Tommy Faile's career with the Crackerjacks spanned the "golden" era when WBTV produced local entertainment programming.

People | Tommy Faile

Lancaster News, February 1949

Tommy Faile Gives Good Account of Himseld on NBC's 'Phillip Morris Night' Broadcast

As his thousands of friends across the State of South Carolina sat by their radios cheering him on, Tommy Faile, guitarist and vocalist of the "WIS Hired Hands" group, gave a good accounting of his talents on the coast-to-coast NBC "Philip Morris Night with Horace Heidt" broadcast from Miami Beach, Florida, on Sunday evening February 6.

Tommy FaileThese many Palmetto State folks recognized his well-controlled voice as one they hear twice daily (at 8:30 AM and 12:15 PM, 12:00-noon Saturdays) as a member of the "WIS Hired Hands" group for sponsors City Auto Sales, Good Enuf Flour, and Cate-McLaurin Company.

Tommy had been a contestant on the local appearance of "Horace Heidt's Parade of Philip Morris Stars" stage show held earlier at Columbia Township Auditorium under sponsorship of the Columbia Junior Chamber of Commerce. Although he was not a winner in this competition, Heidt recognized him as a young gentleman with more than his share of talent, and had his original "Take Me Back Down South" tune orchestrated. Then Faile was invited to appear in Miami for the broadcast.

On the broadcast-presented before 5,000 enthusiastic FloridiansTommy made what his "WIS Hired Hands" co-workers called "his finest performance." All South Carolinians should be mighty` proud of the 21-year-old youngster—"even though," as another WIS employee put it, "Heidt introduced him as 'Tommy Fraile' three times in succession!" Tommy did his selection with his usual finesse, and twice during his tune did appreciative Miamians nearly "drown him out" with cheers and applause.

In competing with four other talented men and women for the $250 cash award, Tommy found himself on a broadcast with an unusual quantity of talent and show-business know-how." Winner was Willard Bolchoz, a 17-year-old cornetist from Bishop England High School, Charleston, whose "Sugar Blues" scored highest on the electric applause meter He is the son of Mr and Mrs. T. R. Bolchoz, of Navy Yard, S. C.

Youthful Tommy Check, the 9year-old drummer from Allentown, Pennsylvania, was also in the radio contest, as were a young Miami girl vocalist and a speed clarinetist, also from Miami.

Faile is a native of Lancaster where his parents, Mr and Mrs. McKinley Faile, live at 8 Grace Avenue. He sings bass in the "WIS Hired Hands" group, and is "straight man" on the stage appearances of the local entertainers.

Although Heidt offered Tommy a chance to sign a contract and stay with the Horace Heidt aggregation, Faile modestly turned it down. "I like South Carolina too much," he told them, "and I get too much kick being associated with the `Hired Hands."' "Besides," he added caustically,"my girl friend wouldn't like my being away from Columbia for so long!"

Heidt, who traveled more than 40,000 miles last year brought his show within reach of thousands of talented young musicians and actors who otherwise might never have had the opportunity to prove their ability. An equally-full schedule is on the books for the coming year with tours covering all 48 states.

For this service to American youth Heidt has been acclaimed by local dignitaries in every city he has visited, from mayors and governors to Vice-President-elect Barkley Philip Morris cigarettes bring the broadcast to NBC listeners Sundays at 7:00-7:30 PM.

Copyright © The Lancaster News. Republished with permission.

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Charlotte Observer, 1949

SIGN CONTRACTS Two of the winners of the talent search conducted by Capitol Records, Inc., recently at the Armory Auditorium, when 70 hillbilly bands and singing units auditioned for Capitol officials, are pictured as they signed contracts to record for Capitol. Seated at the desk are Tommy Faile (Tommy Faile and the Hired Hands) of Columbia, S. C., and Jim Eanes of Martinsville, Va. Second row, Tex Ritter, cowboy star and recording artist, who was master of ceremonies at the auditions; Spencer Rackley, manager of the local branch of Capitol; and Lee Gillette of Hollywood, director of folk music for Capitol. (Observer Staff photo-Houston.)

