Telling this man’s story is a real joy for me…..cuz I’ve been a fan of his music since I was a young pup growing up in Midland, Texas in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Midland was smack dab in the middle of West Texas…..which is known to the locals as “God’s Country”…..for this was a place where the ranches went on for miles and miles….and the cowboys actually rode horses and roped cattle from dawn to dusk, every day….as they listened to country music on their transistor radios….to the likes of Eddie Arnold, Gene Autrey, Marty Robbins, Bob Wills and the Texas Troubadors, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubbs, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Webb Pierce and my favorite Hank Williams…..for I was weened on songs like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”…..”I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You”….. “Your Cheatin’ Heart”…..”Jambalaya”…..”Kaw Liga”…..”I Saw The Light”….. and “Hey Hey Good Lookin'”…..with so much more. So, here’s to Hank Williams, America’ Country and Western Music Poet Laureate…..who adds proof to the concept that when it comes to music, “The Good Die Young”….. which is evidenced by the following list including Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Buddy Holly, Tupac Shakur, Jim Morrison, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Notorious B.I.G., Richie Valens, Patsy Cline, Jim Croce, Frederic Chopin, Duane Allman, Charlie Parker, George Gershwin, Bobbie Darin, Fats Waller, Stephen Foster, Jimmie Rodgers and of course, Hank Williams…..who wrote and recorded some 700 songs before his death at age 29.
Music & Artist- Country Music – 1995 – Special – “Documentary: The Life and Times of Hank Williams”
Hank Williams (born Hiram Williams; September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician…..who is regarded as one of the most significant and influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th century…..when he recorded 55 singles (five released posthumously) that reached the top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart…..which included 12 that reached # 1….with three being posthumously.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1923 To 1953 – BBC Special – “The Hank Williams Story” Part 1″
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1923 To 1953 – BBC Special – “The Hank Williams Story” Part 2″
Born and raised in Alabama, Williams was given guitar lessons by African-American blues musician Rufus Payne in exchange for meals or money. Payne, along with Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb, had a major influence on Williams’ later musical style. Hank Williams began his music career in Montgomery in 1937…..when producers at local radio station WSFA hired him to perform and host a 15-minute program. He formed the Drifting Cowboys backup band…..which was managed by his mother…..and that is when he dropped out of school to devote his time to his career. When several of his band members were drafted during World War II, he had trouble with their replacements, and WSFA terminated his contract because of his alcoholism.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1923 To 1953 – BBC Special – “The Hank Williams Story” Part 3″
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1923 To 1953 – BBC Special – “The Hank Williams Story” Part 4″
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1923 To 1953 – BBC Special – “The Hank Williams Story” Part 5″
Williams married singer Audrey Sheppard…..who was his manager for nearly a decade. After recording “Never Again” and “Honky Tonkin'” with Sterling Records, he signed a contract with MGM Records. In 1947, he released “Move It on Over”…..which became a hit and allowed him to join the Louisiana Hayride radio program. One year later, he released a cover of “Lovesick Blues“…..which was a huge country hit that would propel him to stardom on the Grand Ole Opry. He was unable to read or notate music to any significant degree…..but among the hits he wrote were “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, “Hey, Good Lookin'” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1938 – Sterling Records Production – Hank Williams – “Never Again”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1939 – Sterling Records Production – Hank Williams – “Honky Tonkin'”
Years of back pain, alcoholism and prescription drug abuse severely compromised Williams’ health. In 1952, he divorced Sheppard and married singer Billie Jean Horton. He was dismissed by the Grand Ole Opry because of his unreliability and alcoholism. On New Year’s Day 1953, he suffered from heart failure and died suddenly at the age of 29 on the way to Oak Hill, West Virginia. Despite his relatively brief career, he is one of the most celebrated and influential musicians of the 20th century…..especially in country music. Many artists have covered his songs…..and he has influenced the likes of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, George Strait, Charley Pride, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, among others. Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961…..the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970…..the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987…..and the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame in 1999. The Pulitzer Prize jury awarded him a posthumous special citation in 2010 for his “craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life”.
