May 25, 2024

New Fury Media

Music. Gaming. Nostalgia. Culture.

Interviewing your hero : Our chat with the legendary Donna Fargo

By Dave Parsons

 

I remember being 7 years old in 1972, and my mom singing along to the radio in the kitchen.  The song was The Happiest Girl In The Whole USA  by a new singer named Donna Fargo.  That memory has always stuck with me, and I became interested in this new singer’s music.

Fast forward to 1977 and this singer was coming to my hometown.  The crossing guard at our elementary school doubled as a security guard at the backstage door of the theater, and arrangement were made for me to meet the singer.  I was told that you should never meet your heroes, because they may not measure up to the pedestal you have them on in your mind. On November 26, 1977, the crossing guard introduced me to Miss Fargo.  I gave her a rose I bought for her and I don’t remember a lot more of the meeting except I stepped off a curb in front of a moving car on the way home. I remember listening to the second show that night on the radio, and she said “I want to dedicate this song to a little guy named David whom I met earlier tonight”, and sang her hit song Mr. Doodles.  

Fast forward two years, and a picture that is still in the history books for sale at that theater, have a picture of me in the front row, with my handmade I Love Donna Fargo shirt on. 

Being my high school had the only real broadcasting radio station in the state, and I was a DJ my entire high school career, I hand wrote a letter to Miss Fargo’s office in Nashville, asking for an interview after her show on April 9, 1982.  She was at the height of her career at the time, and had every reason to say no, but her office sent me my first backstage pass.  Not only did I interview her for little 100-watt WPHP radio at the high school, but excerpts of the interview ended up on 50,000-watt WWVA in Wheeling a few Sundays later. That is why I have always marked April 9, 1982 as the beginning of my career in radio, photography, and media.  Had she said no to that interview, being one of my heroes, I would have probably never asked anyone ever again.  In short, she changed the direction of my life that night, by being kind to a 17-year-old kid.

Decades past, and so did a pandemic that wiped out the publication I had.  When the calendar turned to 2022, hope sprung eternal and I thought how great it would be to feature a 40th Anniversary article on Donna Fargo in the comeback issue of my publication.  She had been through a stroke, and she and her husband/producer Stan Silver, had Covid and were hospitalized at the same time.  Stan did not survive his bout with Covid and I added the note to mention it with condolences when I compiled questions if I should get the interview.

It was with these thoughts, that I sent a request for a phone interview to take place on April 9.  Schedules did not work out, and the interview was scheduled for some weeks later. The tragedy of my life happened on May 3, 2022 when my wife of 33 years passed away suddenly.  The interview got pushed back a few times and in was mid- September when I finally sat down to do the phone interview.  

It is a huge understatement to say that I was in no condition emotionally to interview my hero for most of my life, but the show must go on, right?  Donna had a new CD out, a resurgence of her career, and I was determined to mark the 40 years since the first interview.

We talked for 30 minutes, and most of that conversation is below.  Remember, what I said earlier about meeting your heroes?  40 years later, and she hadn’t changed a bit. Donna beat me to the condolences and her comments at the end that she never forgot that 17-year-old kid still sends me down a road of gratitude.  I am so honored I got to tell her she changed my life.  How many times do you get to do that?

Alas, my publication never made it back to the world wide web, and this interview has been on my computer since September of 2022.  My thanks and appreciation to the folks here at New Fury Media for being willing to publish this.

 

Donna Fargo

How are you, Dave?

Me:

Doing good. Been too long since I’ve talked to you.

Donna Fargo

Oh it’s so nice to talk to you.  We’ve known each other since you were a teeny bopper.

Me: 

Yeah. It was November of 1976. I was in fifth grade. My God. 

Donna Fargo

Wow

Me: 

I haven’t got to see you for so long. I just haven’t got down there, but, I am so glad we get a chance to do this. The new CD is wonderful. I just want to ask you a couple questions about it and some of the songs on there if that’s okay?  

Donna Fargo

Yeah for sure, but first, Dave, let me, tell you how sorry I am to hear about the loss of your wife.

