Lefty Frizzell – If You’ve Got The Money (I’ve Got The Time)

12th November 2021 · 1950, 1950s, Country, Music
Lefty Frizzell is one of the forgotten names of country music. But he was one of its biggest, most influential – and controversial – stars.

It’s always seemed strange to me that while pretty much everyone has heard of country legend Hank Williams, not so many know the more memorable name of Lefty Frizzell.

With his unique and hugely influential vocal style, Lefty smoothed the rough edges off the raw bar-room sound of Texas honky-tonk.

His smooth singing created a style that inspired singers from George Jones and Merle Haggard to Willie Nelson and Randy Travis – even Roy Orbison.
Lefty had a distinctive vowel-bending way of stretching out syllables in a song as if tasting a fine wine by swirling it around in his mouth to savour the flavour.
“He would hold on to each word until he finally decided to drop it and pick up the next one,” said Merle Haggard, who made his own stage debut as a teenager when Lefty called him onstage and handed him his guitar (which Merle later bought for $350,000)
William Frizzell (the nickname ‘Lefty’ came from a PR story that he had decked a schoolfriend in a playground fight) was born in a Texas town called Corsicana, where his dad worked the oil rigs, moving his young family around the oilfields of the Southwest states.
The boy began singing when he was only 12, appearing on wartime radio shows where he developed a style inspired by his parents’ Jimmie Rodgers and Ernest Tubbs records.
He married his childhood sweetheart Alice Harper on his 18th birthday, moving to New Mexico. But his career hit a bump early on with an incident that would have had him cancelled today.
Barely a year after the wedding, Lefty was arrested for having sex with an underage fan and jailed for two years.
In those more forgiving postwar times, he was able to turn his crime to his advantage. While serving his sentence, he wrote song lyrics to Alice and, after his release, managed to sell one of those songs to a record producer and get a deal in Nashville.
I Love You In A Thousand Ways became the B-side of his first big hit, If You’ve Got The Money (I’ve Got The Time), in 1950 and went on to have a life of its own, both sides hitting No.1 in the country charts.
Lefty was an overnight sensation, enjoying 13 Top Ten hits over the next two years. He even got his wife back. But behind the scenes his life was in turmoil, due to his heavy drinking.
He signed several conflicting management contracts, leading to legal disputes, and was arrested again, this time for delinquency, backstage at the Grand Ole Opry.
Moving his family to Southern California, his career slumped after 1953 but revived with what would become his best known song, a version of Long Black Veil, in 1959.
The Frizzells moved back down south to Nashville where he continued to write and record, with some success, until Lefty died in 1975 after a stroke. He was only 47.