Hal Blair
Harold Keller Blair, born November 26, 1915, was a native of Kansas City, MO.  He came to Los Angeles in the 1940s as a member of the western band, Cal Strum and his Rhythm Rangers,  and was soon providing material for Hollywood's singing cowboy movies of the era.

Tex Ritter in Monogram Pictures "Rolling Home To Texas"
featuring Cal Strum and His Rhythm Rangers.  (Hal in black hat.) (1940)
His closest musical associate, as far as the western films were concerned, was cowboy star Eddie Dean.

Hal and Eddie wrote songs for Eddie Dean films that included: Black Hills, Check Your Guns, Stars Over Texas, Tornado Range, and Wild Country.

Hal also played the "villain" in Eddie's live stage appearances. His primary job was getting "beaten up."  On occasion, Eddie got a little rambunctious and forgot to pull his punches.  Hal lived with subtle reminders of his days on the road with Eddie for the rest of his life.

Hal referred to his years of writing for western movies as his "rocks and rills" years.

Perhaps Hal's most historically significant song was written in 1948 with Eddie Dean and Eddie's wife, Dearest: "One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)."

Hal, Eddie and Dearest (a stanch Catholic who was embarrassed to even speak the title when it popped into her head) had created the first triangle song  -  "I'm married to her...but, oh you kid."

By today's standards the lyric is mild, but in 1948 what it had to say was considered scandalous to the point of being banned by the Catholic Church - an event which may have helped Jimmy Wakely's recording of the song shoot to the top of the charts followed closely by Eddie's version which reached #11.  Since then cheatin' has been one of country music's most enduring story telling devises.

Over 70 artists have recorded "One Has My Name" to date.

In 1956, Hal got a call from a friend at RCA Record's pressing plant  in L. A. to let him know that a song he had written was on a single by  "...some new guy named Alvin Persly."  Not thinking too much of this seemingly underwhelming bit of information, Hal asked his friend to send him a copy.  When the record arrived he noted that his friend had been wrong about the artist's name and that the other side of the record was a thing called, "Heartbreak Hotel".

He popped the record onto his turntable to take a listen, and, quite frankly, didn't get what this Elvis Presley guy was all about.  'Kind of a weird style' he thought.

Well, it didn't take long for Hal, and the rest of the world to figure out what Elvis was all about as "Heartbreak Hotel" came slamming out of every radio and jukebox across the land, skyrocketed to number one  - where is stayed for 8 weeks - and lit the fuse that  launched the Topelo Tornado to legendary status.

Due to the raw power of the Presley phenomenon, Hal's song, "I Was The One"  followed "Heartbreak Hotel" up the charts and found its way to number 19.  It was the first of 13 Hal Blair songs recorded by good ol' 'Alvin' and was released, again, this time as an "A" side single, after Presley's death.

In the late 50's Hal teamed up with his most noteworthy collaborator, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Don Robertson. Together they contributed songs to virtually every Elvis Presley film from 1961 to 1967, including "No More" (from 1962's, Blue Hawaii), "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (from 1963's, Fun In Acapulco), I'm Yours (a number 11 chart single from 1965's, Tickle Me) and "What Now, What Next, Where To?" (from 1967's, Double Trouble).

The best known Blair/Robertson collaborations, however, were not recorded by Presley

They included:

Please Help Me I'm Falling (Hank Locklin)
Ninety Miles and Hour Down A Dead End Street (Hank Snow) (Covered by Bob Dylan)
Not One Minute More (Della Reese)
I Was Born To Love You (Eddy Arnold)
My Lips are Sealed (Jim Reeves)
Ringo (Lorne Greene)

Hal's western movie roots were probably best put to use in the 1964 number 1 smash, "Ringo" recorded by Lorne Greene. Contrary to popular belief, Hal wrote the lyric totally oblivious to the fact that the Beatles were in the midst of invading America at the time.  Robertson, provided the musical setting to the mostly spoken lyric.

With "Ringo" it could very well be that, in addition to having written the first ‘cheatin' song,' Hal may have written the last smash "Western" song... in the tradition of  "Cool Water," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Back in the Saddle Again," and "El Paso."

Throughout his later years, Hal enjoyed spending time with his wife, Joanie,  writing lyrics, fishing and hand crafting custom, precision fly casting fishing rods which he sold for premium prices under the trade name Blair House.  Anyone lucky enough to own one of Hal's fly rods owns a unique, one of a kind, treasure, built by a unique, one of a kind, treasure.

Hal,  was a truly gifted creator, and a wonderful friend to everyone who knew him.

Hal passed away in 2001.
 
 


 

Hal  Blair was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame on November 2, 2003... I was honored to have been asked to accept on his behalf.  (Please click the Manny to read my comments.)
 
 
 

Here are a few of Hal's great songs.  Click on those underlined to hear brief reminders to the genius of Hal Blair.

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Condemned Without Trial
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist:  Gloria Lynne
I'm Yours
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Elvis Presley

I Laughed Until I Cried
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Rosemary Clooney

I Met Her Today
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Elvis Presley

III Think I'm Gonna Like It Here
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Elvis Presley

I Was Born To Love You
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Eddy Arnold

I Was the One
(Hal Blair,  Bill Peppers, Claude De Metruis, Aaron Schroeder)
Artist: Elvis Presley

Love Finds a Way
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Eddy Arnold

Ninety Miles an Hour (Down A Dead End Street)
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Hank  Snow

No More
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Elvis Presley

Not One Minute More
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Della Reese

One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)
(Hal Blair,  Eddie Dean, Lorene Dean)
Artist: Jimmy Wakely
Hit Versions Also Recorded by
Eddie Dean
J
erry Lee Lewis
Nat King Cole

Please Help Me I'm Falling
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Hank Locklin

Ringo
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Lorne Greene

What Have I Done For Her Lately
(Hal Blair, Dean Kay)
Artist: Mills Bros.
Artist: Eddy Arnold

What Now, What Next, Where To
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Elvis Presley

You Don't Need Me Anymore
(Hal Blair, Don Robertson)
Artist: Eddy Arnold