Copyright © The Charlotte Observer. Reprinted with permission

The State, Columbia, SC, April 1949

WIS Hired Hands Win Recording Contract over 70 other band units

The "WIS Hired Hands," for 12 years featured artists on WIS, last month won a recording contract for Capitol Records over 70 other hillbilly band groups.

The mass audition was held in Charlotte, North Carolina, with instrumental units from all over the South auditioning. Tex Ritter served as master of ceremonies in the program, which was conducted by Lee Gillette, of Capitol Records, Hollywood, and Spencer Rackley, distributor for Capitol in the Queen City.

The Hired HandsAs winners, the "Hired Hands" made two sides as accompaniment for Tex Ritter-on "Careless Hands" and "'Ceptin' Old Shorty." Tommy Faile, of the "Hired Hands," recorded two selections, "Take Me Back Down South," which he sang on the "Philip Morris Night with Horace Heidt" show in Miami several weeks ago, and the original tune of another "Hired Hands" member, Ira Dimmery. This selection is titled "There's a Petal Missing."

The group also served as accompanying musicians for Jimmy Eanes, vocalist, of Martinville, Virginia. Jimmy sang "Better Wake Up" and "Baby Blue Eyes."

All these recordings will be available on Capitol Records in all music stores in the near future.

Among the 70 bands appearing in the competition were several which are well-known in South Carolina. Others journeyed to Charlotte from such distant points as Florida, Louisiana, and West Virginia. The "Hired Hands" were the only band selected to record, although several soloists in addition to those listed above made recordings.

WIS-dom readers will be advised of the availability of the new Capitol recordings as soon as they are released for general sale.

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Tommy joined Arthur Smith and The Crackerjacks in 1951. There may have been newspaper coverage of the event, but we have not run across any stories. Actually, in the early '50s, once the shine had worn off television's emergence, the local papers were not quick to promote their new "competition."

Don Reno, second row left, joined the group at about the same time as Tommy. We don't know the girls name. That's Sonny to her right, and Ralph to her left.

Tommy joined Arthur, Sonny and Ralph, the three Smith brothers, and, with his rich, warm baritone, immediately became a vital member of the group. He remained a Crackerjack for close to thirty years, while other, newer cast members came and (some) went. Tommy worked particularly well with Ralph Smith. The two contributed hilarious and outrageous comedy routines to the Crackerjack performances.

Each member of the group was on the WBTV's payroll (albeit at a very low wage), in order that he or she be eligible for medical insurance and other benefits. That's the kind of company Jefferson was. (Of course, they also received a handsome compensation from Arthur for their talent.)

The Crackerjacks performed onstage at many area auditoriums and open-air venues.

Sonny, right,who also ran an advertising agency, was instrumental (!) in seeing that there was always a waiting list of advertisers eager to sponsor the Crackerjacks' broadcasts and personal appearances.

Click here to see more Crackerjack photos.

Photos courtesy Jim Scancarelli.

The Charlotte Observer, 1970

Now on 13 stations, Tommy Faile Show Thriving

Observer Staff Writer

Crinkly-eyed, deep-voiced Tommy Faile, a guitar-strumming country music specialist, is doing well these days on television.

Thanks to his sponsor, Bristol Myers, the number of stations carrying his taped show jumped up at Christmas time from five to thirteen, aiming at market areas that include Virginia, the Carolinas, parts of Georgia and Tennessee, and Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas.

But Tommy Faile's seven-year-old daughter Lisa still worships Elvis Presley!

"Oh, she'll put on one of my records occasionally," Faile said, as he went through the arduous process of making short promotional tapes and taping part of his next week's program in a light-flooded studio at WBTV.

Tommy FaileTommy Faile, 42, has a wealth of timbre in his singing, rewarding to listen to, whether the listener is longhair, crew-cut, hayseed, or bald.

His personal appearance, sort of sun-and-wind-burned, with a cheery, crooked grin, comes on with his performance style in a low-key way that hints at steady growth in audience appeal for a long, long time.

With country music sweeping the world and with Faile's concentration on just dishing out honest entertainment, it's easy to foresee a lot of Cadillacs in the future of this loom-fixer's son from Lancaster, S.C.

