Award-winning bluegrass songwriter and former top country-music journalist Dixie Hall has passed away at age 80.
The wife of Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Tom T. Hall died on
Friday, January 15, following a long illness. She and her husband won
Songwriter of the Year honors from SPBGMA (the Society for the
Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America) for 10 consecutive years.
She also co-wrote songs with Jeanette Williams, Billy Smith and Country
Music Hall of Fame member Maybelle Carter, among others.
Dixie Hall founded the record label Blue Circle Records, the
publishing company Good Home Grown Music and a recording studio. In the
1960s, she was the editor of country music’s biggest periodical.
Born Iris Violet May Lawrence in a town near Manchester, England, she
wrote poetry as a youngster. During the 1950s, she became a
country-music fan and began working as an overseas representative for
Tex Ritter, Starday Records and other Nashvillians.
She moved to Music City in 1961 and was adopted by the legendary
Maybelle Carter. Iris Lawrence adopted “Dixie Dean” as her Nashville pen
name. She and Carter co-wrote the Johnny Cash songs “A Letter From
Home” and “Troublesome Waters.”
Also as “Dixie Dean,” she co-wrote the 1965 Dave Dudley hit “Truck
Drivin’ Son-of-a-Gun.” Under this same byline, she wrote celebrity
profiles for the Music City News fan magazine and eventually
became its editor. She met Tom T. Hall at a BMI awards banquet in 1964.
They married in 1968. For many years, she raised and trained
award-winning basset hounds while her husband became a country
Dixie Hall reactivated her songwriting in the 1990s. Tom T. Hall
wanted to retire, but she urged him to continue writing by becoming his
collaborator. This is also when she established their record label,
song-publishing company and recording studio, all headquartered at their
Williamson County home, Fox Hollow.
She subsequently wrote or co-wrote more than 500 recorded bluegrass
songs. They were sung by a who’s-who of the genre, including The
Grascals, Special Consensus, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, Don
Rigsby, Josh Williams, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, James
Monroe, Dale Ann Bradley, Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Little
Roy Lewis and Paul Williams.
She produced the all-female ensemble Daughters of Bluegrass. The group’s Pickin’ Like a Girl
record was totally comprised of Dixie Hall songs and won an award from
the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) in 2010.
Carlene Carter included Dixie’s co-written “Troublesome Waters” on her 2014 CD Carter Girl. Miranda Lambert placed Dixie’s co-written “All That’s Left” on her million-selling 2014 CMA Album of the Year winner Platinum.
Dixie Hall’s funeral will be private, according to The Tennessean. Tom T. Hall reportedly plans a celebration of his wife’s life and music at a later date.
Photo Credit: Bev Moser
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Craft was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame on Oct. 5. According to The Tennessean, Nashville's daily newspaper, he showed up briefly at Nashville's Music City Center to have his photo taken with fellow inductees Gretchen Peters, Tom Douglas and John Anderson and was immediately taken to St. Thomas Hospital.
During the induction ceremony, his longtime friend Layng Martine Jr., a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member himself, noted Craft was not only a member of Mensa, the "genius" circle, but also a jokester who had composed single-handedly such weird hits as the outrageously metaphoric "Drop Kick Me, Jesus" and "It's Me Again, Margaret," Ray Stevens' hit about an unrepentant obscene phone caller. Bare told the crowd former President Bill Clinton once cited "Drop Kick Me, Jesus" as his favorite song.
Singer-songwriter Thomas Rhett paid tribute to Craft at the ceremony by performing a medley that included "Brother Jukebox" and "Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life," the latter a hit for Moe Bandy.
Craft, whose credits include T. Graham Brown's "Come as You Were" and Gail Davies' "Blue Heartache," also had more than 200 bluegrass cuts, including the Osborne Brothers' "Midnight Flyer" and the Seldom Scene's "Keep Me From Blowing Away." In 1974, the Eagles released "Midnight Flyer" on their On the Border album and Linda Ronstadt issued "Keep Me From Blowing Away" on her breakthrough album, Heart Like a Wheel.
A gifted guitarist and banjo player, Craft's instrumentals were recorded by the likes of Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed, and he also served a tenure as the banjo player in Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys. Atkins signed Craft to RCA Records in the '70s and produced several singles that had marginal chart success.