Very soon (April 4), we'll mark the anniversary of the death of the legendary Red Sovine, the crusty country baritone warbler who absolutely perfected the art of delivering sob-inducing histrionic recitations. Sovine, who died in 1980 at the age of 61, is probably best remembered these days for the 1976 record Teddy Bear, the story of a crippled boy with a CB and the truck drivers who happily accede to his wish for a ride in the cab of an 18-wheeler. Sovine's triumphs go way beyond poignant recitations though, and include several handfuls of fine honky-tonkers, many with a truck-driving theme. While much of this material remains out of print, the folks at Ace Records in the UK have assembled an excellent collection of some of Sovine's most enjoyable work called Honky-Tonks, Truckers & Tears. If you're looking to dip your toe into Red's world, there is probably no finer introduction.
Look, I know I'm jumping the gun a little bit here calendar-wise, but let me be clear: we're talking about a matter of days, not weeks, until the anniversary and I wanted to do my part to get the word out in plenty of time for you to make plans.
Kliph Nesteroff did a fine job of memorializing many of the most interesting highlights of Red's long career here on Beware Of The Blog a while back, so instead of regurgitating his effort I'm going to share a few obituaries and photos that I don't think have seen the light of day on the internet.
The photo below shows Red's 1979 Ford Van in the aftermath of the crash that resulted from the heart attack he likely experienced at the intersection of Battery and Lealand Lanes in south Nashville. He barreled through the intersection and struck a car driven by 25-year-old Edgar Primm, who suffered facial cuts for which he was treated at St. Thomas Hospital. Strange but true: on the day of the accident, the Nashville Banner frontpaged a story headlined NASHVILLE TRAFFIC DEATHS CUT IN HALF; KEEP IT UP!
Below is a recent photo of the fatal intersection.
The accident took place a a few short miles from Red's house on Stillwood Drive, which can be seen below. The address was verified in a volume of the City Directory in the main branch of the Nashville Library. City directories, by the way, are pretty fascintating in that they frequently list the names of people who would probably have never appeared in the phone book. I'm not sure exactly how that happened, but fishing through old city directories will often reveal addresses and phone numbers of some pretty notable people. I've found that true in both Nashville (where directories reveal the old addresses of people like Faron Young, Webb Pierce, Grady Martin, Porter Wagoner, Hank Snow) and Atlanta where I've verified the former addresses of people like Hank Aaron, Freddie Blassie and Hank Ballard. For some reason, city directories seem to have disappeared in the last decade or two but if you're fishing for old residential information or what used to be where your favorite bar now is, city directories are highly recommened.
Below: Red Sovine's former house on Stillwood Drive in Nashville. Do the current residents know (or care) about who used to live there? Who knows.
Above: The Tennessean, April 5, 1980.
Above: The Nashville Banner, April 5, 1980.