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Honky Tonk Man

 

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"Honky Tonk Man" was the song that got Johnny and I started, " says Tillman Franks, Johnny Horton's manager, who was also a booking agent, bass player, songwriter, and country music impresario.

Tillman adds, "Howard Halsey, who went by the name of Howard Crockett, had the original idea for the song, but it was too much like "Why Baby Why" so Johnny and I changed it around, so it wound up that Howard, Johnny and myself co-wrote the finished tune."

"Webb Pierce and Jim Denny helped us get a recording contract with Columbia Records. We rehearsed "Honky Tonk Man" for several weeks until we had the arrangement the way we wanted it. I decided we'd get a better recording of the song, if we could get Bill Black--Elvis Presley's bass player--to play bass on the session."

"So on the way to Nashville, we went by Presley's house to ask him about getting Bill Black to play bass.
Natalie Woods and Nick Adams were visiting him at the time.  When the guard called up to the house to
tell Elvis we were there, he ran all the way down the driveway to meet us."

"Johnny Horton joked with Elvis and told him that we came by to borrow ten dollars and could he  please loan it to us?"

"Elvis told him "sure you can have the ten dollars--but is that all you need?" Johnny  told Elvis he could keep the
ten dollars but we wanted Bill Black to play bass on our recording session in Nashville."

"Elvis agreed for Bill to play on the session but he didn't want Bill Blacks' name on the record."

According to Tillman, Elvis said he wanted folks to think it was Tillman playing bass on the record and not Bill Black.

According to Tillman, "All these years, most folks still think that's me playing bass on 

"Honky Tonk Man"...but it's not...it's Bill Black."

The session was recorded at Columbia Studios in Nashville.  Bill Black did play bass  and Grady Martin played lead guitar.

Tillman said the session worked out perfect and that he got so excited listening 

to the playback that he asked Johnny Horton, "Johnny, do you know  how long I've been sold on you?" Horton replied, "No, how long?" "Five minutes," Tillman repied.

"Honky Tonk Man" made the charts May 5th, 1956, peaked at number 9 and was charted for 12 weeks.

Johnny Horton was killed in an auto accident November 5th, 1960

 

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Copyright 2005 Ron Hoysted
Last modified: November 21, 2006