Clarence Eugene "Hank" Snow (May 9, 1914 – December 20, 1999) was a
celebrated Canadian-American country music artist. In a career that
spanned more than 50 years, he recorded 140 albums and charted more
than 85 singles on the Billboard country charts from 1950 until 1980.
His number-one hits include the self-penned songs "I'm Moving On",
"The Golden Rocket" and
The Rhumba Boogie and famous versions of "I
Don't Hurt Anymore", "Let Me Go, Lover!", "I've Been Everywhere",
"Hello Love", as well as other top 10 hits.
Snow was an accomplished songwriter whose clear, baritone voice
expressed a wide range of emotions including the joys of freedom and
travel as well as the anguish of tortured love. His music was rooted
in his beginnings in small-town
Nova Scotia where, as a frail,
80-pound youngster, he endured extreme poverty, beatings and
psychological abuse as well as physically punishing labour during the
Great Depression. Through it all, his musically talented mother
provided the emotional support he needed to pursue his dream of
becoming a famous entertainer like his idol, the country star, Jimmie
As a performer of traditional country music, Snow won numerous awards
and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian
Country Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The
Hank Snow Museum in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, celebrates his life and
work in a province where his fans still see him as an inspirational
figure who triumphed over personal adversity to become one of the most
influential artists in all of country music.
1.1 Early years
1.2 Musical beginnings
1.3 Life at sea
1.4 Hard work in hard times
1.5 Canadian years
1.7 Elvis Presley
1.8 Later career
1.9 Illness and death
4 See also
6 External links
Hank Snow was born in the small community of Brooklyn in Queens
County, Nova Scotia,
Canada on May 9, 1914. He was the fifth of six
children, the two eldest died in infancy born to George Snow  and
Maude Marie Hatt (1889-1953). His parents were married on
November 10, 1909 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. After the divorce from
his father Hank's mother married Charles Tanner in 1930. In his
autobiography, Snow tells how his parents struggled to feed their four
remaining children during hard financial times. George Snow worked for
low pay as a foreman in sawmills, often far from home, while Marie
helped support the family by washing clothes and scrubbing floors in
better-off homes. Both parents showed musical talent. Although Snow
says his father loved to sing "in an amateurish way," he describes his
mother as "an accomplished singer" who played piano during silent
films at the local theatre and sometimes performed in minstrel shows.
She also enjoyed playing her own pump organ, but refused several
offers to join travelling shows because of her dedication to the
Unfortunately for Snow, his parents legally separated when he was
about eight and the local
Overseer of the Poor
Overseer of the Poor decided the children
should be taken from their mother because of her inability to support
them financially. One sister moved in with an aunt, while the other
two were sent to separate foster homes. Snow himself went to live with
his paternal grandmother who ordered him never to mention his mother's
name and subjected him to severe beatings as well as psychological
abuse. Gradually, Snow began to sneak away to visit his mother in
nearby Liverpool and eventually, after his grandmother failed in her
attempt to get him sent to reform school, he was allowed to rejoin his
Snow's childhood misfortunes continued, however, after his mother's
remarriage to local fisherman Charles Tanner, who - as a talented folk
carver - later went on to become a well-known artist in his own right.
Some believe Snow was made to endure his stepfather's tantrums,
beatings and verbal abuse. In reality, however, Snow at that time
could have been branded as shiftless, and after several years of being
the lone worker in the household, Tanner was eventually forced to
confront him with a contribute-or-leave ultimatum. "Why in the hell
don't you get out and find a job somewhere?" is a 'quote' attributed
to Tanner; what is often overlooked, though, is the context of the
comment. It was at this time that his mother ordered a Hawaiian steel
guitar advertised in a magazine along with free lessons and several 78
rpm gramophone records. At first, she ordered him not to touch the
guitar because it was one of her prized possessions. But later, when
she finally allowed him to play, she marvelled "at the various sounds
that I could get from the instrument." Snow adds that after he had
mastered some chords and a few songs, his mother would ask him to sing
and play for her. When he performed for the neighbours, word got
around and "I was being invited out somewhere just about every night.
So it was through mother's mail-order guitar that I became interested
Life at sea
Photo of the Bluenose. Snow painted the schooner on cardboard winning
1st prize at the Lunenburg Fisheries Exhibition.
