Bear Family Records has long showed its love for Lefty Frizzell. The award-winning reissue label compiled its first Frizzell compilation — the 14-LP His Life, His Music —in 1984. In 1992, Bear Family released Life’s Like Poetry, a 12-CD box set updated and expanded with many non-session recordings. Now, more than 25 years later, the label has topped itself with An Article From Life: The Complete Recordings, due out in the U.S. on October 19, 2018. Undeniably the most definitive collection of the country star’s material, this majestic 20-CD anthology delivers a complete assembling of Frizzell’s recordings — including many tracks not on the prior Bear Family releases — that provide a fascinating, in-depth look at this legendary musician’s work. No less an authority than the acclaimed author/producer Colin Escott has hailed this epic release as “the cornerstone of every country music collection.”
An Article From Life’s first nine CDs chronologically cover Frizzell’s 25-year recording career. Disc One kicks off with the two songs on his 1950 breakout first single, “I Love You a Thousand Ways” and “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time,” while Disc Nine ends with “Life’s Like Poetry,” a Merle Haggard tune from his last album, Classic Style, which released just months before Frizzell’s tragic death in 1975, when he was just 47 years old. In between are 260-some tracks, all newly remastered, of all the songs Frizzell released on 45, 78 and LP, featuring such signature numbers as “Always Late (With Your Kisses),” “Look What Thoughts Will Do,” “Forever (and Always),” “Long Black Veil,” “She’s Gone Gone Gone,” and “Saginaw, Michigan.” A full track listing can be found at https://www.bear-family.com/frizzell-lefty-an-article-from-life-the-complete-recordings-20-cd-deluxe-box-set-und-book.html
The set’s next trio of CDs dig even deeper into the Frizzell vaults. The first two discs are stocked with 71 tracks of demos and private recordings that include material going back to the 1940s. The third disc, meanwhile, presents hard-to-find radio recordings that Frizzell did for the Navy and Air Force on Country Music Time and for the U.S. Army-produced Country Style USA. An Article From Life’s final eight discs offer an audio book version of the well-regarded biography I Love You a Thousand Ways: The Lefty Frizzell Story read by its author, David Frizzell, Lefty’s little brother and a country music star in his own right.
Bear Family Records is known for truly deluxe releases, and An Article From Lifeis no exception. Included in this new Frizzell box set is an updated biography and discography as well as a newly designed 264-page hardcover book and an array of previously unseen photos courtesy of the Frizzell family.
William Orville Frizzell was born on March 31, 1928 outside of Dallas in the oil and farm town of Corsicana, Texas. He picked up the nickname “Lefty” after a school fight, and not because he was a prizefighter, as legend has had it. He worked in the oil fields and spent some time in jail before focusing his sights on a music career.
Discovered during his yearlong stint at the Ace of Clubs in Big Spring, Texas, Frizzell was signed to Columbia Records in 1950. It would be hard to find a musician whose career skyrocketed faster. Both sides of his very first single — “I Love You a Thousand Ways” and “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time” — became massive hits. In fact, Frizzell had eight songs crack the Top Ten in 1951. At one point, he even had four tunes on Billboard’s Top 10 — “I Want to Be With You Always,” “Always Late (With Your Kisses),” “Mom and Dad’s Waltz,” and “Travelin’ Blues” — a feat only surpassed by the Beatles.
His amazing run of hits continued in 1952 as “How Long Will It Take (To Stop Loving You),” “Don’t Stay Away (Till Love Grows Cold),” “Forever (and Always),” and “I’m an Old, Old Man (Tryin’ to Live While I Can)” all landed in the Top 10.
Following his huge initial success (which included joining and then quickly quitting the Grand Ole Opry), Frizzell headed west in 1953 to Los Angeles, where he was a regular on the TV/radio show Town Hall Party until 1960. Although hits continued during the ’50s with “(Honey, Baby, Hurry!) Bring Your Sweet Self Back to Me,” “Run ’Em Off,” “I Love You Mostly,” and “Cigarettes and Coffee Blues,” further chart success turned elusive. Frizzell’s meteoric rise was derailed by the mid-’50s, due to an unfortunatecombination of bad management, poor career choices, a shift in the public’s music tastes, and Frizzell’s heavy drinking problem.
Returning to Nashville, Frizzell enjoyed a few hits during the ’60s. His 1964 classic, “Saginaw, Michigan,” was the last of his 17 Number One tunes, although he kept making music for another decade, right up until his death. Frizzell’s musical legacy, however, goes way beyond the numbers, as his influence spread far and wide through country music.
You can hear traces of Lefty in Nashville stars from George Jones to Keith Whitley and Randy Travis. Roy Orbison took the name Lefty as his moniker in the Traveling Wilburys. Willie Nelson’s To Lefty From Willie is an entire album of Frizzell tunes. Merle Haggard not only paid tribute to Frizzell on several albums, but he also proclaimed that “the impact he had on country music, and on me, is not even measurable,” and described Frizzell as having “the soul of Hank Williams, the appeal of Johnny Cash and the charisma of Elvis Presley.” That impact was felt beyond country: The Band covered “Long Black Veil” on Music From Big Pink. Among Frizzell’s posthumous accolades was his 1982 Country Music Hall of Fame induction and a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.
Of his idol, Haggard stated, “there’s no way I can describe the effect Lefty Frizzell had.” Echoing Haggard’s praise, the esteemed music critic Robert Hilburn wrote in his Los Angeles Times’ review of the Life’s Like Poetry box set that Frizzell was “arguably the greatest male singer in post-World War II country music.” Listening to his music on the An Article From Life you will come away a complete understanding of what made Frizzell the King of Honky Tonk.