Truly, Lefty Frizzell’s songs are some of the best in country music history.
Anyone could make a list of the most influential country songs of all time, and it would never be complete without the songs of Lefty Frizzell. After all, he brought another dimension to the genre with his laid-back singing style that had a huge impact on a wide variety of country and pop music stars.
But Frizzell’s talent wasn’t limited to his incredible voice. In fact, the music legend was also widely recognized for his songwriting skills. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of his greatest hits that left an indelible mark on country music.
1. If you have the money (I have the time)
Lefty Frizzell, who was then only twenty-two and knew next to nothing about making records, co-wrote this song with his producer Jim Beck. Upon its release, “If You’ve Got the Money” quickly topped the charts and propelled Frizzell to stardom.
It stayed atop the most-played country and western records for three weeks and spent twenty-two weeks on the country chart, where it peaked at No. 2. Since then, its iconic titular chorus has been sung by countless times in honky-tonks and the halls of the American Legion over the decades.
Several notable country artists have also recorded the song, including Willie Nelson in 1976, whose version reached No. 1 on the country chart. In 2001, Merle Haggard also recorded her version.
2. Saginaw, MI
Released in 1964, the song became Frizzell’s final No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, where it spent a remarkable twenty-three weeks in total. Not only that, but “Saginaw, Michigan” also earned Frizzell a Grammy nomination.
Written by veteran Nashville songwriters Bill Anderson and Don Wayne, the song tells the story of a fisherman’s son from the titular town. The young working man fell in love with the daughter of a much richer man, who considered himself unworthy of his granddaughter. So the young man traveled to northern Alaska, hoping he would find gold.
Unfortunately, there was none for him. So he created a ruse and returned to Saginaw, where he told the rich man that he had found a huge amount of gold. He then sold the worthless land for the rich man to develop. The song ended with the swindled rich man searching in vain for gold in Alaska while his daughter happily accepted the man’s hand in marriage.
3. I love you in a thousand ways
Another song that propelled Frizzell to stardom was “I Love You a Thousand Ways”, which was the A-side to his hit “If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time)”.
Frizzell wrote the song as a letter for his grieving wife after he was arrested in 1947 for having sex with an underage fan.
Frizzell was seventeen when he married Alice Harper. He earns a living and begins to make a name for himself with regular appearances at a radio station and at the Cactus Garden club. However, disaster struck when a night out with teenage boys and girls went horribly wrong. One of the underage girls he was with complained to her parents and Frizzell was charged with statutory rape. He ended up in the local jail, where he served six months.
Filled with guilt, Frizzell wrote several poems and song lyrics, asking and pleading with his young bride not to leave him. This includes “I Love You a Thousand Ways”, and it was the first song he recorded when he launched his contract with Columbia Records.
4. Long Veil Black
Written by Danny Dill with Marijohn Wilkin, “Long Black Veil” is now considered a national standard. Frizzell recorded it in 1959 and took it to the country charts, where it peaked at No. 6. Since then, a myriad of country stars have released their version; this includes Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez and more.
The song tells the story of a man accused of murder on circumstantial evidence but who decided not to defend himself because he was sleeping with his best friend’s wife during that fateful night. He remained silent to save the woman’s reputation.
5. I want to be always with you
Here is another song that Frizzell wrote with his producer Jim Beck! This is actually Frizzell’s first No. 1 hit on the Country & Western Best Seller charts, where it spent six weeks at the top.
In the song, Frizzell finds himself expressing his desire to be with the woman he loves “forever and a day” — and he hopes she feels the same.
Some Left-Wing Frizzell Songs That Touched the Lives of Millions
Truly, Lefty Frizzell is one of the most beloved and respected artists in country music history. Here are some more of his songs that you need to check out.
These Lefty Frizzell songs are absolutely the true definition of country classics.