Dixie Hall’s life and work are honored in the Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum for 2015. The late wife of Country Music Hall of Fame member Tom T. Hall, she was a musical force in her own right. The Museum’s Peter Cooper hosts the program—which includes video, photos, and live musical performances—and tells the story of Dixie Hall’s remarkable life.
Dixie Hall was a prolific bluegrass and country music songwriter, a music journalist, an animal rights activist, an independent music publisher, and record label boss as well as a devoted wife of forty-six years to Tom T. Hall. She died in January of 2015, and is the first posthumous honoree in the history of Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum.
Hall was born in 1934 as Iris Violet May Lawrence in Birmingham, England. In her twenties in England, Iris Lawrence changed her name to Dixie Deen (sometimes it was spelled “Dean”) while working as an entertainer in Buck Ryan’s Rodeo. A chance meeting on a London train with country star Tex Ritter led Hall to help the Country Music Hall of Fame member get his music released by EMI Records in England. She also wrote for the British magazine “Country Western Express.”
Don Pierce of Starday Records in Nashville recognized Hall’s efforts and offered her a job in promotion and publicity. Once in Music City, she began to write for several American country music publications, eventually becoming the de facto editor of “Music City News.”
In an opening video clip, Tom T. Hall recalls meeting his future wife in 1964, at a BMI Awards banquet. Dixie had co-written a Dave Dudley hit, “Truck Drivin’ Son of a Gun.” Tom T.’s song “I Got Lost” was on the 45-rpm single’s flipside. Four years later, they were married. As a wife, Dixie Hall focused on raising basset hounds and on charity work; her Animaland organization raised more than a million dollars for the Nashville Humane Society over the years. When Tom T. retired from the music business, he helped his wife with her Animaland charity. In time, the two started writing bluegrass songs together.
“In the final eighteen years of her life,” says Peter Cooper in the program, “Dixie was involved in the writing of an estimated three thousand bluegrass songs.” For fourteen consecutive years, Dixie and Tom T. were named songwriters of the year by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America. Dixie also won a Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association, and three albums she recorded under the Daughters of Bluegrass banner also won IBMA awards.
In 2014, Miranda Lambert recorded the Dixie and Tom T. Hall song “All That’s Left” and released it on her album “Platinum,” which was named CMA Album of the Year. Tom T. Hall said his wife “even wrote her own epitaph, ‘Let Me Fly Low.’” The song is performed in beautiful three-part harmony during the program by Carl Jackson, Val Storey, and Jerry Salley, with Jackson on acoustic guitar.
Several other songs are performed, all written or co-written by Dixie Hall. The performers include Chris Jones, with his Night Drivers bandmates Ned Luberecki and Jon Weisberger, and North Carolina-based duo Heather Berry and Tony Mabe.
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