Songs such as 'I Fall To Pieces', 'Little Bitty Tear',
'Funny Way of Laughing', 'Make The World Go Away', 'It's
Not Love (But Its Not Bad), 'Don't Touch Me', 'Ocean Front
Property' and 'The Chair' are all classed as country standards
today. These songs and many, many more were either written
or co-written by Hank Cochran (nicknamed The Legend). His
songwriting career stretches back almost half a century.
The number of artistes who have recorded songs by Hank Cochran
is too numerous to mention…almost anyone who is anyone will
have recorded a song by Hank. More recently these include
Lee Ann Womack, Ty Herndon, Wade Hayes and Daryle Singletary.
He has seen 30 of his songs holding chart positions at one
time. Even Dean Martin cut 'She's Got You' (changed to 'He's
Got You') and invited Hank down to Las Vegas to see him
perform the song.
While in Nashville during March (2002), Nashville's
notable publicist Martha Moore arranged for me to meet-up
with Hank at Sony Tree Publishing House to talk about his
Hank Cochran, was born Garland Perry Cochran in Isola,
Mississippi during 1935. He worked for a while in the oilfields
of New Mexico in the mid 50's, before playing gigs in Belle
Gardens, California. "My mother and dad got a divorce
when I was nine years old, so I went out on my own. I was
working in the Mississippi making caskets and I told my
mom…there has to be something better than this out there.
I'm going to go seek it out…And I'm still seeking it out!
with his siblings
My uncle and I hitchhiked to Hobbs, New Mexico. It was
in the winter and we almost froze to death. We stopped in
Hobbs because we had gone just as far as we could before
we were going to fall over. I don't know where the hell
we were going, but we were going. (laughs) I went out to
California…I guess I was about 14-15 and I got a job at
Sears and Roebuck…It was a huge store and I worked on the
5th floor and worked on roller-skates. I worked there for
quite a while and had picked-up the guitar and was learning
that and learnt everything my uncle knew. (laughs) So I
was just searching for it, and started singing on those
amateur contests, you know…squeaking, geeking an all that,
anyway you could get a high pitch."
and Hank Cochran
In 1954 Hank teamed up with 16-year-old guitarist Eddie
Cochran (same name, but not related). After hearing about
the impact Elvis was having, The Cochran Brothers moved
towards rock 'n' roll, recording on the Ekko label. "I
thought I'd put a little group together and needed a guitar
player. I was checking around and it was said there was
a kid over in Belle Gardens, which was about 5-8 miles from
where I lived. They said he was a hell of a guitar player.
I said what's his name and they said Eddie Cochran. I said
Eddie Cochran and they said yeh…spelt the same and all that.
I went over and picked him up and headed off, with two or
three other guys with us. We ended-up doing duets and calling
ourselves the Cochran Brothers. We went to work for Lefty
Frizzell and as a matter of fact we went to Honolulu and
all around with him. I couldn't handle the rock 'n' roll
anymore. I told Eddie… damn I can't handle this anymore!
People pulling on me and grabbing me and all that. I said…I'm
going to stick with the country and you just handle this
rock 'n' roll." Eddie died at about 20 years of age
in a car crash on the way to Heathrow airport on the wet
morning of April 17, 1960. His taxi blew a tyre and crashed
into a lamppost on the A4 near Bath. Eddie died in hospital
that afternoon, the year following the death of Buddy Holly.
"It just tore me up, like I've been tore up in the
last six months. It's just unbelievable here. What went
on here….just too many funerals!"
Writing his own songs, 1960 saw Hank make a move to
Music City to try and sell them and joining Ray
Howard with Hank and Hal Smith Pamper Music
Price and Hal Smith's publishing house Pamper Music.
Hank also helped sign other songwriters to the company and
after meeting Willie Nelson at Tootsies Orchid Lounge; he
brought Willie on to the payroll to an exclusive songwriter
agreement. Hank became great friends with the late Harland
Howard, writing 'I Fall To Pieces' together for Patsy Cline.
"Me and Harland were real close friends for 42 years.
I talked him into moving back here. He was staying in California
when I started working for Pamper. He was sending songs
and I was getting them cut. I said why don't you just come
on back here. He finally said OK, and me and June Carter
found him a house and he and Jan moved back. I first met
him during a disc jockey convention in October 59. When
we all moved back to California, I had a bunch of shows
and stuff to do in the holidays…Christmas, New Year and
all that. Then I caught a bus and a four day ride, I came
back here…got a job with Pamper paying $50 a week and stayed
(later to become co-owner). I was getting $50 a week and
$10 went to mom Upchurch…the lady at the boarding house
where I was staying. $25 of it went back to California to
my wife and three kids, so what little bit of money left,
was about $12 a week to live on. So I got to be friends
with a lot of guys who were playing the Opry…the first spot
paid $10 and the second spot paid $3.
