Charley Crockett is a Big James Hand Fan, & You Should Be Too
Nobody will ever be able to accuse Texas native and Davy Crockett descendant Charley Crockett of not paying his proper dues. He’s bookended his big 2018 breakout record Lonesome As a Shadow with two records released with the sole purpose of paying tribute to the past greats in country and blues that have influenced his deeply roots-infused sound. In 2017 he released Lil G.L. Honky Tonk Jubilee chock full of classic country covers, and earlier this year he released Lil G.L.’s Blue Bonanza containing many blues standards with some country tunes mixed in like the old George Jones song “The Race Is On,” and Tom T. Hall’s “How I Got To Memphis.”
A country standard, and one sure to get your heart swelling, “How I Got To Memphis” (sometimes annotated “THAT’S How I Got To Memphis”) was written by Tom T. Hall himself and first released by the Hall of Famer in 1969. It would later be covered by Bobby Bare, Daryl Dodd, and Whitey Morgan just to name a few. The song is about a brokenhearted man who travels to Memphis to pursue a lover and never leaves. When Charley Crockett went to record a video for his version of the song, he decided to call upon a relatively obscure but bona fide Texas country legend to star in the shoot, and for a very good reason.
“The only reason I ever learned ‘That’s How I Got To Memphis’ is all because of James Hand,” says Crockett. “I was up for an Ameripolitan Award a couple years back and I went down to one of Dale Watson’s showcases at Blues City on Beale Street. Well ol’ Slim got up on stage with the band and they went in to that old Tom T. Hall number. I think James Hand is the greatest living Honky-Tonker, and he had me in tears with the way he was singing those lyrics. He chokes me up every time I hear him sing. Well I ran back to Graceland where we were staying and sat up all night till I had that song down. Started doing it my very next show.”
Many like to talk about authenticity in country music, but there’s few who truly embody it like James Hand. Born in Waco, TX and from the tiny town of Tokio, he worked as a horse trainer, rodeo man, and truck driver for most of his life. Though he always played music in honky tonks and roadhouses around Texas, James Hand didn’t release his first record until 1999 at the age of 47. His Rounder Records debut The Truth Will Set You Free from 2006 was produced by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel along with Lloyd Maines, and is a master work of Texas honky tonk music and superb songwriting.
“‘That’s How I Got To Memphis’ is the most popular song off my ‘Blue Bonanza’ record and probably has more to do with me breaking into the Billboard charts than any other song I’ve cut, and it just wouldn’t have happened without James getting to me like he did that night on Beale,” says Charley Crockett. “Well if that don’t tell you how great James Hand is, I don’t know what does. You should hear the man’s originals too.”
Songs like “Banks of the Brazos” and “Shadows Where The Magic Was” have made James Hand one of the most revered characters currently in Texas country, even if his legacy as flown mostly under-the-radar over the years since he rarely tours beyond the Lone Star State. His last record was a gospel project called Stormclouds in Heaven in 2014—the same year he starred in an independent film about himself called Thank You A Lot.
Charley Crockett will help turn some folks onto the brilliance of James Hand by putting him in his “That’s How I Got To Memphis” video, while others might be turned on to Charley Crockett via James Hand’s participation. Either way, they’re both worthy musicians who’ve kept close ties to their roots, and are perfect examples of the type of talent the Lone Star State boasts.
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Charley Crockett recently returned to touring after having to undergo heart surgery. He’s set to make his Grand Ole Opry debut on June 25th.
I miss Toy, Levon and Ronnie
April 19, 2019 @ 9:08 am
+1 video, saw him with Isbell in Winston, Happy Easter!
April 19, 2019 @ 10:03 am
No joke, I have 9 different versions of this song downloaded on my phone. I’m partial to the Bobby Bare version. But they are all really good.
April 19, 2019 @ 11:15 am
I can’t bring to even listen to another version of this song. I think the first version I ever heard was Kelly Willis’ version 20 years ago.
April 19, 2019 @ 12:36 pm
Usually with songs many people have recorded, I have my favorite version, which is usually the first one I ever heard, and stick to that. With “How I Got To Memphis,” I can listen to all the different versions in succession and appreciate each one of them equally. Such a great song, and hard to mess up.
April 20, 2019 @ 3:50 pm
We need a “Most Covered songs” article
All along the watchtower is the rock version of How I Got to Memphis
April 19, 2019 @ 10:39 am
I am unfamiliar with James Hand. I’ll have to look into his music. Thanks, Trigger and Charley Crockett for the introduction.