Music & Awards – Country Music – 1999 – Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame Induction – Hank Williams (Posthumously)
Music & Artist – Country Music – 2022 – Classic Rock And Country Music Facts And Trivia Special – “Some Honky Tonkin’ Facts About Hank Williams”
As a child, Williams was nicknamed “Harm” by his family and “Herky” or “Skeets” by his friends. He was born with spina bifida occulta, a birth defect of the spinal column, which gave him lifelong pain…..as this became a factor in his later alcohol and drug abuse. Williams’ father was frequently relocated by the lumber company railway for which he worked…..and the family lived in many southern Alabama towns. In 1930, when Williams was seven years old, Elonzo began experiencing facial paralysis. At a Veterans Affairs clinic in Pensacola, Florida, doctors determined that the cause was a brain aneurysm, and Elonzo was sent to the VA Medical Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. He remained hospitalized for eight years, rendering him mostly absent throughout Williams’ childhood. From that time on, Lillie assumed responsibility for the family.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1955 – Hank Williams – “At The 1st Fall Of Snow”
In the fall of 1934, the Williams family moved to Greenville, Alabama, where Lillie opened a boarding house next to the Butler County courthouse. In 1935, they settled in Garland, Alabama, where Lillie opened a new boarding house…..when they later moved with Williams’ cousin Opal McNeil to Georgiana, Alabama…..where Lillie took several side jobs to support the family despite the bleak economic climate of the Great Depression. She worked in a cannery and served as a night-shift nurse in the local hospital. Their first house burned down, and the family lost their possessions. They moved to a new house on the other side of town on Rose Street…..which Williams’ mother soon turned into another boarding house. The house had a small garden on which they grew diverse crops that Williams and his sister Irene sold around Georgiana. At a chance meeting in Georgiana, Williams met U.S. Representative J. Lister Hill while Hill was campaigning across Alabama. He told Hill that his mother was interested in talking to him about his problems and her need to collect Elonzo’s disability pension. With Hill’s help, the family began collecting the money. Despite his medical condition, the family managed fairly well financially throughout the Great Depression.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1955 – Hank Williams – “Be Careful of Stones That You Throw”
There are several versions of how Williams got his 1st guitar…..as his mother stated that she bought it with money from selling peanuts…..but many other prominent residents of the town claimed to have been the one who purchased the guitar for him. While living in Georgiana, Williams met Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne, a street performer…..who gave Williams guitar lessons in exchange for money or meals prepared by Lillie. Payne’s base musical style was blues…..as Payne taught Williams chords, chord progressions, bass turns, and the musical style of accompaniment that he would use in most of his future songwriting. Later on, Williams recorded “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It”…..which was one of the songs that Payne taught him. His musical style contained influences from Payne along with several other country artists including among them Jimmie Rodgers, Moon Mullican, and Roy Acuff. In 1937, Williams got into a fight with his physical education teacher about exercises the coach wanted him to do. His mother subsequently demanded that the school board terminate the coach…..when they refused, the family moved to Montgomery, Alabama. Payne and Williams lost touch, though Payne also eventually moved to Montgomery…..where he died in poverty in 1939…..while Williams later credited him as his only teacher.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Live On TV – Hank Williams – “Cold Cold Heart”
Muisic & Artist – Country Music – 1937 – From the Album “Low Down Blues” – Hank Williams – “Weary Blues from Waitin”
He never learned to read music; instead he based his compositions in storytelling and personal experience. After school and on weekends, Williams sang and played his Silvertone guitar on the sidewalk in front of the WSFA radio studio. His recent win at the Empire Theater and the street performances caught the attention of WSFA producers who occasionally invited him to perform on air. So many listeners contacted the radio station asking for more of “the singing kid”, possibly influenced by his mother, that the producers hired him to host his own 15-minute show twice a week for a weekly salary of US $15 (equivalent to $300 in 2021).