In the meantime, he just focuses on one show at a time, goes out with his group on what he calls "road work" one or two nights a week and makes cash on the side with freelance commercials.

The pressure of being responsible for a weekly show, he says, "is terrific." But you wouldn't know it, unless you note that he smokes a lot of cigarettes.

Composer Loonis McGlohon is his pianist. Poised, cheerful little Wayne Haas is with him as a singer and guitarist.

Tommy Dodd is his steel guitar; Jerry Whitley, lead guitar; Steve Dimmery, bass; Paul Collier, drums; and Joan Leslie sounds out the spontaneously rhythmic country crew as vocalist.

One ... Two ... "You've got to try a little kindness ..."

Tommy Faile stretched his eyes to avoid a bright-light squint, caught the cameraman's finger-flick signal, and launched into his first "promo."

"... Please join us for the next Tommy Faile Show ... "

Then a voice from nowhere in particular came amplified into the studio: "Try again, please ..."

Something wrong with a control panel switch.

On their stools and risers, the brightly dressed backup men joined Faile in his bold toe-tapper.

"Something messed up? Boy, this isn't our day."

And again they rollicked through the tune.

Inside jokes filled in the moments of playback.

Faile got quite a bit of ribbing for his double-zippered black boots. As he came back with more of the same, he managed to rest his cigarette between two keys of his guitar.

His suit was a close-fitting conservative gray, over a red shirt and a loose red tie. His hair is longish at the back, well trimmed and well styled.

When he was nine, his father gave him his first guitar, a $3.95 item from Sears Roebuck, and taught him how to tune it, and the boy practiced a lot.

Faile went through elementary school. About 1945, he went with a Columbia, S.C., radio group called the Aristocratic Pigs. Later he was on the same station with The Hired Hands.

About 1951, he joined Arthur Smith and the Crackerjacks in Charlotte, starting to build a backlog of fans with his manly style and his comedy skits with Ralph Smith in such characters as Cousin Fud.

The Tommy Faile Show was launched on its own in September, 1969.

Faile says he and Arthur Smith are good friends, still willing to help each other: "I think Arthur's a great guy ... fine to work for ..."

And so apparently the new show evolved from the wish of WBTV to expand in the country music field.

Faile said his show stacked up in the top 10 at his station last year - "networks and the whole business."

They don't worry about ratings quite as much as national showfolk, but they have to keep 'em in mind:

"It's a lot different, running a show ... I have to do a pile of thinking. But I really love doing it."

Sundays he is back from singing on the road, just in time to start calling around and doing research to line up program and personnel for his next taped show. The taping may take from one and a half to three days.

Besides daughter Lisa, Faile and his wife Frances have twin sons. Gregory and Gary, 18.

Faile's biggest selling record to date was "The Legend of the Brown Mountain Light,"

The small recording outfit Faile had given the song to was unable to keep up with the demand, and other artists and other labels made a killing with it.

"If we had let Dot Records have it, we would have sold a quarter million ... "

He plans to launch a single on Cotton Records in mid-January with his own "If I Miss That Train" and "I'll See You," written by Jane Connell, on the other side. If this clicks, Faile said, he hopes to follow with an album.

The WBTV taping session rolled through the afternoon.

"I really don't want to know ..." Faile sang, backed up by foot-patting Wayne Haas and blue-coated Jerry Whitley. It went on the first taping.

"Love is but a song we sing ... Come on people, let's get together" had a run-through. Then: "We're ready to do it; let's keep the tempo up," and the cameras caught it.

"We've got 20 seconds to slay ... five seconds to slay ... stand by," the cameraman would chant.

Launching all-out in the first phrase of the song seemed to be a key problem. Somebody had a lot of trouble with a B minor chord.

A guest-singer, long-side burned Dallas Corey, in a blue suit with silver stars and crescent moons, tongue-twisted his way through the rapid "Auctioneer's Song."

Joan Leslie, In short red dress, blue jacket, and red shoes, sang: "People see us everywhere ... They think you really care ... "

There's a little country-music-type tear in her sweet soprano voice. She uses the tear-sound as a sort of gracenote embellishment.