On a side note, I’m glad that Crockett seems recovered and doing well.
April 19, 2019 @ 10:54 am
Check out “In the Corner, at the Table, By the Jukebox”, “Midnight Run”, “Floor to Crawl”, and “Just a Heart”. If those songs don’t turn you in to a fan, none will.
April 21, 2019 @ 6:43 pm
Great suggestions! Never heard him before but been playing these all morning. Poetry and twangy guitars, fantastic!
April 30, 2019 @ 4:52 pm
Check out James on Facebook under James “Slim” Hand
April 19, 2019 @ 5:13 pm
I love the version of ‘ Memphis by Heybale, so good. Hand’s story is very similiar to the late great Don Walser, I have been playing his Cds in my truck for the last few weeks, so good and true yodeler. Was lucky to meet him in Austin a year before he passed, a really nice and humble man. I miss him!
April 20, 2019 @ 4:50 am
I saw James Hand open the show for Charlie Crockett a couple of weeks ago in Dallas at the Kessler Theatre. James Hand is a legend and worthy of his own show. Charley Crockett’s original music and the classics he shares with us with his unique voice and versatile style leave us wanting more. It is obvious he is a humble, generous, and appreciate man. He shares short stories of his life experiences that led him to where he is today. Both performances were packed and equally enjoyed by an enthusiastic crowd. Can’t wait to see James Hand and Charley Crockett performances again.
April 21, 2019 @ 10:48 am
James Hand, is pure country, maybe more than, Hank.
April 22, 2019 @ 5:20 pm
James Hand is the real deal. Charley Crockett is a straight poser all the way. No way is any original song Charley ever wrote himself anywhere close to being country. Good for him to finally realize so much and start recording other people’s songs to sing. Shame on the Grand Old Opry. Trigger you aren’t doing anyone any favors in actually SAVING COUNTRY MUSIC. You are encouraging every one of your followers to constantly embrace Mediocrity. You need to rethink the name of your website. Shoving Boring Music to Country Music Starved people who have gone so long without real country music; they don’t even know what it sounds like any more. James Hand is Real Country. Charley Crockett is not.
April 23, 2019 @ 4:23 pm
Are you being facetious here? Otherwise this might be the most idiotic comment I’ve seen on this site and that’s saying something. You probably didn’t know who James hand was before this article was even posted.
April 24, 2019 @ 8:23 am
Josey Wales I’m being factual not facetious. Anyone who is just NOW finding out about James Hand is pathetic and extremely late to the party. This is just a vain attempt by Mr Crockett to add some sort of credibility to himself? I saw James Hand for the first time over 20 years ago. I’ve seen and heard enough from Charley Crockett to know he is not country. He hardly does any research either. He plays “Drivin Nails in my Coffin” all the time and he thinks it’s a Bob Wills song. SMDH
May 2, 2019 @ 5:05 pm
Dale Concord – Each to their own liking. Charley is awesome and the crowds at his shows are the proof. Enough said!
May 7, 2019 @ 10:40 am
Okay Bkay I agree to each his own. I guess Rascal Flatts crowds also prove how good they are? I prefer authenticity myself. I know Charley and I know he pretends to be a poor boy busker. However he and his brother got rich off of some white collar crime. How else could he afford to travel to Paris? to busk? Alot of contradictions to this dude. He may be sincere but he is not authentic at all. That is all
April 30, 2019 @ 4:56 pm
Check out James on Facebook under James “Slim” Hand
May 7, 2019 @ 7:51 am
To my knowledge, James Hand is the most authentic traditional country musician out there making music right now. As much as I enjoy the neo-traditional sound of George Strait and some of the young guns like COJO and Jinks, Hand is in an entirely different category. He’s the closest to Hank Williams Sr. I’ve ever heard.
May 7, 2019 @ 1:17 pm
Oh man, I’ve been waiting a while for the next article/update on Slim. I’m right there with Charley. Not only do I think he’s the best honky-tonk, I think he’s the best country artist period. The guy is a western treasure. I think I’ve had Mighty Lonesome Man in my car’s 6 cd changer since it came out.
In case if anyone was wondering about the movie James was in, I bought the dvd of Thank You A Lot and while James was fantastic every second he was on screen, the movie was quite weak.