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Hillbilly Heaven




According to Hal Southern, the song "I Dreamed Of A Hillbilly Heaven," came from a dream!

Hal said, "Squeakin' Deacon Moore" was a popular west coast disc jockey and he was always talking about Bell Garden , California being "hillbilly heaven," because so many country music stars lived there. I suppose hearing Moore talk about it so much just caused me to dream about it that night So I woke up the next morning and the song was almost written. All I had to do was just put it on paper. The song came off just like the dream! I never knew that a dream could change your life—but that dream-and that song—certainly changed mine!

But Tex Ritter said, "I turned down that song when it was first submitted to me for recording. It was submitted by the writers-Eddie Dean and Hal Southern. At that time there were about five recordings of the song...Eddie had recorded it—Hal recorded it—The Frontiersmen had it out—Anita Carter recorded it...there were about five or six records out on the song back then.

I always thought about the song and some five years later, Eddie Dean mentioned the tune to me again and asked me "Why don't you record that song?" About that time I was recording an album "The Lincoln Hymns"—which didn't do too well. That was in the early 60's and everybody was getting ready for the 100th anniversary of The Civil War. So I asked record producer Lee Gillette if we could slip a single record in on the album sessions. And he said it would have to be something from left field because country music ballads weren't selling too well at the moment. I told him it was that "Hillbilly Heaven" song we had talked about some five years ago. So we recorded the song and we had just the right background on the session that the song needed...about 16 voices—with Ralph Carmichael arranging and conducting. So we recorded the song during one of those " Lincoln Hymns" sessions."

"1 suppose the " Lincoln Hymns" album sold less that any album I ever did but I guess "Hillbilly Heaven" paid for those sessions and more!"

Tex concluded, "So I recorded the song some five years after it was written and all those other recordings were made. But I didn't care for the word "hillbilly" and Hal and Eddie told me I could change the song any way I wanted to. So we kicked several ideas around—like 'cowboy heaven" and things like that but finally decided to leave it as it was—although I did change several lyrics in the song. And Hal and Eddie said that since I had changed some of the lyrics...! was entitled to a third of the song as a writer. But that was just on my version...not on the copyright—so I took it!

"I Dreamed Of A Hillbilly Heaven" was a # 10 hit for Eddie Dean in 1955, a # 5 hit for Tex Ritter in 1961 and a # 92 hit for Red Simpson in 1976.






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Copyright © 2005 Ron Hoysted
Last modified: November 10, 2006