Me:

Thank you.

Donna Fargo

She must have been so young.

Me:

She was 59. She was sitting there one minute and the next minute she was gone. She had a massive heart attack.

Donna Fargo

That makes for quite an adjustment

Me: 

It’s been such an adjustment. And, the same to you with Stan. I was brokenhearted when I read the post that they put up about him. It has been years since I’ve seen y’all, but, I thought a lot of him.  He was always real nice to me. 

Donna Fargo

Yeah it’s been such an adjustment as you say,

Me

Well, you know what?  I’ll just swing into it with this. Love Knows No Door on the new CD. You seem to be exploring a lot of the emotions and a lot of questions.  Big questions of life. I mean, is that where the, the song came from? Was that written after COVID and all that, or was it before that? 

Donna Fargo

No, they were all written before and we had recorded them and were working on an album.  And we were just taking our time.  And he died.  And I found the CD’s that he had done all in one place. That was where the divine intervention came in.  I was walking through the hallway, and just opened the cabinet door.  I don’t even know exactly how long after he died that this happened, but I was really in deep grief, and just walking through the hallway and for some reason opened the cabinet door, and pulled out a bag that had all of those CD’s together. And I listened to them and thought, wow, there is no question that they had to be heard, but I didn’t know who would want to hear them.

Because they were completely mastered and it was like something took over me, and got me back into life. So, it really was divine intervention because I didn’t have any juice in me after he left. It absolutely kind of saved my life I think. 

Me

With country radio the way it is today, and not playing, you know, some older, more established artists, that I was just wondering, I guess you hoped there was still an audience there, or do you know that there was such a core audience? Because it seems like the reaction to this has really been, you know, very favorable. 

Donna Fargo

Yeah we shared the information with my fans and friends on Facebook, and the fan club website, Donna Fargo.com, and so it started there.  And we kept in touch with them, and we offered it for sale to those folks first.  They have always encouraged me about my music and loving my songwriting. 

We released it through CDA to get it to the stations, but as you know, country radio is different now.  So, after that we made it available on iTunes, Amazon music and Spotify.  And that is just not as touchy feely personal as a CD.  I like to read the information on the CD package cover.  

Me

Didn’t you ask the fans who bought the initial offering to pick the first single?  

Donna Fargo

Yeah we did.

Me

Did it surprise you they picked “One Of The Good Guys”? 

Donna Fargo

No because it was our choice too, but we wanted them to have a say in it.  So, after they had listened to all the songs on the CD over and over and over, and we gave them a month, and everybody voted and “One Of the Good Guys” was overwhelmingly selected as the single.

Me:  

Was Stan the inspiration for that song? 

Donna Fargo

He was because he was the consummate good guy.  I always say he was the first one.  But, if you listen carefully, it’s not just a love song, like say “Cross My Heart” that is on the CD.  But, “One Of the Good Guys; I really wrote it for anyone who had a good guy in their lives, and my hope is, it would inspire those close to those good guys to share the meaning of the song and show their appreciation to the people that are the most special in their lives.  It is such a de-personalized world now and that was a reason we did a poster with the lyrics of the song on it, because we wanted to spread good will, and so people would have something to give to someone they think a lot of.  You know it’s so important that we tell people how much we care for them.

Me

Right.  Encourage them in any way you can. I think that’s one thing that’s really lacking in this world, just my own personal observation. So was that kind of the same inspiration you had for “I think of you?”

Donna Fargo

It was different.  I mean there are parts of it that could relate to after Stan, but it wasn’t inspired for Stan.  I always try to write for all the people, and you try to analyze what people would want to relate to, and that’s how “I Think Of You” came about.   I like that song, it’s just kind of mesmerizing.  

Me: 

It is. And it can make people think and make me think of someone. You know, each verse with maybe somebody different. 

Donna Fargo

What do you think Dave should be the next single?  I’m just curious.

Me

Well, that was what I was going to get into here. You recorded two different versions of This is America and We Can Do Better in America ten years apart, give or take. And some of the issues that were in the first one cycled between the two recordings. So, do you think releasing a song like that would create a total bedlam, or would it maybe be able to be a healing rod that we could all get together behind certain things that would make our, make, make all of us better. 

