Taking on the honky tonk mantle from the deceased Hank Williams, guitarist/vocalist Faron Young scored his first-ever Billboard Country chart topper today in 1955, with the classic single, “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young”.
Faron Young’s breakthrough came thanks to honky tonk hero Webb Pierce, who receuited him for his band on the “Louisiana Hayride” radio show in 1951 – recorded in Young’s home town of Shreveport.
Playing alongside Pierce, pianist Floyd Cramer and bassist Tillman Franks, the success of those broadcasts soon led to a deal with Capitol Records and a regular spot at “The Grand Ole Opry”.
Compulsory military service then threatened to derail his career, but singles including “Goin’ Steady” and “I Can’t Wait (For the Sun to Go Down)” kept his profile high while khaki-clad.
Following Faron’s army discharge in November 1954, he returned with “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young” - composed by Texan songwriter Joe Allison (who later penned “He’ll Have To Go”) and recorded at the insistence of Capitol A & R man Ken Nelson, with Faron later admitting that he was initially unconvinced by the song’s potential.
Developing a parallel career as an actor (known as ‘the Young Sheriff’ & ‘the Singing Sheriff’), later hits came with songs provided by emerging songwriters such as Don Gibson (“Sweet Dreams”) and Willie Nelson (“Hello Walls” - a pop chart hit, signifying a change of direction).
Attempts to develop a more middle of the road career came at a new label (Mercury), with chart successes such as “Walk Tall” – although another genuine crossover hit eluded him.
Severing his Opry connections, Young continued to tour and reverted to his former honky tonk style for recordings including his classic 1971 hit “It’s Four in the Morning” - Faron’s first country number one in a decade and his only UK chart entry (peaking at number three and later name-checked by Prefab Sprout on their debut album).
Winding down his live work, and quitting live work due to ill-health in 1994, Faron struggled with depression and alcoholism, ultimately turning a gun on himself in 1996 – a sad end, but leaving as he sang in “Live Fast…” “a beautiful memory.”
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And here’s some footage of Faron in action: