Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

“Fast Talking Louisiana Man”: Merle Kilgore in Character

Merle Kilgore, we learn from the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame website, signed more than a few recording contracts in his life:

1953:  signed his first recording contract with Imperial Records
1959:  recorded albums for Starday (contract presumably signed)
1961:  signed recording contract with Mercury Records
1963:  signed with MGM Records
1965:  signed with Epic Records
1967:  signed with Columbia Records
1968:  signed with Ashley Records
1972:  re-signed with Starday Records
1974:  signed with Warner Brothers Records

From the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame website we learn that Merle, who literally carried Hank Williams’ guitar, wrote his first #1 hit (“More and More“) at the age of 18.  Given that Kilgore is Oklahoman by birth, “Fast Talking Louisiana Man” should not be construed as autobiographical:

Vinyl collector David M. McKee writes in a short bio that by the mid-60s, “Merle headlined in Las Vegas and Reno and played Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.   In 1966, he surfaced on Mercury with Merle Kilgore, The Tall Texan (Merle was 6’ 4”).  By 1967, Merle was with Columbia and returned to the charts with ‘Fast Talking Louisiana Man,’ which peaked in the Top 75.”

Arranged & produced by Bob Johnston

Merle’s career highlights include a number of well-known songs – “Ring of Fire“; “Wolverton Mountain“; “Johnny Reb“; “42 in Chicago” – but what’s striking is the sheer number of songwriting partners Kilgore has worked with:

  • Faron Young
  • Claude King
  • Margie Singleton
  • June Carter
  • Johnny Cash
  • Dale Hawkins
  • Mack Vickery
  • Lefty Frizzell
  • Glenn Sutton
  • Gail Talley
  • Miriam Lewis
  • Al Jones
  • Billy Jones
  • Abe Mulkey
  • Tillman Franks
  • Joe Stampley
  • Ronnie Wilkins
  • Leon Ashley
  • Sonny Williams
  • Kay Arnold
  • Bob Tubert
  • Hank Williams, Jr.

Even more striking – shocking, actually – is the near absence of any Merle Kilgore product in the Amazon database:  pull up his name, click on it, and you get but one title.   Unreal.  But the truth is, Merle was a songwriter for others much more than he was a solo artist.

Kilgore would later serve for many years on the Country Music Association’s Board of Directors beginning in 1989.   Merle would also begin a career in 1986 as Hank Williams, Jr.’s manager — voted the first Country Music Association “Manager of the Year” in 1990.

Jack Clement, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Jr. & Merle Kilgore in 1988

Merle Kilgore & Friends

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