Donna Fargo

I don’t know. I think you have to see who is making what happen before you can make a positive change. I don’t know it “This Is America” would be a single. We are just kind of playing it by ear, or heart or whatever, and if radio stations started playing it,  and it was a grass roots kind of thing, but things are different now than they were in the “Funny Face” days.  I always thank the DJ’s for playing “Funny Face” out of the album because if they hadn’t picked it started playing it, I don’t think the record label would have chosen it for a single.  So, they allowed me to have back to back million selling singles.  But, now it seems like jocks aren’t making the decisions.  It’s such a big business world that the delivery of the music is different.

Me: 

I’m not so sure it’s not all pre-programmed now.  You used to have 12 weeks to get to #1 and now some singles take up to a year to get to number one. I mean how good is this song, you know? 

Donna Fargo

Yeah and because of all the streaming stuff too, that it takes that long for everybody to hear it. 

Me:  

Yeah and when you consider it used to be radio was the only outlet we had to hear it. Now we have the internet where you can hear it immediately. You’d think it would be the other way around.  And, uh, and it just doesn’t work that way. To answer your question If I had to pick the second single, I’d say Love Knows No Door. 

Donna Fargo

It’s funny I get that reaction from men on that song..

Me

It feels like every question that I’m asking myself right now in the situation I’m in is in that song.  And so  I know for other people it would be different, I would think that would be a healing thing to put out, you know? 

Donna Fargo

I’ve heard from a lot of guys who love “Love Knows No Door”, and I thought that was interesting. I think maybe it’s a song you can chew on, and you know, it’s just interesting.  I try to evaluate all my songs objectively and think well you say ‘maybe I should have done this, or maybe I should have done that’.  Like with, “This Is America”, after we started with the verse in the original version, Stan and I both thought we should have started with the chorus. So, we went back and reworked it.  I probably should have got rid of that line about the gas prices, because now it’s worse.

Me: 

Well, it always fluctuates, you know. Do you have more music to come? Are you looking in the future for that? 

Donna Fargo

We do. We are looking at tapes and stuff.  There is some good stuff in there, and we could do a full-blown CD and we plan to.   Two of my favorite songs I have ever written would be in that group. But, it’s going to take some time, because I want this CD to work its way into people’s hearts and minds, I hope.  It’s a writer’s dream that people will play them over and over and over and it finds its way into their hearts. 

Me: 

Are you still doing some of the inspirational cards and books for Blue Mountain Arts?

 

Donna Fargo

My 8th book was released this year, and a calendar. They are available on Amazon.  It’s called “Everything Is Possible With God”.  The book was ready to be put out when Stan died, and I thought ‘Oh I need to read that book again…’……because it changed my perspective when someone that close to you dies, and I did make some changes in the book and was able to before it was released.

You always wonder about an inspirational book, you don’t take into account, or considering someone dying.  It’s a different perspective, so we changed some things, and added some things and it’s a better book now.

Me

Well, that’s good for sure. There’s been rumors of an autobiography memoir somewhere along the way?  

Donna Fargo

Well, I don’t know.  I’ve started it about 16 times.  But, when I finally have time, yea probably. I was always so busy so I didn’t take notes along the way.  I would have to do some research as to when things happened and oh my gosh that would be a long process.  I might have to do a shorter version.

Me:

You know there was a debate on your Facebook fan club page as to when Happiest Girl actually turned 50.  You have maybe a whole year to celebrate the album from between whenever Happiest Girl went #1` and Funny Face, and so I’ve got to ask, is there any chance with that and the new CD we’re going to see you in concert somewhere? 

Donna Fargo

Well, because of health problems, I just stopped working the road.  But, I would like to say that working the road was one of the hardest, yet most fulfilling parts of this business. Since. I’ve not been performing live, what I’ve missed most is the interaction with the fans.  Thankfully with Facebook, I have the chance to stay connected to everyone.   And, while they may not see me in concert, I do meet and greets, and book signings, and things like that. 

