LifeNotes: Bluegrass Song Great Dixie Hall Passes

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• January 19, 2015
Pictured (L-R): Perry, Dixie Hall, and Jody Williams. Photo: Alan Mayor

Pictured (L-R): Perry Howard, Dixie Hall, and Jody Williams. Photo: Alan Mayor

Award-winning bluegrass songwriter and former top country-music journalist Dixie Hall has passed away at age 80.

The wife of Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Tom T. Hall died on Friday, January 15, following a long illness. She and her husband won Songwriter of the Year honors from SPBGMA (the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America) for 10 consecutive years. She also co-wrote songs with Jeanette Williams, Billy Smith and Country Music Hall of Fame member Maybelle Carter, among others.

Dixie Hall founded the record label Blue Circle Records, the publishing company Good Home Grown Music and a recording studio. In the 1960s, she was the editor of country music’s biggest periodical.
Born Iris Violet May Lawrence in a town near Manchester, England, she wrote poetry as a youngster. During the 1950s, she became a country-music fan and began working as an overseas representative for Tex Ritter, Starday Records and other Nashvillians.

She moved to Music City in 1961 and was adopted by the legendary Maybelle Carter. Iris Lawrence adopted “Dixie Dean” as her Nashville pen name. She and Carter co-wrote the Johnny Cash songs “A Letter From Home” and “Troublesome Waters.”

Bobby Cyrus with Tom T. and Dixie Hall. Photo: Bev Moser

Bobby Cyrus with Tom T. and Dixie Hall. Photo: Bev Moser

Also as “Dixie Dean,” she co-wrote the 1965 Dave Dudley hit “Truck Drivin’ Son-of-a-Gun.” Under this same byline, she wrote celebrity profiles for the Music City News fan magazine and eventually became its editor. She met Tom T. Hall at a BMI awards banquet in 1964. They married in 1968. For many years, she raised and trained award-winning basset hounds while her husband became a country superstar.

Dixie Hall reactivated her songwriting in the 1990s. Tom T. Hall wanted to retire, but she urged him to continue writing by becoming his collaborator. This is also when she established their record label, song-publishing company and recording studio, all headquartered at their Williamson County home, Fox Hollow.

She subsequently wrote or co-wrote more than 500 recorded bluegrass songs. They were sung by a who’s-who of the genre, including The Grascals, Special Consensus, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, Don Rigsby, Josh Williams, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, James Monroe, Dale Ann Bradley, Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Little Roy Lewis and Paul Williams.

She produced the all-female ensemble Daughters of Bluegrass. The group’s Pickin’ Like a Girl record was totally comprised of Dixie Hall songs and won an award from the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) in 2010.

Carlene Carter included Dixie’s co-written “Troublesome Waters” on her 2014 CD Carter Girl. Miranda Lambert placed Dixie’s co-written “All That’s Left” on her million-selling 2014 CMA Album of the Year winner Platinum.

Dixie Hall’s funeral will be private, according to The Tennessean. Tom T. Hall reportedly plans a celebration of his wife’s life and music at a later date.

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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow . He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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