to prove or displayed the need to be the center of attention. It seems like most of the truly great ones have that in common, 80-20 rule invoked.
When you donate to Matty’s Vision you are giving to a cause that he would be proud of and proud to have his name associated with.
*As of writing this she is still with us and, as always, a very sweet and sincere person.