Me:

You mentioned the health issues that have been noted. Can you give me an update on where you’re at now? 

Donna Fargo

Yeah, I think considering all things I’m doing ok.  I always encourage people to not give up, when they have any kind of problems, but especially health problems.  And it’s so important to keep doing what you love as well as you can, for as long as you can, because it works. And I’m sure you know this, that being involved with what makes you happy is so important to anyone’s well being, so I think I’m doing ok.

Me

Well, that’s great.  I mean, you hear things get posted, and then sometimes the follow up doesn’t come, and everybody’s sitting there hanging, going what happened? The pandemic wiped my magazine out and trying to build it back up to what it was before the pandemic is tough.

Donna Fargo

Covid wiped out everything.

Me

I’ll tell you what, I asked, I asked you this 40 years ago, and I’m going to put a slight wrinkle on it. Are you still the happiest girl in the whole USA, and why? 

Donna Fargo

Well, I will always claim to be the Happiest Girl in the Whole USA and that was a very positive thing for me because I always called myself an posimist.  That’s the cross between and optimist and a pessimist.  And when you write a song called “The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA you can’t walk around looking unhappy, you know?  So I do claim to be the Happiest Girl In the Whole USA but I hope I have a lot of competition because as I wrote in one of my books, that if you aren’t happy you are cheating yourself, and I really believe that.

But, I’m not happy about losing Stan of course, but I think your real happiness is based on your relationship with God, and knowing that He is with you all the time in your spirit.  And then trying to develop your spirit so that you can become almost whole in your spirit, mind and body.  And, we can just educate ourselves with our minds, and if you can fill yourself spiritually as much as you do in a minimum of 12 years of school, we need to educate ourselves spiritually.  I think that causes a person to become whole, because the Bible says we are more than conquerors. That can lift us up and make us more than just a human body.

Me:

Who inspired you to be a singer by the way?

Donna Fargo

I was influenced, at least my heart was, by Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley.  I think they were my biggest influences.   But I always kept it a secret, because I wanted to be happy, and I always wanted to be a singer, so I just kind of kept that a secret in my heart.  I thought I need a real job first in case my dream never comes true.  So, I became an English teacher because I thought that would be the perfect subject to teach, because it could be utilized in whatever phase of whatever.   So, I majored in English and psychology……psychology just to figure out myself….but, I enjoyed teaching and that led me to the future.  In 1972, we were getting ready to close the school year, and Stan and I had gone to Nashville and recorded Happiest Girl, and they let me out 3 days early so I could open in Las Vegas for Roy Clark….so it was a fast learn.

Me:

It was a pretty good learning curve that you had here on this new CD and the learning curve of trying to learn how to do all this in the new way of the world. To get it out there, to get people to hear it.  

Donna Fargo

If you have any new ideas, please let us know.

Me: 

I will, I sure will!  And I appreciate you taking the time today. Is there anything else you’d like to kind of wrap up with on the new release? 

Donna Fargo

I just hope everyone will buy the CD because it tells the story of how it came about on the outside of it.  You can visit the video of “One of The Good Guys” on youtube, which is the first single from it.  We worked really hard on it, and showed a lot of pictures of friends and fans who were good guys on it. I really hope everyone will try and buy the CD because it’s really special I think.  

Me:

Good deal. I appreciate it. I appreciate you taking the time when we finally able to get this done.

Donna Fargo

It was so good to talk to you after so many years.   I want to thank you for your support all these years, and I have always kept you in my heart.  I have always remembered you from West Virginia. 

Me

I treasure to know that you remembered me from those brief times we met, and I weaved my way backstage and taking pictures.  I honestly can tell you if it hadn’t been for you that night in 82, I don’t know what would have happened because if you’d have said no, I’d have probably never asked anybody again.

Donna Fargo

I really appreciate that.  I appreciate you.

Me

I appreciate you too, Donna. Thanks for taking the time. And like I said, hopefully I get headed down that way, we can get together for a few minutes.  

Donna Fargo

I hope you will.  It will be fun to look forward to.

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