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Hank Williams

Hank Williams is the father of contemporary country music. He was a superstar by the age of 25; he was dead at the age of 29. In those four short years, he established the rules for all the country performers who followed him and, in the process, much of popular music. Hank wrote a body of songs that became popular classics, and his direct, emotional lyrics and vocals became the standard for most popular performers. He lived a life as troubled and reckless as that depicted in his songs.

Hiram King Williams was born in Mount Olive, AL, on September 17, 1923. When he was eight years old, he was given a guitar by his mother. His musical education was provided by a local blues street singer, Rufus Payne, who was called Tee Tot. From Tee Tot, Williams learned how to play the guitar and sing the blues, which would come to provide a strong undercurrent in his songwriting. Williams began performing around the Georgiana and Greenville areas of Alabama in his early teens. His mother moved the family to Montgomery, AL, in 1937, where she opened a boarding house. In Montgomery, he formed a band called the Drifting Cowboys and landed a regular spot on a local radio station, WSFA, in 1941. During his shows, Williams would sing songs from his idol, Roy Acuff, as well as several other country hits of the day. WSFA dubbed him "the Singing Kid" and Williams stayed with the station for the rest of the decade.

Williams met Audrey Mae Sheppard, a farm girl from Banks, AL, in 1943 while he was playing a medicine show. The following year, the couple married and moved into Lilly's boarding house. Audrey became Williams' manager just before the marriage. By 1946, he was a local celebrity, but he was unable to make much headway nationally. That year, Hank and Audrey visited Nashville with the intent of meeting songwriter/music publisher Fred Rose, one of the heads of Acuff-Rose Publishing. Rose liked Williams' songs and asked him to record two sessions for Sterling Records, which resulted in two singles. Both of the singles -- "Never Again" in December 1946 and "Honky Tonkin'" in February 1947 -- were successful and Williams signed a contract with MGM Records early in 1947. Rose became the singer's manager and record producer.

"Move It on Over," released later in 1947, became Hank's first single for MGM. It was an immediate hit, climbing into the country Top Five. By the summer of 1948, he had joined The Louisiana Hayride, appearing both on its tours and radio programs. "Honky Tonkin'" was released in 1948, followed by "I'm a Long Gone Daddy." While neither song was as successful as "Move It on Over," they were popular, with the latter peaking in the Top Ten. Early in 1949, he recorded "Lovesick Blues," a Tin Pan Alley song initially recorded by Emmett Miller and made popular by Rex Griffin. The single became a huge hit upon its release in the spring of 1949, staying at number one for 16 weeks and crossing over into the pop Top 25. Williams sang the song at the Grand Ole Opry, where he performed an unprecedented six encores. He had become a star.

Hank and Audrey Williams had their first child, Randall Hank, in the spring of 1949. Also in the spring, Hank assembled the most famous edition of the Drifting Cowboys, featuring guitarist Bob McNett, bassist Hillous Butrum, fiddler Jerry Rivers, and steel guitarist Don Helms. Soon, he and the band were earning $1,000 per concert while selling out shows across the country. Williams had no fewer than seven hits in 1949 after the success of "Lovesick Blues," including the Top Five smashes "Wedding Bells," "Mind Your Own Business," "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)," and "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It." A string of additional singles followed in 1950, including the number one hits "Long Gone Lonesome Blues," "Why Don't You Love Me," and "Moanin' the Blues," as well as the Top Ten hits "I Just Don't Like This Kind of Livin'," "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy," "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me," "Why Should We Try," and "Nobody's Lonesome for Me." That same year, Williams began recording a series of spiritual records under the name Luke the Drifter.

Williams continued to rack up hits in 1951, beginning with the Top Ten hit "Dear John" and its number one flip side, "Cold, Cold Heart." That same year, pop vocalist Tony Bennett recorded his own version of "Cold, Cold Heart" to popular acclaim, leading to a stream of covers from such mainstream artists as Jo Stafford, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Teresa Brewer, and several others. Williams had also begun to experience the fruits of crossover success, appearing on the Perry Como television show and joining a package tour that also featured Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and Minny Pearl. In addition to "Dear John" and "Cold, Cold Heart," Williams had several other hits in 1951, including the number one song "Hey, Good Lookin'" and "Howlin' at the Moon," "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)," "Crazy Heart," "Lonesome Whistle," and "Baby, We're Really in Love," which all charted in the Top Ten.