In 1926, Snow finally relented and found work by joining a fishing
schooner where he served as a "flunky" or cabin boy. The job did
not pay any wages. Snow, however, was allowed to cut out cod tongues
and sell them later along with any fish he caught from the deck. After
one trip, he sold his tongues and fish for around $58 and feeling
rich, he ordered a guitar and chord book for $5.95 from the T. Eaton
mail-order catalogue. In 1927 or 1928, Snow remembers hearing radio
broadcasts while at sea. The one-hour broadcasts featured recordings
by such country artists as
Vernon Dalhart and Carson Robison. "I still
remember Dalhart singing 'The Prisoner's Song,' and 'The Wreck of the
Old 97,'" Snow recalls. "These songs gave me a great lift." He adds
that he tried to sing the songs exactly as the artists had,
entertaining his fellow crew members by singing and dancing while
accompanying himself on a mouth organ.
Snow's fishing trips went well until August 1930, when the schooner he
was sailing on got caught in ferocious winds that blew it
uncontrollably toward Sable Island, known as the "Graveyard of the
Atlantic" because the crews of ships wrecked there rarely survived.
Snow writes that when they were about 14 miles from the island, "the
Good Lord reached out his Hand and changed the wind. Saved by the
grace of God!" A day later, Snow learned that six other vessels had
been lost in the gale and that 132 men had drowned. Once ashore in
Canso, Snow vowed he would never return to the open sea again. "I was
finished," he writes. "No more fishing trips for me."
Hard work in hard times
Snow returned to live with his mother and stepfather, again without
holding down steady work. Instead, he attempted to get by just
peddling fish door-to-door or landing occasional jobs that included
transporting passengers and their luggage by horse-drawn buggy to and
from the train station in Lunenburg; unloading salt and coal ships;
raking scallops and hauling loads of dried cod into a warehouse for
processing and shipping. One winter, after being reunited with his
father, he cut pulpwood and firewood on his father's farm in the
backwoods at Pleasantville, Nova Scotia.
At one point, Snow spotted a picture of a guitar for $12.95 in Eaton's
catalogue. He figured he could sell his old guitar for five dollars,
but - since he still wasn't working - wondered how he would raise the
additional $7.95. The answer came when a storeowner in the village of
Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia, hired him to paint yellow pinstripes on the
wooden spokes of his brand new car. He offered to pay Snow two dollars
per wheel. After the new guitar arrived, Snow experimented by playing
runs and chord progressions in the style of Jimmie Rodgers. He also
sang and played in an old fishhouse where local men stored their gear.
Soon, Snow was invited to perform in a minstrel show in Bridgewater to
help raise money for charity. "Someone blackened my face with black
polish and put white rings around my eyes and lips," Snow recalls.
When his turn came in the show, he played a song called "I Went to See
My Gal Last Night." "My debut was a big success," Snow writes. "I even
got a standing ovation."
In March 1933, Snow wrote to Halifax radio station CHNS asking for an
audition. The rejection letter he received only made him more
determined and later that year he visited the station, was given an
audition and hired to do a Saturday evening show that was advertised
as "Clarence Snow and his Guitar." After a few months, he adopted the
name "The Cowboy Blue Yodeler" in homage to his idol Jimmie Rodgers
known as "America's Blue Yodeler." Since Snow's Saturday show had no
sponsor, he wasn't paid for his performances, but he did manage to
earn money playing halls and clubs in towns where people had heard him
on the radio. He also played in Halifax theatres before the movies
started and performed, for $10 a week, on a CHNS musical show
sponsored by a company that manufactured a popular laxative. At the
urging of the station's chief engineer and announcer, he adopted the
name Hank because it went well with cowboy songs and once again,
influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, he became "Hank, The Yodeling Ranger."
Snow also appeared occasionally on the CBC's regional network.
On September 2, 1935, he married Minnie Blanche Aalders, a young
Halifax woman, born in Kentville, Nova Scotia, who worked in a
local chocolate factory. She soon became pregnant and gave birth to
their only child, Jimmie Rodgers Snow.
