If you’ve ever found yourself in Corsicana, a town about 60 miles south of Dallas off Interstate 45 that has about 25,000 residents, you may have encountered the statue of Lefty Frizzell. Born in that area in 1928, Frizzell went on to become one of the most influential singers in country music.
Known for his flashy fringe and Nudie suits, his colorful bandannas, and of course his smooth and golden voice, Frizzell charted eight Top 10 Billboard bits in 1951, his first year in the business. He went on to have a storied career, which earned him membership into the Grand Ole Opry, induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The latter two honors were bestowed posthumously after Frizzell died from a stroke in 1975 at the age of 47.
To celebrate the 90th anniversary of Lefty’s birth, his younger brother David Frizzell, also a storied country singer and performer, has coordinated the inaugural LeftyFest Music Festival in Corsicana on June 16.
“I’ve been trying to get this festival off the ground for quite some time now,” David Frizzell said during a phone conversation with the Observer. “Any time I’m near the Dallas area, I always make sure to detour over to Lefty’s statue and stop in. I talk to him all the time when I visit the statue. Merle Haggard would always do the same thing.”
The all-day affair is designed to celebrate the music and legacy of Lefty Frizzell. Even if you aren’t familiar with the singer, it’s likely you’ve heard some of his songs. Tracks like “Long Black Veil,” “Always Late (With Your Kisses),” and “If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time)” have been covered countless times over the decades and can be heard in films, television shows,and commercials.
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His work influenced a host of singer-songwriters in the ensuing years. Dwight Yoakam, George Jones, Randy Travis and especially Merle Haggard cited Frizzell as inspiration. Willie Nelson recorded an entire album of Lefty covers, the critically acclaimed To Lefty from Willie, in 1977.
“There are so many good Lefty stories to tell and so many good songs of his to sing that we really need to make this festival three days,” David Frizzell said with a chuckle. “One day will do for now, but we’d certainly like to expand this in the future if we can. I know that we have some folks traveling from all over the country for this event, so there are definitely fans that will support the event. There will certainly be all sorts of Frizzells there, too, to tell stories.”
David Frizzell’s career has been a success, too. He credits his older brother for the opportunity.
“I toured with Lefty day and night for about four years in the late '50s," he said. "I would tune up the instruments, drive the cars and generally just be there to help out and make myself useful."
After serving in the military, David Frizzell returned to his brother’s side in 1964.
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“Lefty was recording a song called ‘Saginaw, Michigan,’ and I got to work on the guitar intros,” David Frizzell recalled. “I would hit a wrong note from time to time, and Lefty would shoot a stern look over my way. Eventually, I got things down just right, and things just took off from there.”
That song catapulted to No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. Before long, David Frizzell ventured out on his own, and he's still playing material to audiences all over the country.
Recently, he worked up an appropriate song for LeftyFest. Recorded with Merle Haggard’s son Marty Haggard, “Lefty, Merle and Me” is a powerful duet that reminisces about good days gone by while appreciating all that Lefty has left behind. It will certainly serve as the theme song for LeftyFest.
Sponsored by the The Moontower at the Oaks, LeftyFest is a free event set to kick off at 2 p.m. In addition to David Frizzell and Marty Haggard, performers are Lacy J. Dalton, Paulette Carlson, Allen Frizzell, Sarah Patrick and another Corsicana native, Aaron Copeland. In addition to live music, the event also features the historic Pioneer Village, kids’ activities, a classic car show, food vendors and a beer garden.