Her hair fluffed high at the top and draped to each shoulder at the sides. A tiny golden cross hung from a gold chain.

"... This is my song; this is the way I sing it," she said, all artist, in a pre-taping discussion. Nobody seemed upset when she got mixed up on the words.

Producer Reno Bailey pulled switches in the control booth, the cameraman flicked his finger, the battery of guitars went into action, and they taped the song again.

Copyright © The Charlotte Observer. Reprinted with permission.

Lancaster News, December 18, 1976

Tommy's A Monroe DJ

Monroe, N. C. — From Lancaster County's Erwin Farm Community to such places as Columbia, Charlotte and Las Vegas. Such has been the career of country and western singer Tommy Faile.

Tommy, now 48, has experienced every aspect of country and western entertainment. He's a lead singer, a bass singer in groups, a comic, a writer and a guitarist.

"I don't know quite how to define myself," he said in an interview last Thursday "I've done a little bit of all of it."

Like a lot of other country and western entertainers Tommy is self taught. He learned to play the guitar by fooling around with it while he was a youngster.

"A bunch of us from the neighborhood used to get together on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons and play around. I used to listen a lot to stars like Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb and try to imitate everything they did," Tommy said.

Tommy distinctly remembers the first chord he ever learned.

"It was a hook G," he said holding up the thumb and index finger of his left hand.

But before a musician can make it he must have his own instrument. And the day Tommy got his first guitar is still fresh in his mind. In fact, he considers that day the high point of his whole career.

"I was about 10 at the time I got it," he remembers. It was a Sears Roebuck and it cost $4. I remember the day the mailman brought it. I saw him slide that long slender box out and I knew what it was.

"It was black and had a bunch of cowboys sitting around a campfire on it. I'll never forget it. It was the one I learned on," Tommy said.

The excitement of that first guitar stayed with Tommy. He says from that day forward a career in music was what he wanted.

"My daddy taught me a couple of chords and I had a cousin that helped me. And there was a girl, a Beakie Kirkly, she taught me a few more chords."

As Tommy moved into his teens the group he was playing with began to play and sing for money, but it wasn't that much. At this time Tom was a lead singer.

"We played a few schools. I remember we used to play Buford School about once a month. And we played for a square dance at the old armory. I remember this one because we made $2."

Like a lot of other Lancaster youths of this period when Tommy got old enough he went to work in the mill. However, he continued to play and sing and it wasn't long until he got his break.

"My first job was with Fisher Hendley and the Aristocratic Pigs over WIS Radio in Columbia," Tommy remembers. "We were sponsored by some meat packing company and Adluh Flour."

Tommy said he had to take a cut in pay in order to break into the music business.

"I was making $48 a week working in the mill and I went to work for Fisher for $36," he said.

The show was a five-day-a-week show that came on at 1 p.m. It was heavy on country music and heavy on comedy.

The Hendley band broke up in 1947 and Tommy took a job with another Columbia based group, Pappy Sherill and Snuffy Jenkins.

"I did solo work and sang bass in a quartet. I guess you could call it all round work," Tommy said.

In 1951 Tommy's big break came when he joined Arthur Smith. As one of Arthur's Crackerjacks, Tommy again proved to be versatile. He sang lead, played the guitar and bass, did solo work and became a somewhat of a celebrity as "Cousin Fudd," a humbling hillbilly comic. The association with Arthur Smith continued on a full-time basis until a couple of years ago when Tommy branched out on his own an the host of his own television show on WBTV.

Since that time Tommy has moved on to WRET-TV, where his country and western show is seen at 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

In 1971, Tommy wrote his biggest song to date," Phantom 309," the story of a trucker that gave his life to save the lives of a busload of school children. With country music star Red Sovine as the singer, the song made the top 40.

Along with his television show, Tommy hosts a daily three-hour radio show over WIXE Monroe.

"It's a relaxed show." Tommy said. We play the top 100 songs and people can call in for requests. I enjoy it."

Tommy says he is enjoying the life of the TV host and radio disc jockey and has no desire to hit the road again.

"Unless of course, I get a hit record," he said.

Copyright © The Lancaster News. Republished with permission.

