Song Great Red Lane Passes

Red Lane.

Red Lane

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Red Lane has passed away at age 76.

Lane died Wednesday night, July 1, following a long battle with cancer. He is noted as the creator of such big hits as “Til’ I Get It Right” (Tammy Wynette, 1973), “Darling You Know I Wouldn’t Lie” (Conway Twitty, 1969) and “New Looks From an Old Lover” (B.J. Thomas, 1981).

Born Hollis DeLaughter on Feb. 9, 1939, he was a native of Bogalusa, Louisiana. His sharecropper father taught him to play guitar. The family moved around a lot, following farming seasons. Lane graduated high school in Indiana and joined the Air Force.

Trained as an airplane mechanic, he also performed music throughout his enlistment. While stationed in Hawaii, he performed on the Waikiki radio show Hawaii Calls. While stationed in Omaha, Nebraska in 1958, he began performing in area nightclubs six nights a week.

Following his discharge, Red Lane performed in Indiana, California, Arizona and Texas. Inspired by Willie Nelson, he began writing songs at this time. Singer-songwriter Justin Tubb urged Lane to send his songs to Tree Publishing in Nashville.

Tree’s Buddy Killen signed him as a staff songwriter in 1963 and helped Lane to move to Music City. Tubb hired him as a guitarist in his band. Red Lane scored his first songwriting hit when Faron Young took his “My Friend On the Right” up the charts in 1964.

Nelson recorded Lane’s “Blackjack County Chain” in 1967. Dottie West had a hit with their co-written “Country Girl” in 1968. The song inspired a series of popular Coca-Cola ad jingles for West. Red Lane became her bandleader, and the two collaborated on dozens of other songs.

Lane’s first top-10 success came when Waylon Jennings recorded “Walk On Out of My Mind” in 1968. He repeated the feat with Eddy Arnold’s recording of “They Don’t Make Love Like They Used To” in 1969. Twitty’s 1969 recording of “Darling You Know I Wouldn’t Lie” inspired Elvis Costello to re-record the song in 1994.

Bobby Bare, Roger Miller, Jack Palance, Wanda Jackson, Lee Hazelwood & Ann-Margret, Jimmy Dickens, Tommy Cash, Jack Greene & Jeannie Seely, Johnny Paycheck, George Jones, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, T.G. Sheppard and Connie Smith were among the many who recorded Red Lane songs in the 1960s and 1970s.

The songwriter also became a Nashville session guitarist. Chet Atkins signed him as a recording artist to RCA, and Lane scored a moderate-sized hit with “The World Needs a Melody” in 1971. The song was subsequently a single for Johnny Cash and was also recorded by The Kingston Trio, Bill Anderson, Mother Maybelle Carter, The Chuck Wagon Gang and others.

Lane’s other charted singles as an artist were “Set the World On Fire (With Love)” (1971), “It Was Love While It Lasted” (1972) and “Throw a Rope Around the Wind” (1972). The last named was on the soundtrack of the Robert Mitchum movie Going Home.

Red Lane and Merle Travis co-wrote the “Ride This Train” segments on The Johnny Cash Show on ABC-TV in 1969-71.

After Wynette hit the top of the charts with “Til I Get It Right” in 1973, the song was recorded by dozens of others, including Kenny Rogers, Englebert Humperdinck, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna Judd, Millie Jackson, Solomon Burke, Bob Dylan and Highway 101.

Later in the decade, Lane forged a musical partnership with Merle Haggard, who recorded nearly 30 Red Lane songs. These included 1977’s “Ain’t Your Memory Got No Pride at All” and the 1979 hit “My Own Kind of Hat” (revived by Alan Jackson in 1999). Lane also played guitar on Haggard recording sessions and sometimes toured in the superstar’s band.

In 1981, B.J. Thomas hit No. 1 with Lane’s “New Looks From an Old Love” and John Conlee scored with “Miss Emily’s Picture.” Keith Whitley released Lane’s “Would These Arms Be in Your Way” in 1987, and the song was then recorded by Vern Gosdin, Mark Chesnutt, Daryle Singletary and more.

Others who recorded his songs in the 1980s and 1990s included Loretta Lynn, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Van Shelton, Ray Charles, Doug Stone, Jack Greene, Joe Diffie, Skip Ewing, Waylon Jennings and Suzy Bogguss. Red Lane was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1993.

Lane’s success continued into the new millennium. George Strait had a hit with his “Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa” in 2003. His songs appeared on albums by Lee Ann Womack, Reba McEntire, Joan Osborne, The Del McCoury Band and more. In 2010, he was honored at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s “Poets & Prophets” songwriter series.

The tunesmith led a colorful, unconventional lifestyle. He lived in an airplane fuselage grounded near Ashland City, TN and was an avid skydiver.



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

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