Faron Young, who is today one of the more underestimated country singers of his generation despite his long career and many hit records, was a hard man for even his friends to peg. That is because, as so aptly described by Diane Diekman in her Faron Young biography, Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story, he was a man of strong contradictions.
Faron Young was one of the nicest men in the world but he was one very mean drunk and no one wanted to be around him when he was drinking heavily (and that was much of the time). He was extremely generous to those who had less then him (often they were songwriters on the way up, such as Willie Nelson) and were in need of a few hundred dollars to tide them over, but was known to refuse his road band the extra five dollars a day that would have made all the difference in the world to them. He loved his children and considered himself to be a good family man but he made it a point to speak of his youngest daughter as his “only little girl” and never publicly acknowledged the other daughter he had out of wedlock or how terrible his relationship with his oldest sons really was. Faron could curse like a sailor, and he usually did, but would behave respectably around the wives of his band members. He had lots of longtime friends and he had lots of longtime enemies. He was an astute businessman who made some terrible business decisions that cost him a whole lot of money.
All of these contradictions, taken as a whole, are probably why so many people explained their toleration for Young’s behavior by saying, “That’s just Faron.” Connie Smith used those words to explain how someone with her temperament could endure working on the road with the fast-living Faron Young. And even Jean Shepard, as brash as she sometimes appears to be, finally refused to go on the road with him any longer.
Longtime Faron Young fans who witnessed him in his prime will probably still find some surprises in, or have their memories nudged by, Diane Diekman’s well-researched and detailed biography. She reminds us that Faron was founder of the influential Music City News and reveals just how much personal money he put into the newspaper in order to keep it afloat long enough for it to pay its own way. Her readers also learn that he would have had more hit records, and number ones, if he had not refused to let his label use payola to move his records up the charts the way record labels bought higher chart positions for so many other singers.
And that is just the beginning of what is packed into Live Fast, Love Hard. The book covers the childhood that may explain Faron’s own cold approach to fatherhood, the national, though bogus, scandals that damaged his career, his failed marriage, and his tragic death at his own hand. About the only thing missing is a comprehensive discography of Faron’s recordings, although the book does mention most, if not all, of his record albums and notes which ones include his biggest hits.
So this is a book both for those who are already fans of Faron Young’s great voice and for those to whom he is hardly more than a name from country music’s past. Put a copy of “Wine Me Up” on the turntable, grab a cold one, prop your boots up on the foot stool, and enjoy this book. If you’re not already a Faron Young fan, you probably will be by the time you finish Live Fast, Love Hard.
Rated at: 4.5