LEFTY FRIZZELL: The Honky-tonk Life of Country Music's Greatest Singer by Daniel Cooper

LEFTY FRIZZELL: The Honky-tonk Life of Country Music's Greatest Singer

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The first full-length biography of an influential country singer/songwriter. Born in 1928 and raised in the oil-soaked Southwest, William ""Lefty"" Frizzell was influenced by the recordings of legendary country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers. By his late teens he had begun performing and was already making a name for himself in the northern Texas honky-tonks. He had also wed a local girl, beginning a lifelong love-hate relationship that somehow survived Lefty's many infidelities. His first act of unfaithfulness came soon after his marriage, when he picked up a ""wild gal"" who frequented one of the beer joints where he played; she turned out to be underage, and Lefty ended up in prison. During his six-month sentence, he wrote a series of songs addressed to his wife; one of them, ""I Love You A Thousand Ways,"" would become a country classic, setting the stage for a series of early '50s hits. The 22-year-old singer, suddenly a major hitmaker, suffered from several questionable management deals, and his rising star sputtered quickly. He spent the remainder of his life in search of another hit. He scored on occasion, most notably with the early '60s song ""Saginaw, Michigan."" But without proper management, he could never build any momentum. By the end of his life, his voice was shot, and he was strung out on alcohol and pills. He died of a stroke in 1975. Country music historian Cooper has done extensive research, interviewing Lefty's family members and sidemen. Unfortunately, his clich‚-ridden prose (""jukeboxes . . . were swallowing nickels faster than roughnecks swallowed beer""; ""the hours passed quickly in the timeless still of teenage romance""; ""he was stranded in Loco Hills, where a man's moral compass spins insanely in the blinding sun"") quickly becomes tiresome. Tears, beers, babes, and ballads; just the same old song.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1995
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"