Remembering Sneaky Snake and Tom T. Hall

For some reason I can't explain, the song "Sneaky Snake" popped into my head this morning. I haven't thought about that song in years—maybe decades, even. It's a silly song about a snake who steals root beer that my sister and I used to sing when we were kids. I have no idea how we were introduced to it, but it certainly stuck with us and brought us a lot of joy! So this morning I really needed to hear it again, and thankfully, it was easy to find online. Here's a great live rendition, performed by Tom T. Hall, who wrote and recorded the studio version in 1974. The song was included as the B-side of Hall's single "I care," and was included on the album "Songs of Fox Hollow."

While I remember Sneaky Snake very clearly, I didn't actually know anything about the man who wrote and recorded it, so I decided to poke around the internet and learn. Tom T. Hall was born in 1936 and, sadly, died just over a year ago. He had an outstanding career in the country music industry—he had 12 number one songs, and 26 others that landed in the Top Ten. Even if you don't know him, you might know one of the first hit songs he wrote, "Harper Valley PTA," which was recorded by Jeannie C. Riley in 1968, when it hit the top spot on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country Singles charts. 

He's a musician who, rightfully, continues to be celebrated. I found three separate occasions in the last couple of weeks honoring Tom T. Hall, which serve as a testament to the impact his work has had across many genres of music. Last weekend in Carter County, Kentucky, the Olive Hill Chamber of Commerce held its annual "It's Fall, Y'all" festival, which featured music and activities honoring Hall. The Carter County Times explains:

The Olive Hill Chamber of Commerce will hold their sixth annual It's Fall Y'all vendor and craft festival this Saturday, with a variety of events and entertainment throughout the day. While old favorites like the Punkin' Chunkin' contest and Bed Racing are back, event organizers Lisa Conley and Tammy Moore said this year there is an increased focus on local musical entertainment, as the event seeks to celebrate the life and legacy of singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall.

Hall, who passed away last year, was known for his story songs based on life in and around Olive Hill, so Conley and Moore said they wanted to spotlight other artists who were inspired by life in Carter County. Three of the young musicians – Roy Utley, Corey Hedge, and Tyler Stinson – are from the Olive Hill area, Conley explained. Keeley Overbee, the final performer of the day, is the only artist who isn't local, hailing from Winchester.

And last week, the International Bluegrass Music Association sponsored a panel dedicated to remembering and celebrating the music and life of Tom T. Hall and his wife and fellow musician Dixie Hall. Bluegrass Today explains:

In an IBMA Saturday morning session, a panel of musicians shared memories and melodies of the late Tom T and Dixie Hall, entitled That's How I Got To Memphis – A Celebration Of The Songs Of Tom T. Hall & Miss Dixie. Sitting on the dais were some of those in bluegrass that knew the songwriters best: Joe Newberry, Johnny and Jeanette Williams, Chris Jones, Rebekah Speer, and Troy Engle. Newberry had to leave early for a banjo workshop, but his vacancy was filled by Darin and Brooke Aldridge.

And finally, this past Sunday, Wilco played a series of 3 back-to-back surprise shows at Carol's pub in Chicago. While they played songs off their newest album Cruel Country, they also performed some terrific cover songs, including one by Tom T. Hall. Brooklyn Vegan explains:

Wilco's sets featured songs from this year's Cruel Country, and a few from Being There and A.M., but the bulk of their sets were covers, including Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," Tom T Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis," Roger Miller's "Reincarnation" and Grateful Dead's "US Blues." They also played Uncle Tupelo's "New Madrid."

If you don't know Tom T. Hall, go check out his work. And if you do, join me in celebrating his life and legacy.