Tom T. Hall

Tom T Hall

Tom T. Hall is known as a storyteller, a songwriter with a keen eye for detail and a knack for narrative.

Hall is the son of a bricklaying minister, who gave his child a guitar at the age of eight. He had already begun to write poetry, so it was a natural progression for him to begin writing songs. Hall began learning music and performing techniques from a local musician called Clayton Delaney. At the age of 11, his mother died. Four years later, his father was shot in a hunting accident, which prevented him from working. In order to support himself and his father, Hall quit school and took a job in a local garment factory. While he was working in the factory, he formed his first band, the Kentucky Travelers. The group played bluegrass and gigged at local schools as well as a radio station in Morehead, KY. The station was sponsored by the Polar Bear Flour Company; Hall wrote a jingle for the company. After the Kentucky Travelers broke up, Hall became a DJ at the radio station.

In 1957, Hall enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Germany. While in Germany, he performed at local NCO clubs on the Armed Forces Radio Network, where he sang mostly original material, which usually had a comic bent to it. After four years of service, he was discharged in 1961. Once he returned to the States, he enrolled in Roanoke College as a journalism student; he supported himself by DJing at radio station WBLU in Salem, VA. Dave Moran remembers sitting with Tom and others at the station and they would make up lyrics and songs. It has been said that the Harper Valley PTA was composed at the station. It's almost certain that "Ode to a Half Pound of Ground" was written in the area.

Ode to a Half a Pound of Ground Round

This is the song about the time I nearly starved to death in Roanoke, Virginia

I woke up Wednesday morning in my little motel bed

Knowing I would die the minute that I move my head

I felt around to make sure I was in my bed alone

I meet some friendly people when I'm stoned

My payday was on Friday I had two more days to go

Even in my agony I knew that I was broke

Lemme pay the check I said and keep the change my friend

She wiggled out of sight with my last ten

At noon I realized there wasn't any way to eat

For lunch I just went out and shuffled up and down the street

At four o'clock I had a funny feeling in my chest

How long's it take to starve a man to death

I found some pennies in my junk and bought a candy bar

Divided it in pieces and I ate one every hour

I just rolled into town and didn't know a single soul

There wasn't any way to make a loan

[ dobro ]

Thursday morning I was nearly panicked on the job

I heard my stomach growlin' and my head began to throb

I contemplated murder of the folks that brought their lunch

The sudden smell of food would make me jump

Thursday night they run all food commercials on TV

I slept till nine or ten and then I walked the floor to three

Friday morning I looked for some ketchup on my shirts

My mind was gone my legs began to hurt

The last few minutes up to payin' time were all the worst

The minutes were the years it took to build the universe

Finally it came I got my check and made a dash yes I said the man will eat at last

Running down the sidewalk I could see the words so sweet

The sign was flashin' on and on Eat Eat Eat

A half o'pound of ground round ma'm and please don't cook it long

The frizzle of the grill was like a song

I've traveled this world over and I ain't been hungry much

I've been down in my thinking and I've been down on my luck

But the sweetest meal I've ever had in anybody's town

Was a half a pound of plain ground round ground round


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