Classic Songs of My Youth Revisited #3

Tom T. Hall – I Like Beer

Country music was a big part of my early listening. Children don’t have a lot of control over, well, pretty much anything in their lives, and music is no exception. My parents listened to country music, so that’s what I listened to. It wasn’t all I heard – my younger uncles played Beatles records when we saw them, and there was other music on the radio and television – but I mostly remember my parents’ records.

There was Merle Haggard, and Charley Pride, and the Statler Brothers, and Conway Twitty, and George Jones, and there must have been some women, too, but for the life of me I can’t remember who. Pride was my favourite (especially “Crystal Chandelier” and “The Snakes Crawl at Night” – also, fuck COVID), but I loved the gentle humour of the Statlers, and Jones’ “The Race is On” is an all-time favourite. And then there was Tom T. Hall.

I can’t say for certain that my parents had one of his records, but that’s my recollection. And if they did, it probably wasn’t 1975’s “I Wrote A Song About It”, which this song first appeared on. But when Hall died last month, there was one song and one song only that immediately came to mind. I pulled it up on Spotify and, a bit to my surprise since I probably hadn’t heard it in over 40 years, I dragged the chorus from the deepest recesses of memory and began singing along:

I like beer, it makes me a jolly good fellow

I like beer, it helps me unwind and sometimes it makes me feel mellow

Whiskey’s too rough, champagne costs too much, vodka puts my mouth in gear

This little refrain should help me explain as a matter of fact I like beer

If that isn’t four perfect lines, I don’t know what is.

It’s the second-most streamed Hall song on Spotify (we’re coming for you, “That’s How I Got to Memphis”!), but his biggest hit was one he wrote but didn’t sing, “Harper Valley P.T.A.”. That song earned him a Grammy nomination for best song in a field that included “Hey Jude” and “Mrs. Robinson”, all of them somehow losing to this. Yes, the Grammys have always sucked.

Anyway, Hall was a master. He could nail a song like “I Love”, with its simple statement of life’s little joys, building to the powerful declaration in the chorus. But give me the jaunty pleasures of “I Like Beer” every time.

2 thoughts on “Classic Songs of My Youth Revisited #3

  1. How did I not know about your love of these old country tunes?? I believe we found these as well because back in those days CJCB was day-parted so that country was all you heard between noon and 6 pm. We were exposed to it for at least half our listening time! But beyond that, there were some great songs back then. I still do a pretty good version of Hall’s “Me and Jesus” that always gets people’s attention, mostly because most folks have forgotten about that gem. But for my money “Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine” tops my list of all time favorite Hall songs. “I was sittin’ in Miami, pouring blended Whiskey down; when an old grey black gentleman was cleaning up the lounge….” a hundred vivid pictures in a couple of short lines and boom you’re in that lounge with him. Magic.

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  2. I had forgotten about the CJCB split – that definitely had something to do with all the country I know from that era. I might have to do a Freddy Fender piece down the road!

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