Born Horace Eldred Dill, 19 September 1924, Huntingdon, Carroll County, Tennessee
Danny Dill wll primarily be remembered as the co-writer of two classic country songs, "The Long Black Veil" (1959) and "Detroit City" (1963), both of which have been recorded by countless artists (and in twenty-two languages).
Dill had two separate careers, one as a performer, and later one as a songwriter. In 1943 he hitchhiked to Jackson and launched his musical career on WTJS, as did Carl Perkins and Eddy Arnold. He played local venues, often as a country comedian, with a red wig and blacked out teeth. In 1944 he met his first wife, Annie Lou Stockard (1925-1982), who sang with her twin sister on radio in Jackson. They were married in 1945 and relocated to Nashville, where they played on WLS for 11 years as Annie Lou and Danny, the Sweethearts of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1949 they recorded for Bullet and began touring with the various package shows. Dill not only sang with Annie Lou, but also compered the shows. Dill started writing songs around 1953 and was the first writer to be signed to the new Cedarwood Publishing Company. One of his earliest compositions was "Partners", which Jim Reeves would turn into a # 5 country hit in 1959. After the birth of their daughter, Ava, Annie Lou curtailed her travel commitments and Dill tried his hand at a solo career. Like many other country singers, Danny had a brief fling with rockabilly in 1956, when it seemed that the new rock 'n' roll craze would sweep away country music. This resulted in the single "I'm Hungry For Your Lovin'" (ABC-Paramount 9734), recorded on June 21, 1956, with Grady Martin on lead guitar. Dill's other (earlier) ABC single, "My Girl And His Girl" followed a more conventional country pattern and was covered by Roy Hall (Decca) and Macy Skipper (Sun), though both these versions went unissued at the time.
In 1957 Annie Lou and Danny left the Opry. Their marriage was on the rocks and they would soon divorce. Dill wanted to stay in the music business, but found it was hard to book just one-half of what had been a successful duet team. Although Dill would continue to record (for RCA, Cub, MGM and Liberty), he began to concentrate on songwriting. A song co-written with Webb Pierce, "Cause I Love You" had already peaked at # 3 on the country charts in 1956 (sung by Pierce).
In 1959, Danny Dill wrote "Long Black Veil" with Marijohn Wilkin. Dill wrote the words (inspired by a newspaper story about an unsolved murder), Wilkin the music. Originally, it was a much longer song. When Dill heard the version that was recorded by Lefty Frizzell, he was worried that people wouldn't understand the story because so much had been left out. Still, the record went to # 6 on the country charts and has become a classic. More country hits came in 1962 with "So Wrong" by Patsy Cline (# 14, co-written with Carl Perkins and Mel Tillis) and "The Comeback" by Faron Young (# 4). In 1963, Dill wrote "Detroit City" with Mel Tillis, a plaintive portrait of the alienation suffered by rural Southerners who relocated north in search of work. Bobby Bare's version on RCA peaked at # 6 country and # 16 pop ; it won a Grammy for "Best country and western recording of 1963" . Billy Grammer had previously recorded the song under the title "I Wanna Go Home" (# 18 country).
In all, Dill authored more than 100 songs during his affiliation with Cedarwood Publishing. In 1975 he was elected to the Nashville Song- writers Hall Of Fame. Until his retirement he served as a writer/consultant for Buckhorn Music. After years out of the spotlight, he resurfaced in 2006, at the age of 81, with a self-released solo album "Quality Is Always In Style". Good old-fashioned country. He died in a Nashville hospital on October 23, 2008, aged 84.
Acknowledgements : Roger Bissell, Colin Escott, Jason Ankeny (All Music Guide), Eric LeBlanc.
More info :
CD: Quality Is Always In Style (2006).
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