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1937 – Live WSFA Radio Show – Hank Williams – “I’m Not Coming Home Anymore” + “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” + “The Lasst Letter” + “Rocking Alone in an Old Rocking Chair” + “I Was Seeing Nellie Home” + “I’ll Never Cry Over You” + “Little Rosewood Casket” + “Old Shep” + “Happy Roving Cowboy” + “You’ve Got to Walk That Lonesome Valley”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1940 – Hank Williams – “You Broke Your Own Heart When You Tried To Break Mine”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1938 – Hank Williams – “I Ain’t Gonna Love You Any More”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1947 – Hank Williams – “Nobody’s Lonesome For Me”
In August 1938, Elonzo Williams was temporarily released from the hospital …..and he showed up unannounced at the family’s home in Montgomery….. when Lillie was unwilling to let him reclaim his position as the head of the household. Elonzo stayed to celebrate his son’s birthday in September before he returned to the medical center in Louisiana. Williams’ mother had claimed that he was dead.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1938 – Special – Hank Williams 1st Recording – “Fan It” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1948 – Hank Williams – “Be Careful of Stones That You Throw”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1950 – Hank Williams – “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1951 – Hank Williams – “Pictures from Life’s Other Side”
Williams’ successful radio show fueled his entry into a music career…..as his salary was enough for him to start his own band…..which he dubbed the Drifting Cowboys…..with the original members being guitarist Braxton Schuffert, fiddler Freddie Beach and comedian Smith “Hezzy” Adair…..with James E. (Jimmy) Porter being the youngest at only 13 when he started playing steel guitar for Williams…..while Arthur Whiting was also a guitarist for the Drifting Cowboys. The band traveled throughout central and southern Alabama performing in clubs and at private gatherings. James Ellis Garner later played fiddle for him…..when Lillie Williams became the Drifting Cowboys‘ manager. Hank Williams dropped out of school in October 1939 so that he and the Drifting Cowboys could work full-time. Lillie Williams began booking show dates…..while negotiating prices and driving them to some of their shows. Now free to travel without Williams’ schooling taking precedence, the band could tour as far away as western Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. The band started playing in theaters before the start of the movies and later in honky-tonks. Williams’ alcohol use started to become a problem during the tours…..when on occasion he spent a large part of the show revenues on alcohol. Meanwhile, between tour schedules, Williams returned to Montgomery to host his radio show.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1938 – Mother’s Best Flour Special – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Alabama Jubilee”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1937 – Mother’s Best Flour Special – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Roadside Rag”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1955 -From the Album “Ramblin’ Man” – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Take These Chains From My Heart And Set Me Free”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1954 -From the Album “Honky-Tonkin'” – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Mind Your Own Business”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1951 -From the Album “Luke The Drifter” – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Ramblin’ Man”
He worked for the rest of the war for a shipbuilding company in Mobile, Alabama, as well as singing in bars for soldiers. In 1943, Williams met Audrey Sheppard at a medicine show in Banks, Alabama. Williams and Sheppard lived and worked together in Mobile. Sheppard later told Williams that she wanted to move to Montgomery with him and start a band together and help him regain his radio show. The couple were married in 1944 at a Texaco Station in Andalusia, Alabama, by a justice of the peace. The marriage was declared illegal, since Sheppard’s divorce from her previous husband did not comply with the legally required 60-day trial reconciliation.
Music & Artist – Country Music Duet – 1948 – Hank Williams & Audrey Sheppard – “Lost On The River”
Music & Artist – Country Music Duet – 1948 – Hank Williams & Audrey Sheppard for Mother’s Best Flour
Music & Artist – Country Music Duet – 1948 – Hank Williams & Audrey Sheppard for Mother’s Best Flour –“A One Way Ticket To The Sky”
Music & Artist – Gospel Music – 1951 – Photo Gallery Special – Hank Williams – “The Great Judgement Day”
In 1945, when he was back in Montgomery, Williams started to perform again for the WSFA radio station…..when he wrote songs on a weekly basis to perform during the shows. As a result of the new variety of his repertoire, Williams published his 1st songbook, Original Songs of Hank Williams. The book only listed lyrics, since its main purpose was to attract more audiences, though it is also possible that he did not want to pay for transcribing the notes. It included 10 songs: “Mother Is Gone”, “Won’t You Please Come Back”, “My Darling Baby Girl” (with Audrey Sheppard), “Grandad’s Musket”, “I Just Wish I Could Forget”, “Let’s Turn Back the Years”, “Honkey-Tonkey”, “I Loved No One But You”, “A Tramp on the Street” and “You’ll Love Me Again”. With Williams beginning to be recognized as a songwriter, Sheppard became his manager and occasionally accompanied him on duets in some of his live concerts.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1947 – From the Album “Montgomery” – Hank Williams – “Mother is Gone”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1945 – From the Album “Montgomery” – Hank Williams – “From Jerusalem To Jericho”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1945 – From the Album “Montgomery” – Hank Williams – “Searching For A Soldiers Grave”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1947 – Hank Williams – “A Tramp On The Street”
On September 14, 1946, Williams auditioned for Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry …..but was rejected…..so, after the failure of his audition, Williams and Audrey Sheppard attempted to interest the recently formed music publishing firm Acuff-Rose Music…..as the two approached Fred Rose, the president of the company, during one of his habitual ping-pong games at WSM radio studios. Audrey Williams asked Rose if her husband could sing a song for him on that moment…..to which Rose agreed…..and he liked Williams’ musical style…..and that is when Rose signed Williams to a six-song contract, and leveraged this deal to sign Williams with Sterling Records. On December 11, 1946, in his 1st recording session, he recorded “Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul”, “Calling You”, “Never Again (Will I Knock on Your Door)” and “When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels”…..which was misprinted as “When God Comes and Fathers His Jewels”. The recordings “Never Again” and “Honky Tonkin'” became successful…..and earned Williams the attention of MGM Records.
