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‘Country’s Greatest Songwriters’ Come to Elmont
The traditional image of country music is of a singer/songwriter strumming his guitar and singing songs about his own life and experiences. There’s a lot of truth in that image, as such country legends as Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson have made their names singing their own songs.
But they sometimes sang songs by other writers, equally brilliant (if lesser-known) in their own right, people like Elsie McWilliams, Fred Rose, Cindy Walker, Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran and Shel Silverstein. They were the artists behind the artists, but their stories have rarely been told.
Now Tennessee Walt is telling those stories in “Tennessee Walt’s Three Chords and the Truth: Country’s Greatest Songwriters,” an all-new show that looks at the people who wrote—but didn’t sing—some of country’s greatest songs, appearing at the Elmont Memorial Library on Friday, April 24.
Tennessee Walt is an Elmont favorite, having presented all four of his previous shows—"The Other Great American Songbook” (2016), “Bristol & Beyond: The Birth of Country Music” (2017), “Hanks a Lot!” (2018) and “Riding with the Outlaws” (2019)—in the library’s magnificent auditorium.
“People don’t think of this part of the Island as a country area,” the singer said, “but I’ve played shows in Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas, not to mention all over Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester, and I’ve rarely found an audience more knowledgeable, curious and interested in learning new things. I come a ways for these shows—I live in norther Queens—but I’m happy to do it. Elmont is a show I look forward to each year, maybe my favorite each season.”
The artists who are profiled in the new show aren’t household names. They’re the likes of Elsie McWilliams, Fred Rose, Cindy Walker, Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran and Shel Silverstein. Cochran, Howard, Rose and Walker are all in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and McWilliams and Silverstein should be, but even many hardcore country fans have no idea who they were.
“You may not know their names,” Wren said, “but you know their songs: ‘Hobo Bill’s Last Ride,’ ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,’ ‘You Don’t Know Me,’ ‘Heartaches by the Number,’ ‘Make the World Go Away’ and ‘A Boy Named Sue’ were all written by these men and women.
“People like Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson were brilliant songwriters,” he continued, “but they were also great judges of songwriting, and they knew a song that would be great for them when they heard it. Williams’ ‘Lost Highway,’ Lynn’s ‘I Want You Out of My Head’ and Nelson’s ‘Always on My Mind’ were all written by other people, and they deserve some of the credit for those songs becoming classics.
“This show is a chance for the people behind the songs to get their day in the sun.”
“Three Chords and the Truth” (the title is from Harlan Howard’s famous definition of a country song) is the fifth show from Tennessee Walt, following on the heels of “The Other Great American Songbook,” “Bristol & Beyond: The Birth of Country Music,” “Hanks a Lot!” and “Riding with the Outlaws.” Those shows have been enthusiastically received in dozens of venues in the greater New York area, as well as in Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas.
“Tennessee Walt’s Three Chords and the Truth: Country’s Greatest Songwriters” will be presented on Friday, April 24, at 12:30 p.m. at the Elmont Memorial Library, 700 Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont. Admission is free. For further information, call (516) 354-5280 or visit www.elmontlibrary.org.