Frank David Leone was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and has lived in the South his entire life. Besides his hometown of Shreveport where he lived until the age of 24, Leone has lived in Dallas and Nashville. He currently resides in rural Jackson County, Tennessee.
His songs have been recorded by Lee Ann Womack, Chris Knight, Matt King, and Joy Lynn White, among others. His primary interest has been writing story songs, but only recently did the idea linking a group of characters in a series of songs occur to him. He is an avid reader of Southern fiction, and his inspiration has been informed by the novels of William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry.
Highway 80 Stories contains a group of songs and stories that describe the settlement within the swath of territory along the route of U.S. Highway 80 through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. In some songs/stories this history goes back to the original immigrants from Scotland and Ireland who entered America in the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and how they traversed the Appalachian mountains into Kentucky and Tennessee and then the Deep South.
The settlement along Highway 80 included colonial pioneers, plantations and slavery, the Civil War, history of personal whiskey distilling, bootlegging and moonshine, the civil rights struggle, and historical events like the ambush that ended Bonnie and Clyde’s crime spree and the Selma March.
These songs and stories focus roughly on nine family lines, with characters appearing in a number of songs, as well as their ancestors and descendants. While Leone makes every effort to create realistic characters, e.g. giving them birth dates and hometowns, they are not real individuals. However, Leone writes the songs and stories to honor the real people who lived the history Highway 80 Stories is about, and whom he’s met and known growing up in Shreveport, living in Dallas and spending time elsewhere in this region.
Cities that are featured in songs include: (Texas) Dallas, Longview, Tyler; (Louisiana) Shreveport, Monroe, Vivian; (Mississippi) Vicksburg, Jackson, Meridian; (Alabama) Selma, Demopolis, Montgomery; (Georgia) Columbus, Macon, Savannah, Tybee Island.