Music & Artist – Country Gospel – 1945 – Hank Williams – “Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul”
Music & Artist – Country Gospel – 1946 – Hank Williams – “When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1945 – Hank Williams – “Never Again (Will I Knock At Your Door)”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1946 – Hank Williams – “Calling You”
Williams signed with MGM Records in 1947 and released “Move It on Over” …..which is considered an early example of rock and roll music…..while the song became a country hit. In 1948, he moved to Shreveport, Louisiana….. and he joined the Louisiana Hayride, a radio show broadcast that propelled him into living rooms all over the Southeast appearing on weekend shows. Williams eventually started to host a show on KWKH…..and started touring across western Louisiana and eastern Texas…..while always returning on Saturdays for the weekly broadcast of the Hayride. After a few more moderate hits, in 1949 he released his version of the 1922 Cliff Friend and Irving Mills song “Lovesick Blues”, made popular by Rex Griffin. Williams’ version became a huge country hit…..as the song stayed at # 1 on the Billboard charts for four consecutive months…..while gaining Williams a place in the Grand Ole Opry. On June 11, 1949, Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry…..where he became the 1st performer to receive six encores. He brought together Bob McNett (guitar), Hillous Butrum (bass), Jerry Rivers (fiddle) and Don Helms (steel guitar) to form the most famous version of the Drifting Cowboys…..while earning an estimated $1,000 per show (equivalent to $11,400 in 2021). That year Audrey Williams gave birth to Randall Hank Williams (Hank Williams Jr.). During 1949, Hank joined the 1st European tour of the Grand Ole Opry…..while performing at military bases in England, Germany and the Azores. Williams released seven hit songs after “Lovesick Blues”, including “Wedding Bells”, “Mind Your Own Business”, “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave)” and “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It”.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Grand Old Opry Stars Radio Broadcast Live from Berlin, Germany – Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys – “Move It On Over”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Movie Clips of Live at The Grand Old Opry – Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys – “Lovesick Blues”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Live at The Grand Old Opry – Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys – “Lovesick Blues”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys – “Wedding Bells”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys – “Your’e Gonna Change (Or Im-A-Gonna-Leave)”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys – “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It”
In 1950, Williams began recording as “Luke the Drifter” for his religious-themed recordings…..while many of which are recitations rather than singing. Fearful that disc jockeys and jukebox operators would hesitate to accept these unusual recordings, Williams used this alias to avoid hurting the marketability of his name. Although the real identity of Luke the Drifter was supposed to be anonymous, Williams often performed part of the material of the recordings on stage. Most of the material was written by Williams himself, in some cases with the help of Fred Rose and his son Wesley. The songs depicted Luke the Drifter traveling around from place to place, narrating stories of different characters and philosophizing about life. Some of the compositions were accompanied by a pipe organ. Around this time Williams released more hit songs, such as “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy”, “They’ll Never Take Her Love from Me”, “Why Should We Try Anymore”, “Nobody’s Lonesome for Me”, “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”, “Why Don’t You Love Me”, “Moanin’ the Blues” and “I Just Don’t Like This Kind of Living”. In 1951, “Dear John” became a hit, but it was the flip side, “Cold, Cold Heart”…..which became one of his most recognized songs. A pop cover version by Tony Bennett released the same year stayed on the charts for 27 weeks, peaking at # 1.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys- “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1950 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1948 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Why Should We Try Anymore”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1950 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1950 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys- “Nobody’s Lonesome For Me”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1950 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Why Don’t You Love Me”
