Hank Cochran – All we did was write part of our lives
One night just after he’d quit starving in Nashville, but long before he’d settled into a comfortable house in the country with his third wife, Hank Cochran sat alone in the office of the small publishing company he worked for. In his desk drawer was the picture of a woman whose memory still brings water to his eyes. He muttered something and slammed the drawer…then cocked his ear and listened to what he’d just said.
Fifteen minutes later he had written “She’s Got You” and Patsy Cline had another hit. Cochran had already co-written “I Fall To Pieces” with Harlan Howard, and signed a young Texan named Willie Nelson to a publishing deal that yielded Cline’s “Crazy” and Faron Young’s “Hello Walls”. He gave up a raise to sign Willie, in fact. Later he ran Pamper Music’s production department, but he always wrote, and many of his songs became hits.
That garage/office rests in his back yard, now, with a fresh coat of yellow paint and a new foundation. He does his business behind a newer, bigger desk in the main house, surrounded by books and gold records and photographs. There is no guitar in the room, perhaps because he broke his left hand a year ago and it never healed right.
No matter. He’s finally found Red Lane on the phone, and sure enough, Red’ll play guitar — and sing some of his own songs, of course — at a May 11 benefit at Nashville’s Douglas Corner for their late comrade, Tommy Collins. Cochran and Lane shared the stage that night with Dallas Frazier, Whitey Shafer, Bill Anderson, Johnny Russell and Jack Clement.
Tough men, and painfully vulnerable.
Quarterback Peyton Manning was asked for an autograph only twice during the show.
Hank Cochran, naturally, is still writing. Never stopped, really, though the bottle slowed him for a time, and the mood strikes less often these days. Singers from Loretta Lynn to George Strait have taken his songs to the top of the charts for four decades, and there are few who can match that record.
Born Garland Perry Cochran in Isola, Mississippi, in August 1935, Hank Cochran spent part of his childhood in a Memphis orphanage, learned to play guitar from a rhythm-impaired uncle, and made reckless work of his compulsion to make music.
That’s where the good songs came from.
I. WHEN SOMEBODY WOULD GO ON THE ROAD, I’D SLEEP IN THEIR BED
HANK COCHRAN: My mother lived in Greenville, Mississippi, up until she died, which was last year. Once I moved here, then I ran down there every other week, or once a month or something, to see her. Me and Red [Lane] wrote a thing the other night, we got to talking — talk about getting in one of them [moods], boy, terrible. We wrote this thing called “Mama’s Songs”. And all we did was write part of our lives; part of his, part of mine.
NO DEPRESSION: What in the world possessed you to leave a wife and three kids back in California to come to Nashville?
HC: Don’t I wish I knew. I’m glad I did, you know, because I wanted to be a songwriter. And it was beginning to happen out there. But, it’s the same old thing: Go where it’s happening. And so I just came. I told ’em, “Get used to this face cuz it’s going to be in yours for a long time. I just didn’t come here to leave.” And that’s the way I felt. I felt like I had something to offer. In fact, my father-in-law, said, “Why are you going to Nashville? They’ve got good songwriters there.”
ND: There’s a vote of confidence.
HC: Right off the bat. Thanks. But, it’s been a hell of a ride. If it stops tomorrow. Up and down.