Though his professional career was soaring, Hank's personal life was beginning to spin out of control. He had suffered a mild drinking problem before becoming a star, but it had been more or less controlled during his first few years of fame. However, as he began to earn large amounts of money and spend long times away from home, he began to drink frequently. Furthermore, Hank's marriage to Audrey was deteriorating. Not only were they fighting, resulting in occasional separations, but Audrey was trying to create her own recording career without any success. In the fall of 1951, Hank was on a hunting trip on his Tennessee farm when he tripped and fell, re-activating a dormant back injury. Williams began taking morphine and other painkillers for his back and quickly became addicted.

In January of 1952, Hank and Audrey separated for a final time and he headed back to Montgomery to live with his mother. The move had little effect on his music career, however, with "Honky Tonk Blues" peaking at number two during the spring. In fact, he released five additional singles in 1952 -- "Half as Much," "Jambalaya," "Settin' the Woods on Fire," "You Win Again," and "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" -- all of which charted in the Top Ten. In spite of such success, Hank turned completely reckless in 1952, spending nearly all of his waking hours drunk and taking drugs. He also frequently destroyed property and played with guns.

Williams left his mother in early spring, moving in with Ray Price in Nashville. In May, Audrey and Hank were officially divorced. She was awarded the house and their child, as well as half of his future royalties. Williams continued to play a large number of concerts, but he was always drunk during the show, and he sometimes missed the gig altogether. In August, the Grand Ole Opry fired Williams for that very reason, explaining that he could return once he was sober. Instead of heeding the Opry's warning, the singer just sank deeper into his self-destructive behavior. Soon, his friends were leaving him, as the Drifting Cowboys began working with Price and Fred Rose no longer supported him. Williams was still playing The Louisiana Hayride, but he was performing with local pickup bands and began earning reduced wages. That fall, he met Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar, the 19-year-old daughter of a Louisiana policeman. By October, they were married. Hank also signed an agreement to support the baby -- who had yet to be delivered -- of one of his other girlfriends, Bobbie Jett, in October. By the end of the year, Williams was having heart problems and Toby Marshall, a con man doctor, was giving him various prescription drugs to help soothe the pain.

Hank was scheduled to play a concert in Canton, OH, on January 1, 1953. He was scheduled to fly out of Knoxville, TN, on New Year's Eve, but the weather was so bad that he had to hire a chauffeur to drive him to Ohio in his new Cadillac. Before they left for Ohio, Williams was injected with two shots of vitamin B-12 and morphine by a doctor. Williams got into the backseat of the Cadillac (allegedly with a bottle of whiskey), and the teenage chauffeur headed out for Canton. When the driver was stopped for speeding, the policeman noticed that Hank looked like a dead man. Williams was taken to a West Virginia hospital and he was officially declared dead at 7:00 a.m. on January 1, 1953. He had died in the back of the Cadillac, on his way to a concert. Ironically, the last single released in his lifetime was "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."

Hank was buried in Montgomery, AL, three days later. His funeral drew a record crowd, larger than any crowd since Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the President of the Confederacy in 1861. Dozens of country music stars attended, as did Audrey Williams, Billie Jean Jones, and Bobbie Jett, who happened to give birth to a daughter three days later. "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" reached number one immediately after his death, and it was followed by a number of hit records throughout 1953, including the number ones "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Kaw-Liga," and "Take These Chains From My Heart."

After his death, MGM wanted to keep issuing Williams records, so they took some of his original demos and overdubbed bands onto the original recording. The first of these, "Weary Blues from Waitin'," was a hit, but the others weren't quite as successful. In 1961, Hank was one of the first inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Throughout the '60s, Williams' records were released in overdubbed versions featuring heavy strings, as well as reprocessed stereo. For years, these bastardized versions were the only records in print, and only in the '80s, when his music was released on compact disc, was his catalog restored to its original form. Even during those years when only overdubbed versions of his hits existed, Williams' impact never diminished. His songs have become classics, his recordings have stood the test of time, and his life story is legendary. It's easy to see why Hank Williams is considered by many as the defining figure of country music. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Legend Begins: Rare & Unreleased Recordings

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Disc 3
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Track List: Settin' The Woods On Fire

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
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Track List: Hillbilly Hero

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
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Track List: The Complete Hank Williams: The Music

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
Disc 5
Disc 6
Disc 7
Disc 8
Disc 9
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Track List: The Original Singles Collection...Plus