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Lancaster News, about 1964

Tommy Faile is raring to go with new disc

Remember Tommy Faile's recording of "Brown Mountain Light", the disc that was to take the nation by storm?

Chances are you do if you live in North or South Carolina. But if you're from Terre Haute, Fresno or Fort Worth, you probably don't know Faile from the man who invented the safety pin.

The recording, based on the legend of the strange lights that play across the North Carolina mountain, sold more than 18,000 copies in areas that Faile calls "close 'round". Elsewhere it never got any more popular than sunshine at Christmas.

It should come as no surprise then, that the lanky, dark-haired vocalist of WBT's Crackerjacks, who calls Lancaster his home, has recorded a "sort of sequel", "Ball And Chain".

"It's sort of a ballad also, about life in prison, with 99 years to go", said Tommy, a son of Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Faile of 112 E. Grace Avenue, Lancaster.

"Brown Mountain Light" should have done a lots better," admits Tommy, who has been with the Crackerjacks since 1950. "It was handled wrong. It got around a little. I had letters from out West, and Cuba, but it never reached near the potential it should have. From all indications, it could have been a hit. The record didn't flub. We did, in the handling."

About his newest recording, on a Nob label, Faile says with a grin, "It's going real good. Some of the top stations around the country are playing it as a pick hit. Our local distributor has reordered. I hope it goes."

If you think that wish has anything to do with mercenary desires, then you don't know Tommy Faile. Thirteen years ago he came to Charlotte from Columbia and joined the Crackerjacks as a guitarist - bassman - vocalist. Today he is with the Crackerjacks, as a guitarist-bassman-vocalist.

Standing still? Not by a long shot. For one thing, the Crackerjacks, still headed by "Guitar Boogie" Arthur Smith, is now syndicated in 21 markets. WBTV has recently built a $600,000 addition that will handle the syndication of the show, The Arthur Smith Show. The Crackerjacks are seen in West Virginia, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

To fill his memory-coffers, Faile can look back on a week of appearances on the nation-wide Arthur Godfrey Show, Kate Smith's television show, and guest appearances all over the nation.

Like the Crackerjacks, Faile is moving on individually. His next undertaking will be an album about North Carolina folk songs and ghost tales. He'll write the lyrics, the music and do the vocal. "We have some of the best, most wild and wooly tales I ever heard right here at home."

Besides his album undertaking, he appears with the Crackerjacks on the regular Thursday night 30-minute show on WBTV, appears each weekday morning on WBTV from 7-8 on "Carolina Calling," and make guest appearances, sometimes as many as three per week.

"It gets hectic, sometimes", he admits. "I have a wife, Frances, and twin sons. I try to give them some time, too. But I'm a musician. I like to be cutting records, making a guest appearance, working somehow, somewhere.

"Somebody once said that opportunity only knocks once. I hope that ain't so. I don't believe it I've even started reading poetry to get a better feel of music and lyrics. If "Ball and Chain" doesn't go big, I'll be surprised. Anyway, if opportunity knocks again, I'm reading poetry and raring to go."

Copyright © The Lancaster News. Republished with permission.

Promotion Piece

Tommy's career in the entertainment business has spanned over three decades in radio, television and movies. From two room rural school houses with pot bellied stoves, all the way to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, where all the super stars in the entertainment world have appeared. In fact, Tommy has worked in Las Vegas on three major shows. He has played and sung for folks from every walk of life from the farmer, up to two presidents of the United States. Tommy has appeared on national television shows with Arthur Godfrey and Kate Smith; as well as coast-to-coast radio. Most recently, he did a movie with Ginger Alden called "Lady Grey." Also he had his own syndicated show in a five state area for five years.

He has done national commercials for Kent Cigarettes, Mountain Dew, Gulf Oil, to name a few seen on the entire TV network. He also writes, produces and records hundreds of regional and local commercials for Carolina clients — has received two awards for best commercials of the year from major clients, one for the entire southeast from Bunker Hill Packing Company.

And he has won awards for Danver's Restaurants Commercials from the Charlotte and Memphis Advertising Clubs.

