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Grand Ole Opry Star Hank Locklin Dies

March 9, 2009


Once again the Grand Ole Opry is in mourning as another of the identifiable voices that filled the Ryman Auditorium, and home where the legendary WSM broadcast is heard, has passed away.   We have lost so many of these performers who created the golden era of country music.  This time we lost the oldest living member of the Opry Family.  (I think ‘Little’ Jimmy Dickens is now the oldest living member.)

Country singer, and Grand Ole Opry member Hank Locklin died Sunday at the age of 91 in Alabama.  He joined the Opry in 1960, and had recorded 65 albums.  His voice was one that never failed to be noticed for its soft smooth tenor, and his performances were always greeted with warmth.  Throughout his years of fame Locklin was always humble and grateful for the chance to step out onto the stage and sing his music.   Among the memories Locklin leaves behind are the classics “Send Me the Pillow You Dream On” and “Please Help Me I’m Falling.”  It should be noted that “Falling” and “Pillow” were two of the most popular hits from the golden age of country music.

Last month I ran acrossa story about Hank Locklin that I had kept in my files.

The son of country music legend Hank Locklin is donating one of his famous father’s suits, and it will be put on display in the hall of fame’s country music showcase.

“It’s kind of a funky-looking thing,” Hank Adam Locklin said during a news conference at the hall of fame Tuesday.

The cream and gold colored two-piece suit, complete with sequins and bell bottom pants, was one of several outfits Hank Locklin wore when he performed.

Hall of fame officials presented the younger Locklin with a plaque honoring his father’s musical accomplishments. The ceremony took place in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame lobby.

Hank Locklin was born in Florida but has lived in Brewton most of his life. He is the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry. Locklinturned 91 this month.

“He wanted really to be here today, but nevertheless, he’s very happy about this and the family is, too,” the younger Locklin said.

Locklin said he has never been in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, but got the feeling of “soul, sweetness and hospitality” when he came inside.

John Briggs, a Florence native and vice president of the membership group of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, said Locklin’s accomplishments in country music make him a true living legend.

“He really put Alabama on the map and represented us really well,” Briggs said.

Hank Locklin’scareer took a gigantic step when he signed with RCA Records in 1955. In 1957, one recording session produced the popular “Geisha Girl,” which spent 39 weeks on the Billboard country charts, peaking at number four, and a remake of “Send Me The Pillow You’re Sleeping On” that spent 35 weeks on the Billboard country chart, topping out at number five.

It was in 1960 that Locklinhit it big with “Please Help Me I’m Falling,” which was recorded in January of that year in Nashville, Tenn.

“Falling” spent 14 weeks as Billboard’s number one song on the country charts.

The song remained on the charts for 36 weeks and reached number eight on the Billboard pop music charts.

Billboard’s 100th Anniversary issue listed the song as the second most successful country single of the rock ‘n’ roll era.

The song was nominated for a Grammy Award and won the Cash Box Award for Best Country Song of 1960, the same year Locklin became a member of the Grand Ole Opry



  1. art kimble permalink
    November 13, 2010 5:14 PM

    i sing most of mr. locklins songs on karaoke if i can get them im way up here in oshawa ontario canada but up in kawartha lakes [bobcaugeon] where i grew up on saturday night man his songs would be on wheeling wwva the home of the grande old oprey ilove all country songs and i sit now and practice geisha girl and try to sound close to the great HANK LOCKLIN

  2. BETTY permalink
    April 19, 2009 11:26 PM


  3. jacob permalink
    March 11, 2009 5:24 PM

    Thought your readers might enjoy this article and the comments by Vince Gill.

    PETER COOPER • The Tennessean • March 9, 2009

    Hank Locklin — the Grand Ole Opry star and singer of country music classics “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” and “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On” — died Sunday at his home in Brewton, Ala. He was 91.

    Mr. Locklin sang in a tenor both pliant and unadorned, and his voice remained a powerful instrument throughout most of his life. Even in his late 80s, he sang his hits (and a thrilling cover of Irish standard “Danny Boy”) on the Opry stage and performed the songs in the keys in which they were initially recorded.

    “He was the rarest of the rare, for his voice to stay as pure as it did,” said “Vince Gill. “I think he might have held onto his voice better than anybody I’ve ever heard. I sang with him a few years ago and I had to really get up on my toes just to hit the notes.”

    Born in the Florida Panhandle town of McLellan in 1918, Mr. Locklin began playing the guitar at age 9, after an accident — he was hit by a school bus — left him bedridden. He made his radio debut at a Pensacola, Fla., station in the 1930s, and in the 1940s he and a band began working clubs and southern radio stations.

    Mr. Locklin’s recording career began in earnest in 1949, when he recorded “The Same Sweet Girl” for California-based Four Star Records. He also wrote “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On” in 1949. Often, he’d play the song live on radio stations, and listeners would then mail their own pillows to him in care of the station.

    “The pillows started rollin’ in,” he told journalist Rich Kienzle, in a conversation recounted in the liner notes of Mr. Locklin’s RCA Country Legends CD.

