Before the band had been formed, founding Sister Hazel member/front-man Ken Block wrote and recorded this song for a contest. The entire session took only about 90 minutes, and based on its success, it would prove to be one of the most serendipitous 90-minute sessions of his career.
"Originally when I wrote this song, there wasn't a Sister Hazel yet," he told Songfacts. "I was in sort of a heavy rock band at the time, and I was playing these acoustic solo shows. And this recording engineer here in town called me up and he said, 'Hey, man, we're doing this compilation CD for an environmental trust fund, and your band's turned in a couple of songs, but why don't you turn in something of your own?' And I said, 'When's the deadline?' He said, 'Tomorrow morning.' I said, 'Man, I'm working on this song right now, I just started this morning. I think it's got potential.'"
"And at the time I was living in this little duplex on the wrong side of town. And I had two cassette decks, and I'd been listening to a lot of Simon & Garfunkel, and the early Indigo Girls, where there was a lot of answer-back stuff. So I was really dissecting harmonies as I had done since I was a little kid. And I couldn't afford a 4-track or anything at the time, so I'd play the basic chords and the basic melody line into my jam box, and I would leave the hole. So it was like (singing) 'There's been times… all my roads… just can't turn and walk away.' You know what I mean? I'd leave the hole there, and then I'd play that jam box, and hit 'record' on another jam box, and sing kind of over it, where I was overdubbing onto this little cassette like that, all the other little parts. And I finished it in about an hour and a half. That was one of those songs that just kind of spilled out. And the melody, I just wanted a looping chorus where each line before it tied into the next line, tied into the next line, and I really wanted to focus on those choruses. I had simple verses, two chords, whatever, so there's not a ton of movement, and there's focus on the lyric, and then with the chorus I just wanted to keep moving it. And I came in and I recorded it the next day in this little studio, acoustically, and it was the only song out of like 800 songs that got turned in that was unanimous to be on that CD."
"And so I started playing acoustically and with the band. I got the band of mine and we recorded it, and every time we played it it just really resonated with people. And that was about the time that tape trading was kind of going on. It was really before Napster and all that. And that was our first experience with… we kind of started as a college band and toured mostly college markets in the southeast, and we'd roll into some town we'd never been to, like Auburn, Alabama, or somewhere, and all of a sudden they'd be singing every word to 'All For You' or 'Happy.' It all was about people trading tapes and stuff like that from shows. And so it was just incredible, and that song just resonated, resonated from day one. It really opened a ton of doors for us. We still will do a ton of colleges and these 18-year-old kids singing every word to half our set, it's mind boggling."
When Ken Block was just a young child, he saw some public service announcements on TV about a homeless shelter run by Sister Hazel Williams. He remembers asking his mom dumbfoundedly, "That lady helps out people she doesn't even know?"
Ken says, "She's worked with the needy and the homeless in our county since I was a little boy. And I always thought that was very cool, that spirit of unconditional regard for people. She happens to be an old female black minister, but she doesn't care what religion, what race, what orientation… if you're a prostitute or a drug addict or anything, she'll give you a safe, warm place to dust off, regroup, and get back on your feet."
In that spirit, Ken named his band for her, and they continue to send monthly donations to the shelter and call attention to her cause as much as possible through their music. As lucky as she is that the band has found her, Ken says they are the lucky ones. "To be honest with you, it's been incredibly rewarding getting to know her over the years. She has a huge presence, and it's pretty remarkable to be in her energy."
This song spent five (non-consecutive) weeks peaking at #11 on the Hot 100 and never graduated to the top 10. Since then, Sister Hazel has failed to clock up any more top 40 hits.