And speaking of writing, Tommy wrote and recorded a million and half seller called "Phantom Three 0 Nine," voted as the number one song in the nation by all truckers in 1977. He also had another smash hit called "The Brown Mountain Light," a North Carolina legend. Being a modest man. Tommy says, "I haven't done all that much. I just love to play and sing, write, promote, and create things that people love, 'cause I love people. It's a very rewarding experience.

"The most thrilling and moving compliment I ever had," says Tommy, "was while doing an all night radio show from WBT in Charlotte. I played one of my own songs by request. At 3 a.m. the phone rang and a lady told me that her mother who was 93, and had been in a coma for several days, awoke as the record was playing and said, 'is that Tommy Faile singing, that man I love to hear so well?' With misty eyes Tommy said, "Believe me, that makes it all worth while."

Tommy behind "bars"

'Ball And Chain'

Tommy Faile isn't really behind bars. It's just a publicity stunt for his new record, "Ball And Chain." Faile, son of Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Faile of Lancaster, has been a soloist with WBTV's CrackerJacks for the past 13 years.

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Tommy died on Sunday, August 2, 1998, at Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, NC. He was 69.

Among his last requests: that his ashes be scattered on Brown Mountain, of which he had sung so many times.

Lancaster News, August 1998

Lancaster's legendary son Tommy Faile dies of heart attack

Career began with Sears Roebuck guitar

Staff writer

He was best known as the tall, lanky singer who appeared on morning television with Arthur Smith and the Crackerjacks. Wearing blue jeans, a long sleeve shirt and a trade mark grin, Tommy Faile was a favorite with viewers.

His deep base voice carried listeners to the "Brown Mountain Light" and aboard "Phantom 309." Faile sang from the heart and fans responded with theirs. For many, he was like a neighbor and friend who dropped by once a week to crack jokes, play some ballads on the guitar and sing a few songs.

Faile was someone working men and women could identify with. His manner was as unpretentious as a country farmer, his acts were clean and wholesome and his stories sprang from old-time everyday life.

Sunday night the much loved performer died from a heart attack. He was in his Belmont, N.C. home when symptoms began and he died before the ambulance got him to the hospital.

News of Faile's death hit family and friends in Lancaster, along with the television and recording personalities he worked with, like a thunderbolt.

Faile's sister Alene Stratton received word about 6:30 a.m. Monday that her brother had passed away. Like many of Faile's relatives, Stratton lives in Lancaster

"It was a shock," she said. "He was a wonderful brother. We were very close."

Faile grew up in the Erwin Farm Community From his front door he could look across the street to Erwin Elementary School. The middle child in a family with five, Faile's father McKinley Faile worked in the cotton mill. His mother was a homemaker.

Billie Barton Snipes and her brother grew up in the house next door to the Failes. She said she remembers the country singer well from those early days.

"We grew up together - me, my brother and Tommy," she said. "As a child he was the same way he was as an adult. He was very likable. Very outgoing. All the kids liked him."

Faile got his musical start when he was in elementary school. "Daddy ordered him a guitar from Sears and Roebuck," said Ida Barton, another sister.

Faile was staring from the classroom window across his home, when the mailman delivered the large package.

"He knew what it was," she said. "And he couldn't wait to get home and start playing."

From the time he pulled off the brown wrapping appear, Faile and the guitar became inseparable.

"He loved music and he was always playing," she said.

After working briefly in the cotton mill, Faile, at age 16, packed his guitar and headed for Columbia where he joined the Hired Hands country band. The group performed at social events and were regulars on a country radio program.

Television performer and musician Arthur Smith heard Faile play. When Smith needed a bass player for his band, called the Crackerjacks, he looked to Faile.

That was in 1951. Television was just in its infancy and Smith, Faile and the Crackerjacks jacks were making their way upward fast. Faile became a valued cast member with a kaleidoscope of talents, according to Smith.

"He could sing harmony or solo and he played the guitar, bass and fiddle," said Smith, a Kershaw native. "I think he was one of the best all-round musicians in the business. I only have praise for Tommy."

Faile was also featured with Brother Ralph as "Cousin Phudd" in many of the comedy skits which were a regular part of the Arthur Smith Show.

