|Faron the Cat|
That cat was named Faron, because cartoonist Charles Schulz admired country singer Faron Young quite a bit. So did I. Frankly, so did Faron Young admire himself quite a bit. He never lacked for ego. Or talent. It takes both to wear a jacket with the name of one of your many hit records emblazoned thereon, as seen in this picture from LIFE magazine in the 50's. "Goin' Steady" was his first big one, to be followed by "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')," "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young" (his first #1 song, inspired by the John Derek movie "Knock On Any Door" in which the young beau Derek says,"I want to die young and leave a good-looking corpse"), "I Miss You Already (And You're Not Even Gone)," "Hello Walls," "My Friend on the Right," "It's Four in the Morning" and "She Fights That Lovin' Feeling." Quite a record of successful records, interrupted early on by a stint in the Army, and ended way too soon by the inexplicable taste shift that saw the public start to think that Olivia Newton-John was a country singer.
Faron Young was country through and through, raised on a dairy farm outside Shreveport. He was both coarse and sophisticated at once. In 1972, he had a hit called "This Little Girl of Mine," and his shtick in concert was to select a little girl from the audience and have her sit on his knee while he sang the song. It was a crowd-pleaser until he played Clarksburg, WV. He claimed later that the little girl he chose there spat on him. That part remains uncertain; what's known for sure is that the man with enough business savvy to start a trade newspaper called "Music City News" was foolish or impaired enough to spank the child on stage. In those pre-web days, the story did not go too far, but you can just imagine the reaction we'd see today if, say, Brad Paisley smacked a kid during his show. And rightly so.
Life gave Faron a great voice and a gregarious personality. He was known for great generosity and charity to friends and strangers just the same, and then he would turn on a dime (or, more accurate to say, a bottle cap) and be as nasty and hurtful as a guy can be. He rode his fine tenor voice to the top of his profession, and when tastes changed and his music wasn't selling so well, he did what they all do, signing with minor labels, trying to keep things going. It didn't work, and so a lonely, bitter, Faron Young chose to end his life by a self-inflicted bullet in 1996. Johnny Cash spread his ashes over a lake outside Nashville, and there ends Faron's tale.
But sometimes, early in the morning, if you pile into the SUV with me and hit the "play" button, you can still hear him sing hits like "Occasional Wife" or "Your Time's Comin' ". Haunting, but true.