Williams’ career reached a peak in the late summer of 1951 with his Hadacol tour of the U.S. with Bob Hope and other actors. On the weekend after the tour ended, Williams was photographed backstage at the Grand Ole Opry signing a motion picture deal with MGM. In October, Williams recorded a demo, “There’s a Tear in My Beer” for a friend, “Big Bill Lister”…..who recorded it in the studio. On November 14, 1951, Williams flew to New York with his steel guitar player Don Helms…..where he appeared on television for the 1st time on The Perry Como Show…..where he sang “Hey Good Lookin'” …..and the next week Como opened the show singing the same song, with apologies to Williams.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1951 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “There’s A Tear In My Beer”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1951 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Hey Hey Good Lookin'”
In November 1951, Williams fell during a hunting trip with his fiddler Jerry Rivers in Franklin, Tennessee…..as the fall reactivated his old back pains….. when he later started to consume painkillers, including morphine, and alcohol to help ease the pain. On May 21, he had been admitted to North Louisiana Sanitarium for the treatment of his alcoholism, leaving on May 24. On December 13, 1951, he had a spinal fusion at the Vanderbilt University Hospital, being released on December 24. During his recovery, he lived with his mother in Montgomery, and later moved to Nashville with Ray Price.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1951 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Moanin’ The Blues”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1951 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “I Just Don’t Like This Kind of Living”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1951 – Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys – “Dear John”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1951 – Hank Williams – “Cold Cold Heart”
During the spring of 1952, Williams flew to New York with steel guitarist Don Helms, where he made two appearances with other Grand Ole Opry members on The Kate Smith Evening Hour. He sang “Cold, Cold Heart”, “Hey Good Lookin””, “Glory Bound Train” and “I Saw the Light” with other cast members, and a duet, “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)” with Anita Carter. That same year, Williams had a brief extramarital affair with dancer Bobbie Jett, with whom he fathered a daughter, Jett Williams.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1951 – Live at the Grand Ole Opry – Hank Williams – “Hey Good Lookin'”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “I Saw The Light”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Live at the Grand Ole Opry – Hank Williams + Roy Acuff + June Carter – “Glory Bound Train”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Live Duet – Hank Williams + Anita Carter – “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You”
In June 1952, he recorded “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”, “Window Shopping”, “Settin’ the Woods on Fire” and “I’ll Never Get out of this World Alive”. Audrey Williams divorced him that year…..and the next day he recorded “You Win Again” and “I Won’t be Home No More”. Around this time, he met Billie Jean Jones, a girlfriend of country singer Faron Young, at the Grand Ole Opry. As a girl, Jones had lived down the street from Williams when he was with the Louisiana Hayride, and now Williams began to visit her frequently in Shreveport, causing him to miss many Grand Ole Opry appearances. On August 11, 1952, Williams was dismissed from the Grand Ole Opry for habitual drunkenness and missing shows. He returned to Shreveport, Louisiana, to perform on KWKH and WBAM shows and in the Louisiana Hayride…..for which he toured again. His performances were acclaimed when he was sober, but despite the efforts of his work associates to get him to shows sober, his abuse of alcohol resulted in occasions when he did not appear or his performances were poor.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “Jambalaya (on the Bayou)”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “Window Shopping”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “Settin’ The Woods On Fire”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “You Win Again”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “I Won’t Be Home No More”
On October 18, 1952, Williams and Billie Jean Jones were married by a justice of the peace in Minden, Louisiana. It was the 2nd marriage for both (each being divorced with children). The next day, two public ceremonies were held at the New Orleans Civic Auditorium, where 14,000 seats were sold for each. After Williams’ death, a judge ruled that the wedding was not legal because Jones’ divorce had not become final until 11 days after she married Williams. His first wife and his mother were the driving forces behind having the marriage declared invalid, and they pursued the matter for years. Williams had also married Sheppard before her divorce was final, on the 10th day of a required 60-day reconciliation period.