The show's easy going, natural flow was a magnet for viewers.

"It really was fun," Smith said. "In all the years I worked with him Tommy and I never had a major disagreement. We were friends."

Over the years, Faile recorded more than 100 albums with Smith. "Phantom 309" and "Brown Mountain Light" were two of most popular solos.

"The closest Tommy ever came to a national hit was "Rainbow Love," Smith said. "He recorded it under the name Sandy Scott. I can't remember now exactly why he decided to try a new name - I think maybe he was going for a younger audience that time."

After the Arthur Smith Show went off the air, Faile continued to record and make personal appearances. Throughout the years he was a regular visitor to Lancaster, staying with his sisters and visiting with other relatives and friends.

"He was always the same," Barton said. "Tommy never changed."

In recent months Smith and the Crackerjacks reunited to produce a series of Public Broadcasting System programs called "Now and Then." The shows aired once a week and coupled clips from the old Arthur Smith Show with live performances by stars like Smith and Faile.

Saturday night's show featured Faile.

Barton said she watched the show. "It was good," she said. "Very good."

Copyright © The Lancaster News. Republished with permission.

Lancaster News, August 1998

Erwin farm boy became Carolina legend

The most precious possession we own is the time God gives us with our family and friends. For me, Tommy Faile was family.

Even though we aren't related, we were both raised in the same mill community.

Gregg Summers Guest ColumnistTommy stopped by our Erwin Farm house every Monday night around 8 p.m., courtesy of the Arthur Smith Show.

I can recall with remarkable vividness walking into our Thompson Avenue house after Troop 81's weekly Boy Scouts meeting and finding Momma sitting at a Singer sewing machine and humming or singing along as the Crackerjacks sang, played and joked around.
And, it was the same at houses all over Erwin Farm because "Cousin Phudd" was one of us - a local boy who did good. And he never forgot where he was from. It might not have been my favorite kind of music, but Tommy was a "homeboy."

We were proud to say that Tommy Faile was raised on Erwin Farm.

I can honestly say every time we rode past the Grace Avenue home of his dad, always looking at the small, white, wooden-framed house, I said to myself, "That's where Tommy Faile was raised."

I wasn't even born in his heyday, but I knew of his legend—everybody on Erwin Farm did.

I never met Tommy in person, but I knew his father. Until Tommy's death this week, I never knew his dad's name was McKinley—all we ever called him was Mr. Faile.

Tommy's dad was a quite, unassuming man who displayed a deep faith in God with every step he took and every word he spoke. Mr. Faile was active at White Springs Baptist Church and always did his part. He was genuine and passed the same trait along to his son, who went on to fame and fortune. His actions did the talking.

The best thing anybody can say about a man is that he is genuine. And that's what Tommy Faile was— the real McCoy.

Lancaster couldn't have asked for a better ambassador I think we're pretty lucky. We've become notoriously known as the home of video poker, but I can't think of many other towns across the nation that are home to a former president, a man who walked on the moon, an actress, Dr. Marion Sims and a true gentleman like Faile.

Before this year's Carolina Legends Festival, I called his Belmont home to add his comments to a story I was writing, but Faile wasn't in. I left a message, but the story went to press before he returned my call.

Faile called the next afternoon and apologized for not returning my call the night before, saying he had gotten in late and didn't want to disturb anyone with a late call.

"That tends to scare folks," Faile said.

For one of the few times in my life, I was tongue-tied. I was talking to one of my childhood heroes— a true Carolina legend.

I collected my thoughts and stumbled with my words.

When I told him I was an Erwin Farm boy as well, I sensed he was smiling. We talked for about five minutes, about the Legends bluegrass festival and growing up on Erwin Farm.

I remember what he said as we said our goodbyes.

"Son," Faile said. "I hope I get to meet you Saturday at the park. I'm looking forward to coming back because no matter where I go, I always enjoy coming home. You take care now, and I hope to see you soon."

This week,Tommy Faile went home for the last time.

I'm sure there's a deep baritone voice ringing out across heaven.

Greg Summers is a Lancaster resident and correspondent for The Lancaster News.

Tommy and his sister Aline, April 12, 1998

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