I don’t think I could overstate the importance of Hank Williams to the music of the past and present. His material is absolutely timeless and fills a space in musical history between Jazz/Blues and the beginnings of Rock n’ Roll. Not to mention the fact that he was one of the original tragic figures in music, living a life of hard drinkin’ and misery. Hank Williams burned out way before Hendrix, Joplin, or other countless stars.
I just finished reading a biography on Hank Williams and although the book wasn’t great, it was enjoyable and enlightened me to quite a few things I did not know about Country Music’s greatest star.
Here are some interesting facts.
1. Hanks real name was Hiram King Williams.
2. At age eleven Williams began learning to play and sing the blues from an old Blues man by the name of Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne. Sadly there are no known recordings of Payne and he died and was buried in an unmarked grave in the late 30’s.
3. The women in Hank’s life were forces to be reckoned with. First of all you had his mother Lillie who brought him up by herself after his father left at an early age. In 1944 Hank married another tough and uncompromising woman by the name of Audrey.
4. Although Williams wrote most of his own material he definitely had help. In 1946 Hank struck up a professional relationship with a Nashville’s own Tin Pan Alley songwriter by the name of Fred Rose. Hank came up with the basics and then Fred would edit the lyrics and tune up the music. He also took care of the business side including the recording and relations with the record company.
5. During the last few years of his career, Williams recorded music under the pseudonym “Luke the Drifter”. The material was what he called “Recitations” but could more clearly be described as religious themed stories of morality.
6. In 1952 after he was divorced from his first wife Audrey, he decided to insert himself into Country Musics famous Carter family. For a short while he even courted one of the Carter daughters and almost accidentally shot June Carter (yes, June Carter – wife of Johnny Cash) during an argument with Audrey his first wife.
7. Hank died on the way to a New Years show on New Years Day 1953 in the back of his famous powder blue convertible.
I put together a list of my favorite Hank Williams songs. If you do not see the embedded playlist below, follow this link.