One of country music’s most prolific and revered songwriters, Hank Cochran (1935-2010), was born in Isola and spent his early childhood years here. He wrote “Make the World Go Away,” “A Little Bitty Tear,” “She’s Got You,” and “Don’t Touch Me,” and co-wrote “I Fall to Pieces.” A cohort of such classic Nashville writers as Harlan Howard and Willie Nelson, Cochran also enjoyed a successful recording career of his own charting seven singles.
Born on August 2, 1935, into a troubled family in troubled Depression times, Garland Perry Cochran, who would eventually change his name to “Hank” because he thought it sounded better, was placed in a Memphis orphanage at age 9 after his parents divorced, then lived with his grandparents in Greenville, Mississippi. He showed a fledgling gift for writing poetry, but never returned to school after the 4th grade; his uncle Otis Cochran taught him a few guitar chords before the two of them hitchhiked to New Mexico to work in the oilfields when he was just 12. At 16, after a brief return to Mississippi, he looked for work near Los Angeles. There, now known as Hank Cochran, he met future rockabilly star Eddie Cochran and formed the duo “The Cochran Brothers.” The act made local appearances, opened for Lefty Frizzell, and got a recording contract with the small Ekko label in 1955; the best-known recording, “Two Blue Singing Stars,” was a salute to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams.
Hank relocated to Nashville in 1960 and was signed to a publishing deal by Pamper Music, co-owned by Ray Price, and in a matter of months, teamed with Harlan Howard, wrote the standard-to-be “I Fall to Pieces,” which became a No. 1 hit for Patsy Cline; Cline took Hank’s “She’s Got You” to No. 1 the following year. Hank also pursued a performing career at that time, backing Justin Tubb on guitar at the Opry, and finding some success as a recording artist; his recording of Howard’s “Sally Was a Good Old Girl” was a Top 20 hit in 1962. Though his singing was mellow and effective, his recording career would always be a sideline. His songwriting reached another pinnacle when he recorded his ballad “Make the World Go Away,” already a minor hit in 1963 for Timi Yuro and a No. 2 for Ray Price, and it was heard by Eddy Arnold who recorded it in as a pop-oriented Nashville Sound arrangement, and made it one of the biggest sellers in country music history.
As a prolific Music Row fixture, credited with over 300 songs, Cochran wrote or co-wrote some of the great hits of the decades that followed, including “A Little Bitty Tear” and “Your Funny Way of Laughin’” for Burl Ives; “Don’t Touch Me” for Jeannie Seely (fourth of his five wives); “A-11” for Johnny Paycheck in 1965 and Buck Owens in 1988; “It’s Not Love, But It’s Not Bad” for Merle Haggard; “The Chair,” and “Ocean Front Property” for George Strait; and “Set ‘Em Up Joe” for Vern Gosdin. Hank Cochran was married to his fifth wife, Suzi, throughout his final 28 years. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1974, and the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame in 2003. He died in Nashville in 2010.
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