2019 INDUCTEES >> WILLIS DAVID HOOVER
Category: Iowa Rock 'n Roll Lifetime Achievement Award
A country music outlaw, turned small-town crusader, turned photojournalist, newspaper columnist, roving reporter and author, Willis David Hoover has pursued the American character from the edge, through numerous avocations, occupations and personal re-inventions.
Hoover moved to Shenandoah, Iowa as a fifth-grader, graduating from Shenandoah High School in 1964. He
soon embarked on a career as a wandering troubadour, working Midwest college campuses and coffee houses with folk singers Phil Ochs, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton and Mike Brewer. He and fellow singer/songwriter John Hartford once toured together, living in Hartford’s Volkswagen Beetle. Hoover arrived in Nashville in 1967 and established himself as a studio guitarist, back-up vocalist, and songwriter.
At Glaser Studios (aka "Outlaw Headquarters" according to Rolling Stone) was a young "Outlaw," Hoover, recording an album with Epic Records titled simply Hoover (one of the first 16 track LP's in Nashville). One of the original outlaws, Hoover went on to record for Monument Records, Electra Records. His contribution to Country Rock is not lost on fellow Outlaws Kinky Friedman, Kris Kristofferson, Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and others.
Hoover co-produced what some consider the first country outlaw album, Tompall’s classic Charlie, which included I’m the Loneliest Man I Ever Met, written by Hoover and Kinky Friedman. Hoover then went on to win an ASCAP Award for music from the soundtrack of the 1970 MGM motion picture, “…tick…tick…tick…” which included Hoover’s Top 40 country hit, All That Keeps Ya Goin.
Before leaving Nashville, the songwriter cut one last album in 1971. The Lost Outlaw album was never released, but a fan, acting on a tip, retrieved Hoovers master tapes from a dumpster behind Outlaw Headquarters. The album was released in 2002.
In 1974, dissatisfied with the music industry, Hoover left Nashville as abruptly as he arrived. A year later, he drew national attention when he and Shenandoah mayor, David Childs—disgruntled over the government’s lack of rural representation—launched a small town crusade in the form of a National Rural Communities Mayors Conference. The conference ended up with representation from towns and villages in all 50 states. Hoover and Childs made a famous road trip to Plains, Georgia, which was covered by the three major television networks. The crusaders vowed to sit on President-elect Jimmy Carter’s doorstep until he acknowledged the woes of smalltown America. Instead, they opted for an all-night drinking jag with Carter’s infamous brother Billy, who advised them, “The small towns are going to hell in a handbasket.”
By the late 1970s Hoover was making a living as a photojournalist and writing freelance articles for the Des Moines Register, the Omaha World Herald, and the Kansas City Star. In 1980, the Register hired Hoover full time as a roving reporter, and later as a columnist whose commentaries were marked by wit and satire.
Hoover moved to Hawaii in 1984, retired from the newspaper industry. He wrote a book, Picks, and still plays and records music.