Music & Artist – Country Music Special Documentary – “Hank Williams Wife Billie Jean Jones Tells About His Last Two Nights On Earth”
During his last recording session on September 23, 1952, Williams recorded “Kaw-Liga”, along with “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, “Take These Chains from My Heart” and “I Could Never be Ashamed of You”. Due to Williams’ excesses, Fred Rose stopped working with him. By the end of 1952, Williams had started to have heart problems. He met Horace “Toby” Marshall in Oklahoma City…..who said that he was a doctor. Marshall had been previously convicted for forgery…..and had been paroled and released from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in 1951. Among other fake titles, he said that he was a Doctor of Science. He purchased the DSC title for $25 from the Chicago School of Applied Science; in the diploma, he requested that the DSc be spelled out as “Doctor of Science and Psychology”. Under the name of Dr. C. W. Lemon he prescribed Williams with amphetamines, Seconal, chloral hydrate, and morphine, which made his heart problems worse. His final concert was held in Austin, Texas, at the Skyline Club on December 19, 1952.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “Kaw Liga”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – Your Cheatin’ Heart”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “Take These Chains From My Heart And Set Me Free”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “I Could Never Be Ashamed Of You”
Williams was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 31, 1952. Advance ticket sales totaled $3,500. That day, Williams could not fly because of an ice storm in the Nashville area…..so, he hired a college student, Charles Carr, to drive him to the concerts. Carr called the Charleston auditorium from Knoxville to say that Williams would not arrive on time owing to the ice storm and was instead ordered to drive Williams to Canton, Ohio, for a New Year’s Day concert there. The two arrived at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Carr requested a doctor for Williams…..who was affected by the combination of the chloral hydrate and alcohol he had consumed on the way to Knoxville. Dr. P. H. Cardwell injected Williams with two shots of vitamin B12 that also contained a quarter-grain of morphine. Carr and Williams checked out of the hotel, but the porters had to carry Williams to the car as he was coughing and had the hiccups.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Rare Live Performance Recording – Hank Williams In Concert at Sunset Park, West Grove, PA
At around midnight on January 1, 1953, when the two crossed the Tennessee state line and arrived in Bristol, Virginia, Carr stopped at a small all-night restaurant and asked Williams if he wanted to eat. Williams said he did not, and those are believed to be his last words. Carr later drove on until he stopped for fuel at a gas station in Oak Hill, West Virginia…..where he realized that Williams had been dead for so long that rigor mortis had already set in. The station’s owner called the local police chief. In Williams’ Cadillac, the police found some empty beer cans and unfinished handwritten lyrics. Dr. Ivan Malinin performed the autopsy at the Tyree Funeral House. He found hemorrhages in the heart and neck and pronounced the cause of death as “insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart”. He also wrote that Williams had been severely beaten and kicked in the groin recently (during a fight in a Montgomery bar a few days earlier)…..and local magistrate Virgil F. Lyons ordered an inquest into Williams’ death concerning a welt that was visible on his head. That evening, when the announcer in Canton announced Williams’ death to the gathered crowd, they started laughing because they thought it was just another excuse…..but after Hawkshaw Hawkins and other performers started singing Williams’ song “I Saw the Light” as a tribute to him, the crowd realized that he was indeed dead and began to sing along.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Hank Williams – “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “The Old Log Train” – A Tribute To His Father
On January 2, Williams’ body was transported to Montgomery, Alabama, where it was placed in a silver casket that was displayed at his mother’s boarding house for two days. His funeral took place on January 4 at the Montgomery Auditorium with his casket placed on the flower-covered stage…..as an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 people passed by the silver casket …..and the auditorium was filled with 2,750 mourners. His funeral was said to have been far larger than any ever held for any other citizen of Alabama …..and the largest event ever held in Montgomery. Williams’ remains are interred at the Oakwood Annex in Montgomery. The president of MGM Records told Billboard magazine that the company got only about five requests for pictures of Williams during the weeks before his death…..but over 300 afterwards. The local record shops reportedly sold all their Williams records…..while customers were asking for all records ever released by Williams.
