Illustration from the Standard Plumbing Fixtures for the Home catalog, 1927
So, how did I end up listening to '50s honky-tonk? The short answer is that I love the Prefab Sprout song named after Faron Young. The long answer is that I was really enjoying the Louvin Brothers record I picked up recently, and I wanted to check out some of the other stuff coming out of Nashville in the late '50s. I saw a Faron Young CD in the "used bin" - on the cover, Young was wearing a red polo shirt next to the title This Is Faron Young! It looked like a pop album, not a hardcore hillbilly-country record, so I decided to take a chance on it being accessible to someone with little experience with the classic Nashville sound.
As it turns out, This Is Faron Young! is basically a pop album. The arrangements are straight honky-tonk, and Young's singing style makes clear why he was called the "Hillbilly Heartthrob", but the songwriting is filled with hooks and references to partying, cars, and girls. And the interesting this is that the album is largely composed of Young's early singles, going back to 1952's "Tattletale Tears" and "Goin' Steady". In spite of this, the album is very cohesive and consistently high-quality, suggesting that Young formulated a very forward-looking style of country-pop and stuck with it. It's hard to point to a single track that lets the album down - the good songs on This Is Faron Young! are good, and the album has more than a couple great songs that provide standout moments. Among these are "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young", "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')", and the unlikely party anthem "I've Got Five Dollars and It's Saturday Night".
"I've Got Five Dollars and It's Saturday Night" by Faron Young