Dixie Hall, the renowned writer of bluegrass songs and wife of Country Music Hall of Fame member Tom T. Hall, died Friday (Jan. 16) at the age of 80. She had been suffering from a brain tumor.
In addition to her hundreds of bluegrass cuts, Hall and her husband co-wrote “All That’s Left,” a song Miranda Lambert recorded on her 2014 CMA album of the year, Platinum.
Born Iris Violet May Lawrence in England, Hall developed an interest in American country music and cowboy culture while still a child. After moving to Nashville in 1961 to take a job in publicity and promotion for Starday Records, she was befriended by Mother Maybelle Carter of the fabled Carter Family.
Hall had won a national poetry contest in England when she was 10 years old, an achievement that earned her a trip to London and the opportunity to read her poem on BBC radio. Under Carter’s tutelage, she turned her literary interest toward writing songs.
In 1965, by which time she was writing under the name Dixie Deen, Hall had a No. 3 hit with Dave Dudley’s recording of “Truck Drivin’ Son-of-a-Gun.” (Hall initially spelled her adopted last name “Deen.” However, it is listed as both “Deen” and “Dean” in her BMI song credits.)
She met her future husband at an awards dinner in 1964, the same year he scored a Top 10 with Dudley via the song “Mad.” She and Hall were married four years later.
Besides writing songs, Dixie Hall was also a prominent figure in Nashville entertainment journalism, first as a reporter for the then-crucial journal, Music City News and ultimately its editor.
From the late ‘60s through the early ‘80s, when Tom T. Hall reigned as one of country music’s foremost composers and performers, Dixie Hall essentially put her songwriting on hold. But she returned to it after Hall announced his retirement from performing in the early 1990s.
It proved to be a short-lived retirement. Tapping into her husband’s life-long love of bluegrass music — his 1976 album The Magnificent Music Machine was a tribute to bluegrass — she enlisted him in her late-blooming enthusiasm and soon they were turning out songs at an astonishing rate.
Many of their songs were tributes to bluegrass performers by name, among them the Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Lester Flatt and Bill Monroe.
By the end of her life, hundreds of her songs, mostly the bluegrass ones, had been recorded by a wide array of artists. In 2004, the International Bluegrass Music Association honored the Halls with its distinguished achievement award. They were also 10-time songwriter of the year winners from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America.
So engaged were the Halls in bluegrass music that they routinely opened their recording studio and home to both aspiring and established artists, creating something of salon in which they could exchange ideas and test their creativity.
Hall was also a strong advocate and effective fundraiser for animal welfare causes.
A private funeral service will be held.