If you’ve never seen a picture of young Willie Nelson, be warned: It’s discombobulating .
A Brief History of “Hello Walls”
Long before “On the Road Again”, “Hello Walls” was Willies first hit, and the song that lifted him from obscurity. Hello Walls was intended to be a co-write between Willie and Hank Cochran, but Hank stepped out of the room for a few minutes. Willie tells the story best:
One afternoon, after we had just sat around throwing the bull, Hank said, “I’m going to the office to make a few calls. You work on something by yourself.”
Work on what? My mind was blank. All I could do was look around and say, “Hello Walls”.
That was probably a stupid way to start a song, but what the hell? It was better than nothing.
“Hello Walls,” I kept singing to myself. “How’d things go for you today?”
But where was the story? I needed a story. What was I going to say to the walls?
“Don’t you miss her since she up and walked away?”
That was it. That’s all I needed. I was up and running.
“I’ll bet you dread to spend another lonely night with me. But lonely walls, I’ll keep you company.”
Well, hell: if I could talk to the walls, I could sure as shit talk to the window.
“Hello, window. I see you’re still here. Aren’t you lonely since our darling disappeared? Is that a teardrop in the corner of your pane? Now don’t you try to tell me that it’s rain.”
And if I addressed the walls and the window, what about the ceiling?
“Hello, ceiling. I’m gonna stare at you awhile. You know I can’t sleep so won’t you bear with me awhile?”
Basically, that was it. Sitting in that garage room, all I had to do was deal with what was in front of me – the walls, window, and ceiling. I just had to look around and suddenly the song was there.
By the time Hank came back from his phone call, I’d found a little harmony to carry the lyrics.
“Come up with anything?” he asked.
“Came up with something pretty silly,” I said, “but maybe it’s worth a listen.”
Hank listened to me singing it and said, “It’s worth a fuckin’ fortune. Willie, my friend, you just wrote a hit.”
Faron Young has a number 1 hit with “Hello Walls”
1961 was the year Faron Young’s version hit number 1 on the country charts, selling 2 million copies. Willie tried to sell the song to Faron for $500 because he was barely getting by, but instead Faron loaned him the $500 to tide him over.
Faron: I took the song out to the Boars Nest and a few of you guys was sittin’ around and I sang it and everybody laughed. They was going around “hello commode, hello bathtub, hello sink…where did you get that terrible piece of material?” And I sang it to Sue (Brewer), she said “thats a hit honey, you cut that thing.” And me and you laughed all the way to the bank, didn’t we?
Willie: I tried to sell it to you one time, remember that?
Faron: He did, he tried to sell me “Hello, Walls” for $500. Cause I told him how many it sold, he thought I was hyping it, you know? I said “no, no, don’t you sell this son” I’m going to loan you some money. And I loaned him the money, and about 6 weeks later he got another check for like $20,000.
I was sitting in Tootsie’s, and this arm came around my neck, squeezed my mouth open, and he french kissed me. And it was the best kiss I ever had! And we’ve been close ever since!
Willie: I was gonna pay you that $500 back one time when I had it and he wouldn’t take it. He said, ‘No, you raise me a cow, and whenever that calf gets up old enough to butcher, well you give her to me’. She’s about 7,000 lbs now!
Years passed. I was playing a rodeo in Austin when they auctioned off a bull. My son Billy bought it but didn’t have the cash, so I wound up paying the $15,000. I loaded it in a trailer and sent it to Faron’s office in Nashville. He went out to the driveway and found a registered two-thousand-pound prize Seminole bull with a note that said, “Here’s that calf I owe you.” Faron took the bull out to pasture, where he and his partner Jimmy C. Newman, a star of the Grand Ole Opry, used it for breeding for years.