Country Music People December 2018 - Page 63

Guam and Okinawa. During his stint, he also began pickin’ and singin’ for fellow troopers at area clubs. Following discharge, he headed to Texas, initially working regular day jobs. In 1949, he came to Nashville, and met Hank Williams, who was just hitting his stride with Lovesick Blues, a great inspiration to the young entertainer. Despite his lack of education, Hart himself had a natural flair for expressing feelings musically. “I remember when I was just a young fellow, and I used to stand outside the Ryman, trying to look through the windows to catch a glimpse of all the great Opry stars,” mused Hart. “I was grieving my heart out because I wanted to be a part of it. I guess I’ve shed many of my tears on the streets of Nashville.” Opry great George Morgan was reportedly the first to record a Freddie Hart song (his new stage name) - Every Little Thing Rolled Into One - on Columbia in 1952. Another younger legend Lefty Frizzell encouraged Hart to pursue a music career, and even took him on as a bandsman. Thanks to Frizzell’s recommendation, Freddie was first signed to Capitol Records and the subsequent recording of his song Loose Talk was heard and soon covered by Carl Smith, another Columbia artist. Dropped by Capitol in 1956, Hart himself next signed to Columbia Records. On March 10, 1957, auburn-haired Freddie married Virginia Lee (Ginger) Trendall. While on the West Coast, Hart became a regular on the Town Hall Party telecast, alongside such notables as Johnny Bond, Merle Travis, Tex Ritter and Mac Wiseman. Another associate he came to know out there was promising songwriter Harlan Howard. Hart’s first five Billboard chartings came courtesy Howard’s compositional skills: The Wall, Chain Gang, both in 1959; The Key’s In The Mailbox, 1960; Lyin’ Again, and What a Laugh!, both 1961, all within the Top 20 chart margin of error. Incidentally, Freddie co- wrote What a Laugh! with Harlan, another Bakersfield pal of Buck Owens, who would engage Hart as part of his All American Country touring package, boasting such other promising talents as Tommy Collins and Dick Curless. Come summer 1971, Capitol canned Freddie for the second time, as their newest single by him Brother Bluebird began tanking; however, some far-sighted DJs, first off in Atlanta, began flipping the disc to its B side - Easy Loving - and suddenly our hero’s career was resuscitated, thanks to all those radio requests for his silky, sexy ballad. Hart found himself in high cotton indeed, re-signed by Capitol, while even pop radio’s phones were ringing off the hook, and Easy Loving quickly hit platinum in sales, becoming a hot pop Top 20, and soaring three weeks as a #1 country charter. (Reportedly, that Easy Loving disc produced by George Richey eventually tallied some five million in sales, rare for a country record.) Additionally, the song earned Billboard’s prestigious ranking as number one song of the year on its Hot Country Singles 1971 chart. Lanky, unassuming country click Hart was already in his mid-40s, but now very much in-demand nationally as well as internationally. Apart from its CMA honours, the hit also helped him clean up at the Academy of Country Music’s 1972 awards gala, carrying home best album, best single, best song, best male vocalist and Entertainer of the Year trophies! Far from a one-hit wonder, Grammy-nominated Hart followed that smash with another five #1 singles: My Hang-Up Is You, Bless Your Heart, Got The All Overs For You (All Over Me), Super Kind Of Woman and Trip To Heaven. Further, he placed a trio of albums in top spot, as well - Easy Loving, Got the All Overs For You and Super Kind Of Woman - plus another six LPs in Top 10 status. On the singles list, he scored a Baker’s Dozen chartings. “I’ve had just about every award in country music you can get,” said Hart, with great sincerity. “I have been so blessed. Everybody’s arms and hearts have been wide open for me.” Hart also pursued other interests off stage, notably as a Black Belt exponent in judo and jujitsu, he taught classes in self-defense at the Los Angeles Police Academy: “Most of what I’ve learned is jujitsu, open-hand judo... it teaches about how God made you, your weak points, your strong points. It’s also a mental thing you learn about discipline and patience, and above all it teaches you to humble yourself.” Freddie feels once you know how to fight, you generally don’t have to and you don’t want to: “I’ll tell you one thing, and you can quote it, hurt don’t feel good!” He also owned his own trucking company in Burbank, a chain of martial arts studios, a publishing firm, and a school for handicapped children. In 1988, he was finally able to record his first gospel album I Will Never Die for the indie Fifth Street Records, thanks, too, to 12 very good songs, nine of which he wrote. “The reason I haven’t recorded such an album before is that no one would let me do it,” explained Hart, who recorded for five major labels that preferred to cash in on the singer’s smooth way with a country love song. The track Dedicating All of Me is a beautiful, haunting testimonial of his faith. He weaved in a great hook on Heaven Is Only Knee High, proclaiming Heaven and our Savior are really right there when we kneel to pray. Help Me Be Worthy takes the form of a musical prayer, and his delivery deserved to be cited for its excellent interpretation. “Yes, with all my heart I am pleased by this album, he confided during an interview, noting that he intended to perform its selections at his regular gigs, back then including stops in Branson, Mo. “I would not play any place that I could not do my gospel songs. Life is very real to me. I write songs that way and I sing that way.” Even then at age 61, the 6’2” inch former Marine weighed in at a trim 195 pounds. His 48th and final Billboard charting, Best Love I Never Had, a year earlier was also cut for the Fifth Street label. Hart’s last studio effort, God Bless You, will be released on Nashville America Records in the new year via Sony Music. Produced by fellow artist David Frizzell, the collection includes 11 new songs from the Hart catalog, and a reprise of his classic Easy Loving. For Freddie it proved yet another labor of love, mainly due to his devotion to gospel music, and for the opportunity to work with David, whose late brother Lefty played such a huge part in Hart’s early career climb. “I have known Freddie Hart most of my life, thanks to my brother Lefty,” stated David. “I was just about 12 or 13 years old at the time (that Lefty helped Freddie). When I got my first record deal with Columbia at 18, my first single was a Freddie Hart song (Love Baby).” He also recalled, “Freddie and I worked with the great Buck Owens in the early 1970’s... One of my great honours was having Freddie ask me to produce an album, which will now become his final recording. He heard the mix just the other night on the first single and he called it ‘beautiful,’ and just like Freddie himself, it is. The song (This Time Of Year) is a Christmas song to be released in November. I am honoured to have been a part of this project, but more honored to have called Freddie a lifelong friend. ‘Say Hello to Heaven’ for me, Freddie,” added David, referencing another country song. cmp DECEMBER 2018 - cmp 63