"I got to be a real good friends with Patsy Cline
when I was staying at mom Upchurch's. Darrell McCall was
a good friend and played bass and worked the road with Patsy
sometimes. He took me over and introduced me to her. I think
he was going by the name of Darrell Young then. Donnie Young
was there, who turned out to be Johnny Paycheck and George
McCormack and 'Shorty' Lavender who played fiddle for Ray
Price…part owner of Pamper. She was trilled that I was there.
Hank's first BMI Award Patsy Cline
I had this idea of 'I Fall To Pieces' and part of it
wrote. I went over to Harland's and me and Harlan sat down
and finished it. Harland said…well that is a little different
melody you've got there. And me coming form California…I
guess it was! One of my favourite singers was and still
is, Nat King Cole. I guess that is why me and Jim Reeves
got to be so close. So, as I was running the company and
getting the songs recorded, we'd get a demo recorded by
Harlan's wife Jan. I got to know Owen Bradley and I said
when are you going to cut Patsy? He said you know, this
is the first time that I'll actually be producing her and
pick songs. You see before, anything she recorded had to
be a Four Star song, because she was signed to Four Star
in California. He said…do you have anything that sounds
like a hit? I said I swear that I believe I do Mr Bradley.
I sung him a little of it and he said…if you'll go and get
me a dub of that, I'll cut that with somebody. Everybody
on the label turned it down and Patsy didn't like it. I
showed it to Chet (Atkins) and all the people he was cutting
and they turned it down and everybody in town. It became
one of the biggest songs in country music. I've told friends
of mine just starting out who get discouraged. Always try
to remember to keep this in mind…the better the song is,
the harder it is to get it cut, because it's not the everyday
run of the mill. Because it's different, they are afraid
to take that step and the ones that ain't are the ones that
have the huge successes!"
Amongst his successes, Ray Price recorded 'Make The
World Go Away' in 1963. Merle Haggard recorded Hank Cochran/Glenn
Martin's 'It's Not Love (But Its Not Bad)', which not only
made #1 in 1972, but also received nomination for CMA Song
Of The Year in 1973. Haggard also recorded 'Don't Touch
Me' and George Strait had #1 hits with 'The Chair' (1985)
and 'Ocean Front Property' (1987) which debuted on the top
spot, and both songs being co-written with Dean Dillon.
'The Chair' became a very popular song on the British
country scene and the story line of the lyrics makes for
an intriguing song. "Yes…(laughs) it really is! We
were on my boat. It was after Christmas and before New Year
and we went to stay on the boat. We were there just to write
songs if they came along and to drink beer and stuff. We
started working on some song…my wife Suzi was in the bunk
back there laying down. And she said…there's a hit out by
that same title. He (Dean Dillon) don't listen to radio
and I don't. So I said, well hell, that takes care of that!
Dean said yeh, yeh, "Excuse Me!!!" And it just
started. It just went wham, wham, wham, and I said hold!
I've already got the ending, the melody and everything,
so let me go up to the mike and start. You just keep coming
this-a-way and when we get about a minute and a half a piece,
we'll stick-em together. Dean had a line and I said I've
got a line that will fit that and I said 'Can I drink you
a buy'. So we just stuck them together and when George Strait
heard it, he said….I've just got to sing that line. 15 -
20 minutes it took"
Sometimes the best songs only take that long. 'Ocean
Front Property' was another song with an intriguing line.
"I was producing a demo session and I don't know where
it came from, but I said to one of the guys…"grab that
guitar and come here a minute". So we went into a room
that ran off the studio. I had a verse and a chorus already
written…just whap! I sang it to him and he played the guitar
on it and about that time Dean kicked the door open and
said…I knew you'd be in here writing another song. So I
said….come on in, we need another verse. So Dean wrote another
verse and that was it. Then we did a demo on it, but I wasn't
pitching it. My Suzi says Hank 'An Ocean Front Property',
is a hit! I said hey! I'm the writer, I'm the pitcher of
this family and I don't think it's a hit. She said…well
I think it is! And she stayed on me until I said…if you'll
shut-up I'll send it to George. I sent it!!!…he came in
and cut it. It was the first single from the album and that
is what they titled the album. It was the first country
album to go in at #1."
Jerry Lee Lewis recorded an album called 'Live At Hank
Cochran's'. "I had a studio upstairs in my house and
a friend of mine Sam MacVickery came up an idea to try and
get Jerry Lee to cut a gospel album. Mac was real good friends
with Jerry…I knew him, but not real well. We tried to get
him to do it and he said…I don't know! Then one evening
the phone rang and it was him. Jerry said…I've thought it
over Hank and I think I'll do it. So I said OK when? So
he said, I'll be over there in two and a half to three hours.