Music & Artist – Country Music Historical Special – 1953 – The Funeral of Hank Williams
Music & Artist – Gospel Music – 1952 – Hank Williams – “The Old Log Train” – A Tribute To His Father
Williams’ final single, released in November 1952 while he was still alive, was titled “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”…..and his song “Your Cheatin’ Heart” was written and recorded in September 1952…..but released in late January 1953 after his death. The song, backed by “Kaw-Liga”, was # 1 on the country charts for six weeks…..and provided the title for the 1964 biographical film of the same name…..which starred George Hamilton as Williams. “Take These Chains From My Heart” was released in April 1953 and reached #1 on the country charts. Released in July, “I Won’t Be Home No More” went to # 4…..meanwhile, “Weary Blues From Waitin'” reached # 7.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Hank Williams – “Weary Blues From Waitin'”
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1949 – Hank Williams – “Pan American”
Music & Artist – Country Music Album – 1947 To 1953 – Hank Williams Greatest Hits – “The Best Of Country Music Hank Williams”
On February 8, 1960, Williams’ star was placed at 6400 Hollywood Boulevard on the Hollywood Walk of Fame…..then he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961…..and into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1985. When Downbeat magazine took a poll the year after Williams’ death, he was voted the most popular country and Western performer of all time—ahead of such giants as Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, Red Foley, and Ernest Tubb. In 1964, Hank Williams was portrayed by George Hamilton in the film Your Cheatin’ Heart. In 1977, a national organization of CB truck drivers voted “Your Cheatin’ Heart” as their favorite record of all time. In 1987, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame under the category “Early Influence”. He was ranked 2nd in CMT’s 40 Greatest Men of Country Music in 2003, behind only Johnny Cash who recorded the song “The Night Hank Williams Came To Town”…..while his son, Hank Jr., was ranked on the same list.
Music & Artist – Country Music – 1987 – Johnny Cash Live TV Special – Johnny Cash – “The Night That Hank Williams Came To Town”
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him # 74 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Many artists of the 1950’s and 1960’s, including Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Tammy Wynette, David Houston, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, Ricky Nelson and Conway Twitty recorded Williams’ songs during their careers.
Music & Artist – BBC Country Music Special – “The Hank Williams Story” – Part 1
In 2011, Williams’ 1949 MGM # 1 hit, “Lovesick Blues”, was inducted into the Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame. The same year, Hank Williams: The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings …Plus! was honored with a Grammy nomination for Best Historical Album. In 1999, Williams was inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame. On April 12, 2010, the Pulitzer Prize Board awarded Williams a posthumous special citation that paid tribute to his “craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life”.
Music & Artist – BBC Country Music Special – “The Hank Williams Story” – Part 2
Several members of Williams’ descendants became musicians…..including son Hank Williams Jr…..daughter Jett Williams….grandsons Hank Williams III and Sam Williams…..and granddaughters Hilary Williams and Holly Williams are also country musicians. His great-grandson Coleman Finchum, son of Hank Williams III, released his debut single credited to IV and the Strange Band in 2021. Meanwhile, Lewis Fitzgerald’s son Ricky billed himself as Hank Williams IV following his father’s claim of being Williams’ son.
Music & Artist – BBC Country Music Special – “The Hank Williams Story” – Part 3
In 2006, a janitor of Sony/ATV Music Publishing found in a dumpster the unfinished lyrics written by Williams that had been found in his car the night he died. The worker claimed that she sold Williams’ notes to a representative of the Honky-Tonk Hall of Fame and the Rock-N-Roll Roadshow. The janitor was accused of theft, but the charges were later dropped when a judge determined that her version of events was true. The unfinished lyrics were later returned to Sony/ATV, which handed them to Bob Dylan in 2008 to complete the songs for a new album. Ultimately, the completion of the album included recordings by Alan Jackson, Norah Jones, Jack White, Lucinda Williams, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Patty Loveless, Levon Helm, Jakob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, and Merle Haggard. The album, named The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, was released on October 4, 2011.
Music & Artist – BBC Country Music Special – “The Hank Williams Story” – Part 4
Material recorded by Williams, originally intended for radio broadcasts to be played when he was on tour or for its distribution to radio stations nationwide, resurfaced throughout time. In 1993, a double-disc set of recordings of Williams for the Health & Happiness Show was released. Broadcast in 1949…..as the shows were recorded for the promotion of Hadacol. The set was re-released on Hank Williams: The Legend Begins in 2011…..when the album included unreleased songs. “Fan It” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, recorded by Williams at age 15…..the homemade recordings of him singing “Freight Train Blues”, “New San Antonio Rose”, “St. Louis Blues” and “Greenback Dollar” at age 18…..and a recording for the 1951 March of Dimes. In May 2014, further radio recordings by Williams were released as The Garden Spot Programs, 1950…. which was a series of publicity segments for plant nursery Naughton Farms originally aired in 1950. The recordings were found by collector George Gimarc at radio station KSIB in Creston, Iowa. Gimarc contacted Williams’ daughter Jett, and Colin Escott, writer of a biography book on Williams. The material was restored and remastered by Michael Graves and released by Omnivore Recordings. The release won a Grammy Award for Best Historical Album.
