Kendall Hayes (1935-1995)

Writer of Country Classic "Walk on By" (and that'other' song)

By Bill Ede

Scene: Downtown Louisville, August 1963. Paul Cowley's Record Shop on 4th Street. The beginning of my 30+-year love affair with collecting records.

After purchasing my very first record ("Candy Girl"/"Marlena" by the 4 Seasons), I noticed my first (of countless-to-come) record "bargain bins" (with "cutout" 45s by unknown artists, as well as established artists like Chuck Jackson, The Earls, Jimmy Reed, Peter, Paul & Mary. Roosevelt Grier?). Of the 20 or so dirt-cheap records that I bought that day, the one that really did it for me was one called "Thisaway or Thataway" on the Palisade record label (Danville, Ky.) by a guy named Kendall Hayes, also credited as the song's writer. It had this great organ solo in it that I've since come to associate with Del Shannon records ("Runaway," "Hats Off to Larry," some later singles on Amy), but was thematically closer to Orbison's "Running Scared," (with the author's love interest having to decide whether to go "thisaway" [with "me"] or "thataway" [with "him"]) and it was just an overall joy to listen to, as I'd play the thing over and over and over. (It even reached No. 2 on my pretend-DJ [WEDE] "radio" countdown [with "Jungle of Love" along for the ride as its co-hit "B" side], after my record collection had grown sufficiently to warrant such indulgences.)

Over the years, the idea of contacting Kendall Hayes went through my mind more than a few times, especially considering his Kentucky roots. When someone recently called my attention to the Jeff Puckett article in the January 19 Courier-Journal (detailing the recent accolades Hayes' "Walk On By" [not to be confused with the Bachrach-David song "Walk On By," recorded by Dionne Warwick, Isaac Hayes and others] has received from both Billboard and BMI), I decided once and for all to drop this guy a note, describing how much enjoyment I d gotten from that 45 of long ago, as I wasn't sure if anyone besides me (and Hayes) had ever even heard the song. Such contact was never to be made, however, as news of Hayes' untimely February 10 death at 59 of liver cancer found its way to me in similar fashion to the earlier information of only weeks before.

Anyway, if you're reading this, Kendall Hayes, be it known (for whatever it may be worth) that at least one person thought "Thisaway or Thataway" could have been a smash hit (in those more predictable pre-Beatles years) and in at least one basement it, in fact, was.

(Kendall Hayes [nee Hays] is best known for authoring Leroy Van Dyke's 1961 country hit "Walk On By," which spent 19 of its 37 weeks on the Billboard country charts in the No. l. position and peaked at No. 5 on the pop chart. Billboard recently dubbed it the most successful country single of all time, based on both sales and airplay.)