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News Posted: July 18, 1998
I DREAMED I WAS THERE IN "HILLBILLY HEAVEN" OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT
One morning Hi Busse, leader and founder of the group "The Frontiersmen" and a couple other members of the group, picked up Hal Southern at his home for a recording session that day > After the good mornin's were said, Hal said I sure had a strange dream last night, while I was waitin'' on you guys I put most of it down on paper, one of the boys said, "well, let's hear it" Hal said, "well I dreamed I was dead" one of the others said, "well, that's a hell of a way to start a morning'. Busse said, "you gonna put it to a song" Hal said, "I don't know, it's about half talkin' and half singin' I reckon, I ain't worked it out yet". (You would have to know Hi Busse to know the slow manner in which he talked and the serious manner in which he took his music) when he, Hi, said "well let's hear it".And that's when Hal Southern told the boys in the group the story of his dream and "Hillbilly Heaven" was born.
Arriving at the Studio, ("Sage and Sand" in Hollywood) the words, the meaning and the impact of what he had heard was still working on Hi Busse's mind when he said, "Hal, what do you think about me calling and seeing if Eddie Dean is in town and see if he will help us finish up your song and record it" (at the time Eddie Dean also had been recording some things for the Sage And Sand label and his movie and singing career was going great guns, so Hal was all for Hi making the phone call) .
Eddie invited the boys over so that days session was never cut but instead ended up with them all on Eddie Dean's back porch in Burbank, doing some polish work, some word changes and creating a pile of scrap paper deciding who's names would be used in the song, A few days later Eddie Dean recorded "Hillbilly Heaven" at Sage and Sand recording studio in Hollywood, with Eddie singing and Hi Busse and Hal Southern along with the other members of the Frontiersmen as the backup band.
Hi Busse told me this story sitting in our little studio one day shooting the bull and drinking a can of rootbeer, stories get changed over the years, people remember things differently as years go by and sometimes even the best of friends can come to blows when things don't work out right, But Hal Southern and Eddie Dean remained good friends over the years and like the Bible, Hi Busse was an honest man and a good person and friend, Hi Busse stood to gain nothing, not money, not fame nor fortune by telling stories about the song, only the honor to be the first to play and use his group the Frontiersmen on the first recording of Hillbilly Heaven.
Every single artist that we know of that we have become friends with over the years are all guilty of the same thing with just a few exceptions, they did not take care of business and most of them had nobody to do it for them, they had no idea of who was recording their songs until they heard it on the radio, they did not nail the publishing companies down to how many records were sold, how many air plays it was getting and if I had the money that a writer could have made off of one of his songs that got he drunk and sold it, I could buy Nashville, Tennessee.
Not in any way, shape or form are we saying that Hal, or Eddie, got drunk or did anything because they didn't, in my thirty some years of knowing Hal Southern I never saw him drink more then a couple cans of beer and as far as I know he never smoked at all, and any one that could come up with any bad news about Eddie Dean would have to be an escapee from a nut house.
So what we are saying is, if not them then someone should have been taking care of their business affairs and made sure they got the royalties and just rewards for this song and some of the others they wrote, Hillbilly Heaven was written some fifty years ago (give or take a few years) and every trade magazine in the world reported the millions of records that Tex Ritter had sold, we have one trade magazine that reported ten million sales of this song, so you figure out how many times it was played on the air.
Hal had done a survey one time that it had been recorded by 57 different artists, not only Eddie Dean, Hal Southern, Tex Ritter, Cowboy Copas, but artists like Red Simpson who changed the names and called it "Trucker's Heaven" to John Agar who changed the names and called it Hollywood Heaven to Roy Rogers who changed the names and called it Cowboy Heaven, to the Riders in The Sky who changed the names and called it Sidemeat Heaven, even to another artist that had changed the names and called it Jazz Heaven.
AND YET, they never received doodle squat as far as awards go and very little royalties considering the magnitude of this song, after the publishing was sold by the company that original published it, it was hard to even find who had it, and if you think a publishing company is going to come looking for you to give you money, well guess again, About six years ago we started writing letters and everything else it took to remedy at least part of this situation, we had no authority to audit anyone's books, only Hal or Eddie could do that, but after four years we were able to get them four Gold records, two for Hal and two for Eddie but none of them were for records sold by Tex Ritter.
We presented Eddie Dean's two records to him, I think it was three years ago in October at the son of Ray "Crash" Corrigan's place in Thousand Oaks, California with as many of Eddie's friends that could be present at the time, including Hi Busse that flew in from New Mexico, Larry Scott that flew in from Texas, Hank Penny's widow, Sheri Penny Nona, KLAC DJ. and friend Don Hinson, Bill Ward that had handled the business dealings of most of Gene Autry's radio stations and just a lot of other good friends that loved Eddie Dean.....>>>>But the sad part was that Hal Southern's health was so bad that ex KLAC DJ Corky Mayberry and I drove down to Vista, Ca. to give Hal his records, he was already blind and could only sit and hold them and cry, Hal Southern never ever saw any awards from any record company or publishing company for his song "Hillbilly Heaven" until the day he died, and if this is not enough to gag a maggot, I'll kiss your butt in downtown Indianapolis and give you a week to draw a crowd.
So the point to all of this "IS" If you do not take care of business and have someone on these people's butt's all the time you will be screwed, they will not come looking for you to give you a red dime, you will never see an award and most people will never know you even wrote what ever it is you did write.
It won't matter to Hal Southern now what you do with his song, he is now in Hillbilly Heaven, so to those who drive big cars from the money made off of it while Hal was going blind unable to pay the fee of a fancy doctor to help him, you can take this to the bank, What goes around, Comes around and may the Bird of Paradise fly up your nose.
Goodbye Hal, I will miss you:
If you think we are upset about what happened with Hal and his song, I can't imagine what would make you think such a thing.
We gotta another song or two we will tell ye about when we come down from this one.
Somehow we just can't get into doing a couple of the stories we wanted to on some of the good things that are going on, but we will in a couple of days, so if anyone cares or not we just had to say goodbye in our own way to our friend Hal.
We'll see ye next time, But just in case we don't, take care of yourself
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