Music & Artist – BBC Country Music Special – “The Hank Williams Story” – Part 5
Williams was portrayed by English actor Tom Hiddleston in the 2016 biopic I Saw the Light, based on Colin Escott’s 1994 book Hank Williams: The Biography.
Music & Artist – Country Music Special – 2013 – “The History of Country Music” – Hank Williams
After Williams’ death, Audrey Williams filed a suit in Nashville against MGM Records and Acuff-Rose. The suit demanded that both of the publishing companies continue to pay her half of the royalties from Hank Williams’ records. Williams had an agreement giving his 1st wife half of the royalties…. but allegedly there was no clarification that the deal was valid after his death. Because Williams may have left no will, the disposition of the remaining 50 percent was considered uncertain…..as those involved included Williams’ second wife, Billie Jean Horton and her daughter, and Williams’ mother and sister. On October 22, 1975, a federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia, ruled Horton’s marriage to Williams was valid and that half of Williams’ future royalties belonged to her.
Music & Artistr – Country Music – 1923 To 1953 -Live and Times Documentary – “Hank Williams: Short History”
In 1951, Williams hosted a 15-minute show for Mother’s Best Flour on WSM radio. Due to Williams tour schedule, some of the shows were previously recorded to be played in his absense. The original acetates made their way to the possession of Jett Williams. Prior to that, duplicates were make and intended to be published by a 3rd party in February 2005…..as the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling stating that Williams’ heirs, son Hank Williams Jr. and daughter Jett Williams, have sole rights to sell his recordings made for a Nashville radio station in 1951. The court rejected claims made by PolyGram Records and Legacy Entertainment in releasing recordings Williams made for the Mother’s Best Flour Show…..as the recordings, which Legacy Entertainment acquired in 1997, include live versions of Williams’ hits and his cover version of other songs. PolyGram contended that Williams’ contract with MGM Records, whose back catalogue they owned at the time, prior to current owner Universal Music’s absorption of PolyGram the next year, gave them rights to release the radio recordings. A 3-CD selection of the tracks, restored by Joe Palmaccio, was released by Time-Life in October 2008 titled The Unreleased Recordings.
Music & Artist – Live Country Music Television Special – 1980 – “A Tribute To Hank Williams The Man & His Music” – With Hank Williams Jr. & Waylon Jennings & Johnny Cash & Kris Kristofferson & Willie Nelson et al
Hank Williams had God Given musical talents in his DNA before he was born that covered the musical spectrum…..songwriter, singer and musician…..and by the time he was 20 years old, he had mastered the art of performing….. plus he had also mastered his God Given musical talents by then. The fact remains that from age 23 to his death at 29, Hank Williams was at the top of the heap of the music world….not just on the country charts…..while he was also the most prolific “Charts / Hits” composer in the world. Hank Williams was simply an incredible generational talent…..whose music will live as long as mankind listens to music….cuz it’s that good. It has been said by several of those close to him, that he died of a broken heart…..and that belief has a good chance of being correct…..especially considering the personal lifelong challenges of his health. which led him to drinking and pain killer medicine addiction…..and his dreadfully bad luck and sadness in his personal life…..but that’s not my opinion of why he died so young…..cuz I believe that God just called him Home because he was the best of the “human batch”. As for me, after having kissed “more than my fair share” of pretty girls at the end of a sashay around the dance floor to a Hank Williams melody, I can only say, it has been a true honor to post the story of Hank Williams here at Imasportsphile.
Music & Artist – Live Country Music TV Special – 1978 – “When The Cowboy Sings” – Featuring Glen Campbell & Dolly Parton & Roy Clark Performing a Medley of Hank Williams Songs – “In A Tribute To Hank Williams”