By Brad Dison
Hugh was born and raised in Abbott, Texas. During the hot summers, his family picked cotton along with other poor families in Abbott to earn enough money to survive. Hugh hated picking cotton and looked for another way to earn money. He had a knack for writing songs which he began at the young age of seven. At the age of 13, he began playing guitar and singing songs in Abbott. People were in awe of his exceptional ability. They were even more impressed when they learned that he was just a kid. Hugh earned enough to keep him from working in the sweltering cotton fields.
Hugh wanted to be a songwriter but took other jobs out of necessity. Some of these inlluded telephone operator, Tree trimmer for the electric company, nightclub bouncer, saddle maker, encyclopedia salesman, and even a stint in the Air Force, from which he was medically discharged. Finally, he found a job which suited his interests. With no experience, but with a thorough knowledge of Country and Western music, Hugh secured a job as a disc jockey. His job as a DJ meant that he had the radio station’s large catalog of music at his fingertips. Rather than just spinning records, Hugh studied song patterns, writing styles, the singer’s delivery, and other details to determine what made a song a hit. His job at the radio station also meant that he could use, free of charge, the radio station’s recording equipment. Hugh’s songwriting improved with each passing day.
Hugh learned early on that it was easier for him to write songs when he was driving a car. One day in the late 1950s, Hugh was driving when a “stupid” song came to mind. Hugh sang different phrases until he found the right combination. It was a song about lost love in which the lead character lamented that he was “stupid for loving you.” He titled the song “Stupid.” Hugh looked around the car’s interior but had no paper or pencil to write down his stupid song. All the way home, Hugh repeated the song so he would not forget it. Back at the radio station, Hugh recorded a demo of “Stupid” and a few other songs he had recently written with the intention of selling them to recording artists.
Hugh understood that to sell his songs, he needed to be where the recording artists were. Hugh quit his job at the radio station and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Within a short time, Hugh learned that many people in the music industry frequented a small bar across the road from The Grand Ole Opry called Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. One night, Hugh was drinking at Tootsie’s with Charlie Dick. Hugh convinced the bar’s owner to let him play his “stupid” song on the jukebox. Charlie liked the song and said he would like to let his wife listen to it. Hugh agreed. Charlie said he wanted Hugh to accompany him to his home right then, which was late at night, to play the song for his wife. Hugh responded something to the effect of “You’re crazy! We’re both half drunk.” It took little convincing before Hugh agreed.
At Charlie’s home, they played the record for Charlie’s wife. She liked the song and asked if she could record it. Hugh eagerly agreed. In September of 1961, she spent four days in the studio trying to get her vocals right for Hugh’s “stupid” song. Finally happy with the song, Decca records released the song the following month. It quickly rose up the charts and peaked at number 2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles. Aided by Hugh’s “stupid” song, Charlie’s wife was named Billboard’s Favorite Female Country Artist of 1961. Charlie’s wife’s version of Hugh’s “stupid” song was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress and was ranked number 85 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Charlie Dick’s wife, who earned more money in the form of royalties from this song than any other song she recorded, was Patsy Cline. You and I know Hugh’s “stupid” song well, but under a different title that he later gave it. Hugh originally titled the song “Stupid” but eventually decided upon a different title. We know it as “Crazy.” We also know Hugh as a famous singer in his own right. Hugh is the middle name of Willie Nelson.
- YouTube.com. “Willie Nelson Gets in the Car When He Wants to Write Music (2014).” Accessed February 5, 2022. https://youtu.be/GIp7KP3G-_4.
- YouTube.com. “Willie Nelson On Pitching Crazy to Patsy Cline // Siriusxm // Willie’s Roadhouse.” Accessed February 5, 2022. https://youtu.be/JjpqWBnHxEU.
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