So I said well OK, do we need some musicians? He said…no
I just want to do it by myself and we'll put something with
if we need it. So I called my engineer and said you need
to get over here and make it real quick and hunt up all
the tape that we've got. Jerry Lee said that he's coming
over. It didn't seem as if we'd just turned around and there's
Jerry Lee walking through the door. He had a fire-red Corvette
and he just smoked that thing from Memphis. We did a hundred
and five sides upstairs in my studio. There's a bunch of
them that nobody's ever heard!
Hank released his album Desperate Men in 1996 and in
April 2002 he released a new album, Livin' For A Song. The
title cut is an ode to the art of songwriting and a tribute
to the hard knocks and soul-searching lifestyle that the
creative ones sometimes must endure.
"I said to Suzi…I've made a decision! She says…well
that's news right there! (laughs) She says well what is
it. And I said, I'm going to cut a record. She said You!…well
that's the best news I've heard this year! So I said which
one? And she said…well give me a day or two. She walked
into my office and said…I've got it…'Livin' For A Song'.
I said…well I'll be dammed, the closer it gets the harder
it is to see. I said I can't believe I didn't think of that.
I said hell that's me! That's my life in that song, and
she said…that's right. Suzi said…there's nobody better than
you, since you wrote it and it's your life, then you've
to cut it. So I called Martha and told her and called Jim
Vest and he said…God I think that's a great idea man! So
we called Buck over at the studio and got some time as quick
as we could, which was about three or four days. We went
in and cut it. Mixed it and mastered it and Miss Martha
shipped it over seas as the first single around February
1st. Martha called after about a week or so, and she said
Hank, I think you may have a hit! So she said…you better
get on it and finish the album."
'Livin For A Song' had been written about 2-3 years
before, but never released by anyone. "I cut it with
a guy, but he was another one that kinda just drifted off.
And I don't know if I pitched it or not." The finished
album was released in April with 14 tracks opening with
Arlie Carter's 'Honky Tonk Angels'. "When me and Eddie
Cochran started working together, we were doing rockabilly
music. That first song on there…'Honky Tonk Angels', is
a rocking version. So I put it there first to show everybody
where I started…that far back and tried to bring it on up
to where I am now. That is what I hope to do, because when
I cut 'Livin For A Song', the steelwork is on a steel guitar…without
pedals. Because when I came to town, there were no pedals,
or they were just beginning to use them. In California a
friend of mine who was a steel player, drilled out a hole
in the fret board and fitted a stilson wrench with a coat
hanger to one of the strings and when he stepped on that
stilson wrench, it pulled it. All those Buck Owen records
and Wynn Stewart records…well that's him. So I told Vest
that when I came here, that was what they were doing and
that was the way it was. And when I go out, that's the way
it's going to be. So the ending of it…when they retard it,
I raised him up, so that he'd be louder than the rest at
the end. I hope everybody understands what I did."
The second track to be released as a single is 'Something
Unseen'. "It is one of those Ray Price shuffles that
I wrote quite a few of. It just knocked me and everyone
else out in the studio when we cut it. Gosh, we were playing
it for the people who were coming in to record. (laughs)
I said, hell damn, perhaps we should release that next.
So that is going to be the next single." Hank has written
many songs for Ray Price with 22 of Hank's songs on the
Ray Price box-set (Bear Records) and that doesn't cover
all the songs he's cut! "He's cut a bunch of other
things of mine. In fact he signed a new deal with another
label…Audio. They 're all excited about it, as I am too.
I talked to him last week and I said…hello sir. This is
Hank who works for you. (laughing) Cos he was one of the
owners of Pamper Music and I've actually been with him 42
years. So has Willie Nelson. So me and Willie kid him all
the time. You know…he asked Willie to get him half a chicken
when Willie was going out to run. Willie looked over at
me and said…he thinks we still work for him! (laughs) And
I said…don't we! You go get him his chicken, I'm gathering
up things for him here. (laughs) So when he calls, I say
yessir mister, I'm still working for you! He was on his
bus going to Florida and I called him. I said I had just
cut a Ray Price smash. He said…you better hold it for me.
I said I don't know man, I sure do like it. I said boy it
just sounds so much like you, I don't know. He said, I'm
cutting four of yours already and people will get to thinking
something! And I said…I still works for you! (laughing)."
'Something Unseen' entered the EMS charts and stands
at #31 at the time of writing (May) while still climbing.
'Livin' For A Song' made #15 on 14th March 2002.