Snow's audition with the Canadian division of
RCA Victor in Montreal,
Quebec, on October 29, 1936 led to the release of his first record
with "The Prisoned Cowboy" coupled with "Lonesome Blue Yodel". He
signed with RCA Victor, recording for the label until 1981. A weekly
CBC radio show brought him national recognition and, he began touring
Canada until the late 1940s when American country music stations began
playing his records.
Snow moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1945, and "Hank Snow, the
Singing Ranger" (modified from his earlier nickname, the Yodeling
Ranger), began recording for
RCA Victor in the
United States in 1949.
His first release in the United States, "Marriage Vow" climbed to
number ten on the country charts in the fall of 1949; However, it
wasn't until he was invited to play at the
Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry in 1950 that
he gained serious significance in the United States. His second
release in early 1950, "I'm Moving On" was the first of seven number 1
hits on the country charts. "I'm Moving On" stayed at the top for 21
weeks, setting the all-time record for most weeks at number 1.
That same year "The Golden Rocket" and "The Rhumba Boogie" both hit
number one with the latter remaining No. 1 for eight weeks.
Along with these hits, his other "signature song" was "I've Been
Everywhere", in which he portrayed himself as a hitchhiker bragging
about all the towns he'd been through. This song was originally
written and performed in Australia by Geoff Mack, and its re-write
incorporated North American place names. Rattling off a well-rhymed
series of city names at an auctioneer's pace has long made the song a
challenge for any singer.
While performing in Renfro Valley, Snow worked with a young Hank
In the February 7th 1953 edition, Billboard Magazine reported that
Snow's then seventeen-year-old son, Jimmy Rodgers Snow, had signed
RCA Victor and that the younger Snow would "record duets with his
father", as well as cover his own (presumably ghost-written) material.
A regular at the Grand Ole Opry, in 1954 Snow persuaded the directors
to allow a young
Elvis Presley to appear on stage. Snow used Presley
as his opening act and introduced him to Colonel Tom Parker. In August
1955, Snow and Parker formed the management team, Hank Snow
Attractions. This partnership signed a management contract with
Presley but before long, Snow was out and Parker had full control over
the rock singer's career. Forty years after leaving Parker, Snow
stated, "I have worked with several managers over the years and have
had respect for them all except one. Tom Parker (he refuses to
recognize the title Colonel) was the most egotistical, obnoxious human
being I've ever had dealings with."
Performing in lavish and colourful sequin-studded suits, Snow had a
career covering six decades during which he sold more than 80 million
albums. Although he became an American naturalized citizen in 1958, he
still maintained friendships in
Canada and remembered his roots with
the 1968 album, My
Nova Scotia Home. That same year he performed at
campaign stops on behalf of U.S. presidential candidate George
Despite his lack of schooling, Snow was a gifted songwriter and in
1978 was elected to
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In Canada, he
was ten times voted that country's top country music performer. In
1979, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian
Music Hall of Fame and the
Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame. He was also
inducted into the
Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985.
His autobiography, The
Hank Snow Story, was published in 1994, and
Hank Snow Country Music Centre opened near his ancestral
home in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. A victim of child abuse, he
Hank Snow International Foundation For Prevention Of
Illness and death
In 1996, Snow began experiencing respiratory problems which forced him
to retire from performing. He died three years later at 12:30am on
December 20, 1999, from heart failure at his Rainbow Ranch in
Madison, Tennessee, and was interred in the
Spring Hill Cemetery in
Nashville, Tennessee. Minnie died on May 12, 2003 in Madison,
Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Ashley MacIsaac,
Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris, among others, have covered his music.
One of his last top hits, "Hello Love", was sung by Garrison Keillor
to open each broadcast of his
Prairie Home Companion
Prairie Home Companion radio show. The
song became Snow's seventh and final number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot
Country Singles chart in April 1974. At 59 years and 11 months, Snow
became the oldest artist to have a top song on the chart. It was an
accomplishment he held for more than 26 years, until Kenny Rogers's
hit record in May 2000 (at 61 years and nine months), "Buy Me a Rose".
Dolly Parton and
Willie Nelson subsequently reached the top of the
chart at older ages as secondary duet partners on records fronted by
In Robert Altman's 1975 film Nashville,
Henry Gibson played a
self-obsessed country star loosely based on Hank Snow. He was also
mentioned in the film Smokey and the Bandit. When Cletus Snow, making
a collect call, gives his name, the operator's response is not heard,
but Cletus replies "No, I'm not Hank Snow's brother."
