She was a trick-riding horsewoman born and raised in England; he, an Army veteran born in the foothills of Appalachia. Together, they were one of the most important songwriting duos of bluegrass, country, and American roots music as a whole. This year, they were inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame together, following his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. If y’all don’t know the music — and impact — of Tom T. & Miss Dixie Hall, it’s time you do. Here’s a 12-song primer that attempts to scratch the surface of their far-reaching influence.
“Truck Drivin’ Son Of A Gun” — Dave Dudley, co-written by Miss Dixie
Co-written by Miss Dixie Deen (before she became a Hall), this single, released by Dave Dudley in 1965, reached #3 on the US country charts. It earned a BMI award; Dixie and Tom T. met at that awards banquet. The rest is history.
“Fox On The Run” — Tom T. Hall
An absolute classic. Tom T. brought bluegrass to country radio in 1976, when this track reached #9 on the Billboard charts. Just one stellar track on an entire album of top-shelf bluegrass that included appearances by J.D. Crowe, Donna Stoneman, Bill Monroe, Bobby Thompson, and so many more.
“Washed My Face In The Morning Dew” — Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, written by Tom T. Hall
Recorded the year before “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” Tom T.’s first top 40 hit is still going strong, relevant as ever 51 years later. “The rich got richer and the poor got poor, and to me it just didn’t seem right.”
Here’s a version by one of country’s favorite duos of all time, Porter and Dolly.
“Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine” — Tom T. Hall
“Old Dogs” was Tom T.’s third #1 hit as an artist. Charlie Sizemore, who followed Keith Whitley as Ralph Stanley’s lead singer, led an all-star cast on an entire album of Tom T.’s songs, including this one, in 2002.
“I Flew Over Our House Last Night” — Tom T. Hall
“So close, yet so far away,” Tom T. laments, whimsically, being 30,000 feet above the one he loves as he flies over home. This one has been covered by everyone from Balsam Range to Joe Henry.
“Leaving Baker County” — Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice, written by Tom T. & Miss Dixie
There’s a sardonic glee in the chorus, leaving Baker County and the woes described herein. “I never did think much of Baker County, and every mile I’m thinking of it less.”
“A Hero In Harlan” — Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, written by Tom T. & Miss Dixie
A somber story of a little brother coming home to Harlan the one way all military families fear — in a flag-draped casket. But Tom T. and Dixie don’t glamorize or sensationalize the story, as songs on this subject matter often do. They (and Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, who first recorded the song) tell it real, raw, and relevantly.
“Lessons In Stone” — Longview, written by Tom T. & Miss Dixie
A 1990s bluegrass supergroup, Longview’s original members included Dudley Connell, Glen Duncan, James King, Joe Mullins, Don Rigsby, and Marshall Wilborn. Woof. Dudley, Don, and Glen give the buttery three-part on the chorus.
“Our Little World” — Darin and Brooke Aldridge, written by Tom T. & Miss Dixie
The way Tom T. & Miss Dixie tell it (via Darin and Brooke), you really can have it all, without needing much.
“Pretty Green Hills” — Tom T. Hall, written by Tom T. & Miss Dixie
These two could write a story song like almost no one else can. The level of detail might seem mundane, but with such deft pens, these two make the little things seem integral — important, minute colors and shades that make the whole picture shine.
“Someone Made the Sandals Jesus Wore” — Paul Williams and the Victory Trio, written by Tom T. & Miss Dixie
Paul Williams, a fellow Bluegrass Hall of Famer inducted with Tom T. & Dixie this year, sings this gospel tune with the Victory Trio. It’s a simple, but incredibly poignant message: there really is no contribution, talent, or skill that’s too small or insignificant to positively impact the lives of others.
“Somewhere In Kentucky Tonight” — Tom T. Hall, written by Tom T. & Miss Dixie
When Tom T. recorded this song on Tom T. Hall Sings Miss Dixie & Tom T., that project was a Christmas gift to his wife. His Christmas card to Dixie promised:
“We’ll record in our studio; you choose the songs and the pickers. You produce and I’ll do songs we have written together. Local and Pal will handle (canine) security. We will call the project TOM T. HALL SINGS MISS DIXIE & TOM T. Merry Christmas! Love, T.”
And if that beautiful sentiment doesn’t capture their love perfectly, the song itself truly does. What a pair. Hall of Famers, indeed.
Photo courtesy of IBMA
Jon Weisberger and Justin Hiltner contributed to this piece.
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