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3

Comments

awesome
I am an 80s hair band boy from Libby, Mt and don't like most country. Well, popular country anyway just like the popular music today. Thanks a lot, American Idol. Thank god for Pandora.
Wish we could have more radio stations that played all the old but goodies. Love the golden voice of Hank Thompson and many others.
reginald.mur d o c k
This man solely lifted country music to a national treasure. Although he had a short amount of time on this earth , his impact on country music is still felt today. Great musician and his songs still live on today.
I like him
i love all the older music it like the country now is rap
Grew up to listening to you on the radio......M y Mom loved to sing along... to your Hey Good Lookin love Hank Jr too...... LG
The original live fast die young music star...I've heard he couldn't handle his booze for s**t
greilingh
Hank Williams is the man he's the king of country
My mom loves this song
He died a long time ago & people still love his music...how many country artists out there today do u think people will still be listening to 50+ years after their death? Not many
My Fav song is family trdison
He died so young :(
laineymccabe 4
4 years is just kinda weird for music =")
Jr. was once ok he's a joke now
Charlie Parker used to listen to Hank Williams. His band mates asked him what he was doing - and he said he is listening to the stories. No one could tell a tale like Hank. with a great voice. and it didn't hurt that he had great bands playing with him.
leximama19
Hank was the man in 19 48 to19 55 years Used to string a wire form bedroom to tree out side to here him on W S M radio couldn't receive the station I was 1100miles north im now in my 80s was a treat Stayed up all Saturday night to here him on his segment off the grand old opery from the rymen stage
Hank III is way better then his racist scumbag father ...Hank III looks identical to Sr and share the same musical soul and style. Love both of them.
shaney_pooh_ 0 3
hank sr. is amazing. hank jr almost as good......ha n k 3 can suck it riding on his daddys and grand daddys name
Hank Williams is alive & raising hell..he goes by the name Hank 3 now..he has updated his sound just a little bit but it's him I tell ya
Hank Williams was a legend he of coarse took all kinds a pills and liquor up to play like Cash Elvis and most other stars must be a connection between success opiates speed and liquor, cash was a lucky guy to recover Hank was killed by the mix of high doses of vitamins mixed with opiate B-12 it is why Energy drinks like ROCK-STAR have this name huh what a legend we miss you Hank
Hank Williams was the greatest country music singer of all time. It's a shame is life was cut so short. His music might be imitated but will never be duplicated.
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works
Hank will always be the best
a rock and roll singer starting out in about 1958, the one and only DION,
had as his role model and listened to the great HANK WILLIAMS.
DION went on to become a big star in the 60s and still tours today.
hank had a big influence on the kind of music DION wrote and performed.
DION had a bad problem with drugs for a time but finally sobered up and
still is easy listening.
I keep thinking there MUST be a Hank song that I don't like a lot. Haven't found one so far...
Hank rocks, Hank jr. a little and Hank III is great!
hi just love this old musics .it make me like i'm twenty again .love it .by by just me
chris.yamaha 0 5 4 1
there is a new movie called The Last Ride Just rented it recently and enjoyed it.
i'm cravin' a biskit
how much have YOU accomplished before the age of thirty... DESPITE the drugs and alcohol and bastardry... just sayin
kale.woods1
I'll be the first to admit that Hank had incredible talent, and I enjoy most of his songs. But don't nominate him for sainthood. If it weren't for the fact that we enjoy his music, most of us would consider him a loser.

Keep in mind he ran out on his first wife and child, then fathered one other child that he left fatherless. No doubt he hurt a lot of people with his addictions and his no-shows or drunken performances . Then he died of a drug/alcohol overdose. Not a great role model!
Tabasco white eating folks here y'all derp, derp derp
Absolutely my favorite song!!!! Awesome song me, my dad, my grandpa, and my great grandpas favorite song!!!!
noraloechel
I can't help but hear my folks singing when I listen to Hank, especially I'll have a new life. Thanks, Hank, and I hope you've met Daddy by now.
jrhodes1091
I am 81 now but remember the morning we were told that Hank was dead as if it was yesterday. Was in the Navy then at Quonset Point Naval
Air Station, R.I. Some just sat and cried. Jerry R.
Hank Williams was good 1940- 1953 songs until he died from drinking while on the road to a news years thing the driver took him to a hosptal and was dead
Get a life Patrick s!
psonsaalla
1. Say your name.
2. Make a wish.
3. Say your crushes name.
4. Post this on 4 other songs.
5. Your crush will ask you out.
yep that is true hank is the best ever
tlfleming759
he needs a movie made of his life.!!!!!!! ! !
grouchorules 2 0 1 2

X
micmock
Hank sr. Is the best love him!
To zingy boy there is a movie on the life of Hank Williams it is called Your Cheating Heart starring George Hamilton as Hank.
ziggyboy2005
The story of his life would make an awesome movie.
Hank will always be the number 1 country singer ever to live
I can never stop playin and singin the songs that came from the man who started it all. Why do the drugs and alcohol have to take the best away from us? Riverland Music - Luv ya Hank
I love him!
joe63396
Sad story, watch Luke Bryan walk the same steps today. Sad story.
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