Hank is referenced in the opening lines of Jimmy Buffett's 1974 song
"The Wino and I Know."
Hank Snow discography
Music of Canada
List of best-selling music artists
^ a b Neil Strauss. "Hank Snow, Country Singer is Dead at 85". New
York Times. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m
Hank Snow with Jack Ownbey and Bob Burris.
Hank Snow Story: Hank Snow, the Singing Ranger. Urbana,
Illinois: University of Illinois Press.
Hank Snow Museum".
Hank Snow Home Town Museum. Retrieved January
^ Jason Schneider. (2009) Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of
American Music from
Hank Snow to The Band. Toronto: ECW Press.
^ a b c d Hatt, Dr. William Swasey (1983). Hang on to your Hatts! A
genealogy of the Hatt family in America. Sarasota, Florida.
^ a b Tanner (nee Hatt), Maude (October 22, 1953). "Obituary of Maude
Tanner (Nee Hatt)". Liverpool Advance, Liverpool Nova Scotia.
^ The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines flunky, in this sense,
as "one performing menial or miscellaneous duties." Snow's duties
included forking cod from the deck into a bin where a "throater" would
grab the fish, slit its throat and belly before passing it on to
another crew member who would remove its head.
Hank Snow at AllMusic
^ NS Scotia vital statistics, marriage record
^ Boogie Bobs records, retrieved 14 December 2009
^ Billboard - Google Books. Books.google.com. 1953-02-07. Retrieved
^ Find a Grave, Findagrave.com, retrieved 2013-04-02
^ "Hank Snow, movin country music hall", The Chicago Tribune,
^ "Minnie B Snow", Tributes, Tributes.com, retrieved 2013-04-02
Jimmy Buffett Song & Lyrics Database". BuffettNews.com.
Wolfe, Charles. (1998). "Hank Snow". In The Encyclopedia of Country
Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hank Snow at the Country Music Hall of Fame
Hank Snow discography at Discogs.com
Hank Snow Tribute Song
Rev. Jimmie Rodgers Snow Ministries
The short film Country Style USA Recruitment: Episode 39 is available
for free download at the Internet Archive
C. B. Atkins & C. E. Snow by
Special Request (1969)
The Hits Of Hank Snow
The Hits Of Hank Snow (1978)
"I'm Moving On"
"The Golden Rocket"
"The Rhumba Boogie"
"I Went to Your Wedding"
"(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such as I"
"I Don't Hurt Anymore"
"Let Me Go, Lover!"
"I've Been Everywhere"
"The Name of the Game Was Love"
"(The Seashores) Of Old Mexico"
Members of the Grand Ole Opry
David "Stringbean" Akeman
Bashful Brother Oswald
Binkley Brothers' Dixie Clodhoppers
Jim Ed Brown
Carl Butler and Pearl
The Carter Sisters
June Carter Cash
Wilma Lee Cooper
Dailey & Vincent
The Delmore Brothers
The DeZurik Sisters
Little Jimmy Dickens
The Duke of Paducah
The Everly Brothers
The Gully Jumpers
Tom T. Hall
George Hamilton IV
George D. Hay
Jim & Jesse
Johnnie & Jack
Pee Wee King
Little Big Town
Lonzo and Oscar
The Louvin Brothers
Uncle Dave Macon
Jimmy C. Newman
The Oak Ridge Boys
Old Crow Medicine Show
Riders in the Sky
Rusty and Doug
Ricky Van Shelton
Fiddlin' Arthur Smith
B. J. Thomas
Uncle Jimmy Thompson
Tompall & the Glaser Brothers
Leroy Van Dyke
The Wilburn Brothers
The Willis Brothers
Country Music Hall of Fame 1970s
Carter Family (1970)
Bill Monroe (1970)
Art Satherley (1971)
Jimmie Davis (1972)
Chet Atkins (1973)
Patsy Cline (1973)
Owen Bradley (1974)
Pee Wee King
Pee Wee King (1974)
Minnie Pearl (1975)
Paul Cohen (1976)
Kitty Wells (1976)
Merle Travis (1977)
Grandpa Jones (1978)
Hubert Long (1979)
Hank Snow (1979)
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