    “Let Me Be The One” was Mr. Locklin’s first No. 1 country hit, in 1953. Two years later, he signed with RCA Victor in Nashville. Chet Atkins was a fan of Mr. Locklin’s voice, and Atkins began producing and playing guitar on Mr. Locklin’s sessions. At one of those sessions, Atkins recorded Mr. Locklin’s pillow song, which stalled at No. 5 on the Billboard country chart but which endured to become a much-covered composition: It would later be recorded by the Everly Brothers, Dwight Yoakam, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dean Martin, Dolly Parton and others.

    When Gill was a child, he told his mother, “You’ve got to get me one of those pillows.”

    “She said, `What are you talking about,'” Gill remembered. “I said, `One of those pillows you can dream on.’ There was this connection I had to him, from the time I was a little boy. I don’t think those things happen by accident.”

    When Mr. Gill met Mr. Locklin, he told him that story. Mr. Locklin then gifted Gill with an embroidered pillow, which Gill subsequently gave to his mother.

    “That blew her away,'” Gill said. “She told me, `When I die, I want that pillow under my head.'”

    Mr. Locklin’s 1960 recording of “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” spent 14 weeks atop the Billboard country chart, and 30 weeks in the Top 10, and it also crossed over into the top 10 of the pop chart. Recorded in one take, that single remains a hallmark of the much-vaunted “Nashville Sound,” and it found Country Music Hall of Famer Floyd Cramer playing for the first time in what would become his signature “slip note” style.

    “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” has been recorded by Rosemary Clooney, Don Gibson, Carl Smith, Charley Pride and numerous others.

    “It’s one of the kind that won’t die,” Mr. Locklin told The Tennessean, “Because it tells a beautiful story.”

    Mr. Locklin became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1960, where he was known for his jovial presence both onstage and backstage. He preferred to live life unhurriedly, seeking a pace that he described as “Somewhere between a gentle breeze and a cyclone.”

    “He was always friendly, and had a great sense of humor,” Gill said. “It’s interesting when you get to meet someone who helped to shape what it is that you do, and you find them to be even greater as a person than as an artist.”

    Though the country music industry is centered in Music City, Mr. Locklin felt centered elsewhere: He rented an apartment in Nashville for a couple of years, but soon moved back south, winding up in Brewton, not far from his birthplace of McLellan. For Opry appearances, he would pack some stage clothes and drive six hours up the highway just to sing a couple of songs.

    “The Lord has blessed me in my voice, you know,” he said, and he was intent on sharing the blessing.

    “Hank was always a great singer,” said Bob Moore, who played bass on most of Mr. Locklin’s RCA recordings, including “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On,” “Please Help Me, I’m Falling,” “Geisha Girl,” “Happy Birthday To Me” and “Livin’ Alone.”

    In 1995, Gill joined Mr. Locklin onstage at the Opry to harmonize on “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On.” In 2001, Mr. Locklin released the Generations In Song CD, which included guest shots from Gill, Parton, Jeannie Seely, Jeanne Pruett, Jett Williams and son Hank Adam Locklin, who is now a senior manager at the Country Music Association.

    Recently, Mr. Locklin released his 65th album, a gospel effort called By The Grace of God. The family is planning a private burial and memorial service.

  4. March 10, 2009 3:21 AM

    I was very sad to hear of the death of hank locklin,I have been a fan of his since the 1960s,he was one of the first stars to come to the uk
    ive met him a few times,both in the uk,and nashville,he even sang the country music hall of fame,for me on the grand ole opry,I and lots of uk fans will miss him

  5. Belle Marie permalink
    March 10, 2009 12:43 AM

    Mr. Rivers,

    I just want to say a deep thanks for the kind way you honor the singers on the Grand Ole Opry. They have meant so much to so many and you treat them as kindly as we all feel about them at these hard times. It has been many years since I have been able to go to the Opry since I am not able to travel. But the memories you bring back with the movies here are precious to me. I looked over your other writings on those who I heard so often and I cried a bit. But like you write they are on a bigger stage now with God.

    Thank you and God Bless You.

    Belle Marie
    Gibson, Georgia

  6. Vicky permalink
    March 9, 2009 6:23 PM

    Irby Mandrell also passed away this past Thursday. I know he was not a
    country music artist but he was sure a force in the Nashville Music
    Industry for many years.
    I am so thankful thank he did live long enough to learn of his
    daughter’s selection for the Hall Of Fame. I am even more thankful for
    Barbara, that she was able to share this with him believe he died.

  7. Randal Bridges permalink
    March 9, 2009 6:15 PM

    Sad to see another legend go. I love Skeeter Davis’ answer song, I Can’t Help You (I’m Falling too) to Hank’s Please Help Me I’m Falling. Todays country music does nothing for me, I’ll take the legends anyday. God Bless Hank and his family at this sad time.

  8. Misty permalink
    March 9, 2009 4:46 PM

    Thanks for putting that together greg.. I appreciate it..

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