The venerable Bear Family label is no stranger to the music of William Orville “Lefty” Frizzell (1928-1975), one of the most influential honky-tonk singers of all time. The German reissue specialists first compiled the Lefty oeuvre in 1984 as a 14-LP box set, updating that in 1992 on 12 CDs. Now, more than 25 years later, the Bears are returning to the Texas-born troubadour’s career for the most comprehensive chronicle ever. An Article from Life: The Complete Recordings is due in the U.S. on October 19, presenting every one of Frizzell’s recordings across 20 CDs in a package also including a lavish book.
These 260-plus tracks illustrate Frizzell’s recorded legacy, beginning with his very first, double-sided chart-topping single for Columbia Records (“I Love You a Thousand Ways” b/w “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time”) in 1950 and concluding nine discs later with “Life’s Like Poetry” from the artist’s 1975 ABC Records release, Classic Style. All six of his Country No. 1s are here, also including “I Want to Be with You Always,” “Always Late (With Your Kisses),” “Give Me More, More, More (Of Your Kisses),” and “Saginaw, Michigan.” All told, Frizzell charted more than 30 singles (such as the original version of the now-standard “Long Black Veil”) and released 13 studio albums of classic honky-tonk country within his too-short lifetime. His accomplishments were many. During one particularly fertile period, he even charted four tracks in Billboard’s top 10: “I Want to Be with You Always,” the aforementioned “Always Late (With Your Kisses),” “Mom and Dad’s Waltz,” and “Travelin’ Blues.” This feat was only surpassed by The Beatles.
But nine discs of Lefty’s commercially released output still leaves 11 discs to fill – no small feat. The box’s next two CDs bring together 71 demos and private recordings, the earliest of which dates back to the 1940s before his Columbia debut. Then, An Article from Life compiles radio recordings made by Frizzell for the U.S. Armed Forces on such programs as Country Music Time and Country Style USA. The remaining eight discs are dedicated to an audiobook reading of the now out-of-print 2011 biography I Love You a Thousand Ways: The Lefty Frizzell Story read by its author, David Frizzell. David, of course, is Lefty’s younger brother and an accomplished recording artist in his own right with hits like “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home” and “Lost My Baby Blues” under his belt.
The Frizzell family has provided Bear Family with numerous previously unpublished photographs which will appear within the 264-page (!) hardcover book. In true Bear Family style, the book will also include an updated biography of the star and a complete discography. A member of the Grand Ole Opry (until he famously quit!) and a regular on the legendary Town Hall Party series, Frizzell remains a one-of-a-kind artist in the country-and-western firmament. Bear Family’s box set will surely prove both an ideal, all-encompassing introduction to the artist and a library-worthy set for longtime collectors.
You can peruse the full track listing now at Bear Family’s official website. Lefty Frizzell’s An Article from Life: The Complete Recordings on October 19 will be available for pre-order at the links below!