A Song's Life: Tom T. Hall's "The Year Clayton Delaney Died"

Country Music Facts

Flash Picking an Electric Guitar
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If you have heard the country song, "The Year Clayton Delaney Died," you may be interested to know the backstory about the famous Tom T. Hall song. The real person behind the fictitious Delaney was a childhood hero of Hall of Famer Hall. Most people assume that Delaney must have been an old man, but he was actually just a teenager when he died of lung disease.

Hall was about eight years old when he knew Delaney. And Delaney was the first professional singer and guitarist Hall had ever known. He was fascinated by Clayton, who performed around town. Fascinated with his musical talent, Hall studied the way that Delaney played his guitar and sang.

One of the biggest lessons he learned from Delaney, something that actually bothered Hall at the time, was Delaney's preference for singing in his natural voice instead of mimicking the artists whose songs he was covering. After Delaney passed away, Hall decided from that moment on he'd only sing in his natural voice.

When Hall first arrived in Nashville and was writing songs, he thought back to the people who most influenced him growing up. It was then that he remembered Delaney.

"I wrote the song as a tribute to him," Hall was quoted as saying. "But that wasn't his real name. I haven't ever told people his real name because he had a lot of relatives. Oh, but I'd sit around and watch him pick, and he was a real pro." 

"The Year that Clayton Delaney Died" became Hall's second No. 1 country hit on September 18, 1971.

More About "The Storyteller"

He is often referred to as "The Storyteller" for his ability to tell stories in songs. Born in 1936, Hall has written 11 No. 1 hit songs; 26 other tracks reached the Top 10 list. In addition to "The Year Clayton Delaney Died," some of his other popular hits include "Harper Valley PTA," "I Love," and "(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine." In 1973, he won a Grammy Award for Best Album Notes for his album "Tom T. Hall's Greatest Hits." Since 1971, he has been a member of the popular Grand Ole Opry.

During the early 1980s, he served as a television show host for the syndicated show, "Pop! Goes the Country. "

Hall released the album, "Tom T. Hall Sings Miss Dixie & Tom T." on his own bluegrass label Blue Circle Records in 2007. A year later, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.