Hank Cochran gives a spirited interview about his long career as a songwriter—with anecdotes about Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline, as well as stories behind country classics including “Don’t Touch Me” and “Ocean Front Property”—during a Poets and Prophets program at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Held on March 24, 2007, the program begins with a 1967 clip from “The Porter Wagoner Show,” with Country Music Hall of Fame member Cochran singing a medley of his compositions, including “I Fall to Pieces,” “Make the World Go Away,” “Don’t Touch Me,” and “A Little Bitty Tear.”
Cochran talks about his childhood in Mississippi, his formal education (which ended in the fourth grade), and early interest in poetry. Noticing that his uncle’s guitar playing attracted the interest of women, a young Hank Cochran decided he wanted to learn how to play. After a stint in New Mexico, he moved to Los Angeles and teamed with pop singer Eddie Cochran (no relation) to form a duo called The Cochran Brothers. Because he couldn’t stand the audiences screaming and grabbing at him, he abandoned the duo to become a country songwriter.
Music publisher Pamper Music sent Cochran to Nashville to write songs and find talent, and his arrival in Music City in 1960 ushered in a career that ranged from discovering fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member Willie Nelson to writing member George Strait’s 1987 classic “Ocean Front Property.”
Cochran details Hall of Fame member Patsy Cline’s initial dislike of “I Fall to Pieces,” a song he wrote with fellow member Harlan Howard, along with the inspiration for “She’s Got You” and her enthusiasm for Willie Nelson’s demo of “Crazy.” He also shares a story about writing “Don’t Touch Me” after driving past a mental asylum. Though Hall of Fame member Buck Owens tried to cut it first, the classic ballad became a signature for Jeannie Seely, who was married to Cochran from 1969 to 1979.
As the program winds down, Hank Cochran insists that he never wanted to pursue a career as a recording artist, despite having some charting singles, including “Sally Was a Good Old Girl.”
“If you get the big head in this town, look around. There’s something right next to you that probably outwrites you and can outsing you,” he notes. “I wanted to write songs and get ’em recorded.”
During an exchange with audience members, he reveals his favorite of his songs, his personal grief upon Patsy Cline’s death, and recognizing the star quality in Willie Nelson. Asked for his advice for songwriters, he says, “Make it short, make it sweet, make it rhyme.”
The program ends with Hank Cochran singing an original song titled “Ain’t Life Hell.”
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