I was up in Cartersville, Ga., recently, eating with my wife and some of our relatives at an old restaurant in historic section of that town.
We were the only ones in that cafe eating. As we started eating I heard the song, “Always Late (With Your Kisses)” and that song played over and over until we finished eating. No one but me knew who that singer was: William Orville “Lefty” Frizzell, born in March 31, 1928 in Corsicana, Texas.
Lefty Frizzell came to Clovis on June 8, 1951. He had come as a new Columbia recording artist to sing his songs at the 1951 Pioneer Days celebration. He also appeared on the “jamboree” early Friday and Saturday night, and sang at the dances the same nights in the retail merchants display building at the Curry County Fairgrounds.
A big crowd of fans, including me, went to see him in the old Armory at Second and Connelly. You might remember that Armory was built for the National Guard, but was used for boxing matches, dances, celebrations, and all sorts of activities, even pie suppers. At that time that was the place to go for wild entertainment. (Today I think you would see that old Armory building being used for storage.)
That night he played and sang at the Armory he arrived late half an hour or more, but everyone stayed and enjoyed his music.
Later, Frizzell was invited to sing at the old Cattleman's Club near the corner of W. Seventh and Thornton, just north of the old Foxy Drive-In on the corner. That club was razed a long time ago. His host was Jack Skipworth, one of Clovis' most notorious characters. I have a photo of him and Lefty in that Club.
Clyde Miller and his Sunshine Valley Boys, a popular band in Clovis, furnished the music for Frizzell's songs at all the locations that Frizzell appeared, including dances at the Colonial Club at Clovis Air Force Base both days.
Frizzell has been called the most influential singer/artist in the history of country music. His uncle Lawrence bought him his first guitar from an old black farmer for $1. With that guitar and his old victrola, he learned every song of his hero and greatest influence, Jimmie Rodgers.
By age 12, Frizzell had his own spot on a children’s show at an El Dorado, Ark., radio station. Moving back to Texas in the early 40s, he earned his nickname “Lefty” following a school yard fight. Frizzell had got the attention of Columbia Records in 1950 and he was on his way
His recording, “Saginaw Michigan” in 1964, was his last No. 1 hit. It was nominated for a Grammy, and crossed over to the pop chart, a rarity for country songs in that era.
He died in Nashville in July 19, 1975, age 47. He was buried on Music Row at Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Goodlettsville, Tenn.
I have lost track of my music records over these last few years and am now looking for one of Frizzell's CD recordings, or even one of his on an old 78 records.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: