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Hungry Hank Locklin returns with "Generations in Song"

By Ken Burke, December 2001

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"At that time, a session was four songs, so I cut ‘It's A Little More Like Heaven' (number 3 in 1958), the flip side ‘Blue Glass Skirt' and ‘The Pillow.' Well, RCA first released ‘The Pillow (number 5 in 1958). It was June, and I had just moved from Texas down to a place in Florida called McLellan, just a little wide place in the road. And, there was a radio station in Montgomery, Ala. that was big on playing country. So, I was riding along there listening, and the disc jockey said, ‘I‘ve got 20 requests for this song. Here it is ‘Send Me The Pillow' by Hank Locklin.' Man, I liked to climb out of that car! That thing took off like a scalded rat, and it just kept on going."

The song became a standard and been played in one version or another over a million times on radio. Besides Locklin's version, which rode the charts for 35 weeks, major hit versions were recorded by Dean Martin (number 10 pop in 1965) and Johnny Tillotson (number 17 pop, number 11 country in 1962). Locklin is especially pleased with Dwight Yoakam's 1988 version on the platinum selling "Buenos Noches From A Lonely Room."

"That was really a thrill because that album he cut, it done good all over the world, and the first check I got from it was for about $20,000."

Locklin's greatest claim to fame occurred when he recorded a song rumored to have been a Jim Reeves cast-off, "Please Help Me I'm Falling" (number 1 country, Top 10 pop in 1960). Though his yearning vocal helped it stand apart from other hits of the era, Locklin is quick to give credit for the song's perennial appeal to piano great Floyd Cramer.

"You know that slip note thing on the piano? I said to Chet, ‘If we could get Floyd Cramer to do that on this song, we might just have a big hit.' So, we went through it and said where Floyd should come in on this, that and the other. Then, he kicked it off, and the Jordanaires were with me there too, and we did it in one take! We didn't have to cut it again. Son, when that sucker hit the air - it exploded. Ain't no telling how many records it sold, and it's still selling!"

Although Locklin continued to enjoy great popularity in Great Britain and Ireland, his string of U.S. hits petered out in 1969. During later years, he recorded without much success for MGM and Plantation. In recent times, Locklin's career has been stalled while he deals with a rare red blood cell disease that demands he get transfusions of fresh red cells every three or four weeks.

Locklin's 29-year-old son, Hank Adam Locklin, is responsible for getting his dad back into the studio. Hank Adam earned a degree in music law at the University of Alabama. While nurturing dreams of becoming a fulltime country music songwriter and producer. Currently he works for Loretta Lynn's organization while masterminding his father's re-emergence.

Originally, "Generations In Song" was conceived as a disc of rerecorded hits to be hawked on TV. When problems arose with backers, father and son bought out the project and refashioned it as a rootsy showcase for both the venerable legend and the up and comer.

Years of studiously listening to 33 1/3 LPs gave Locklin the younger a taste for the warm analog sound fashioned by '60's/'70's engineers Bill Porter, Tom Sparkman and the man he eventually hired, Lou Bradley. He also had the foresight to bring in talented studio veterans a la pianist Hargus "Pig" Robbins and guitarist Harold Bradley to help recreate the classic sounds of an earlier era.

Locklin the elder admires his son's prowess behind the glass, but takes extra familial pride in his vocal stylings.

"He and I sound pretty much alike, and I'm glad of that because I was thinking that we're the only father and son team that even comes close to sounding alike like that."

Both Locklin's were awed by Gill's duet with daddy Hank on "Danny Boy." "I can't say enough about Vince Gill," remarks Hank Adam. "He's really just a warm person who put all his heart into this song. When he does that tenor harmony with dad, it'll just raise the hair on your neck!"

Besides frolicking with his step grandkids on the remake of "We're Gonna Goin' Fishin'" (number14 in 1962) Locklin's memories of Dolly Parton are particularly sweet. "The first time I ever heard of her, I was in London, England, and she had this thing out then called 'Dumb Blonde,' and they played it over the radio there. I said, ‘Well, she ain't no dumb blonde. I met her after I came back. Adam was about three years old then, and when we were at the old Ryman together, Dolly'd love on him and hug him and kiss him."

Believing they have a roots music winner on their hands, father and son recently bought ad time for their new disc on the Grand Ole Opry, making Hank Locklin the first Opry artist to sponsor a portion of the show with his own record. As a result, the disc has generated enough sales through Locklin's website that a distributor plans to take the disc national sometime in February.

In the meantime, Locklin hopes to reunite with his son for a country gospel LP in 2002 and might even tour behind "Generations In Song." He asks that fans worried about his illness pray for him, but not to worry about his abilities as a performer.

"My spells with the red blood cells, that's the part that's holding me back some, but it's not bothering my singing."

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