Hiram "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953) was an
American singer-songwriter. Regarded as one of the most significant
and influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th
century, Williams recorded 35 singles (five released
posthumously) that reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Country &
Western Best Sellers chart, including 11 that ranked number one (three
Born in Mount Olive, Butler County, Alabama, Williams relocated to
Georgiana with his family, where he met Rufus Payne, who gave him
guitar lessons in exchange for meals or money. Payne had a major
influence on Williams' later musical style, along with
Roy Acuff and
Ernest Tubb. He would later relocate to Montgomery, where he began his
music career in 1937, when producers at 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 dropped out
of school to devote his time to his career.
When several of his band members were conscripted into military
service during World War II, Williams had trouble with their
replacements, and WSFA terminated his contract because of his alcohol
abuse. Williams eventually married 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 also
Louisiana Hayride radio program.
One year later, he released a cover of "Lovesick Blues" recorded at
Herzog Studio in Cincinnati, which carried him into the mainstream
of music. After an initial rejection, Williams joined the Grand Ole
Opry. He was unable to read or notate music to any significant degree.
Among the hits he wrote were "Your Cheatin' Heart", "Hey, Good
Lookin'", and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".
In 1952, he divorced Sheppard and was dismissed by the Grand Ole Opry
because of his unreliability and alcohol abuse. On January 1, 1953, he
suffered heart failure while traveling to perform at a concert in West
Virginia, and died as a result. His death came in the wake of many
years of back pain, alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. Despite
his short life, Williams is one of the most celebrated and influential
musicians of the 20th century, especially in regard to country music.
The songs he wrote and recorded have been covered by numerous artists
and have been hits in various genres, and he has been cited as a key
musical influence on Elvis Presley,
Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones.
He has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame, such as the
Country Music Hall of Fame
Country Music Hall of Fame (1961), the Songwriters Hall of Fame
(1970), and the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987).
1 Early life
2.1 Early career
3 Personal life
4.1 Lawsuits over the estate
4.1.1 WSM's Mother's Best Flour
7.1 Works cited
8 Further reading
9 External links
Williams' family house in Georgiana, Alabama
Williams was born in Butler County, Alabama. His parents were Jessie
Lillybelle "Lillie" (née Skipper) and Elonzo Huble "Lon" Williams,
and he was of English ancestry. Elonzo Williams worked as
an engineer for the railroads of the W.T. Smith lumber company. He was
drafted during World War I, serving from July 1918 until June 1919.
He was severely injured after falling from a truck, breaking his
collarbone and suffering a severe blow to the head.
After his return, the family's first child, Irene, was born on August
8, 1922. Another son of theirs died shortly after birth. Their third
child, Hiram, was born on September 17, 1923, in Mount Olive.
Since Elonzo Williams was a Mason, and his wife was a member of the
Order of the Eastern Star, the child was named after
Hiram I of Tyre
(one of the three founders of the Masons, according to Masonic
legend). His name was misspelled as "Hiriam" on his birth certificate
which was prepared and signed when Hank was about ten years old.
As a child, he was nicknamed "Harm" by his family and "Herky" or
"Poots" by his friends. He was born with spina bifida occulta, a
birth defect, centered on the spinal column, which gave him lifelong
pain – a factor in his later abuse of alcohol and drugs.
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, his father
began suffering from facial paralysis. At a Veterans Affairs (VA)
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 Hiram's childhood. From
that time on, Lillie Williams assumed responsibility for the family.
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 the Williams family settled in Garland,
Alabama, where Lillie Williams opened a new boarding house. After a
while they moved with his cousin Opal McNeil to Georgiana, Alabama
where Lillie managed to find several side jobs to support her
children, despite the bleak economic climate of the Great Depression.
She worked in a cannery and served as a night-shift nurse in the local
Their first house burned, and the family lost its possessions. They
moved to a new house on the other side of town on Rose Street, which
Williams' mother soon turned into a 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
Hank Williams met U.S. Representative
J. Lister Hill while
he was campaigning across Alabama. Williams told Hill that his mother
was interested to talk with him about his problems and her need to
collect Elonzo Williams'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
My Bucket's Got a Hole in It
The popular song "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" became a hit for Hank
Williams in 1949.
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There are several versions of how Williams got his first guitar. 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. Payne gave
Williams guitar lessons in exchange for meals prepared by Lillie
Williams or money. Payne's base musical style was blues.
He 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 one of the songs that Payne
taught him, "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It". Williams musical style
contained influences from Payne along with several other country
influences, among them "the Singing Brakeman" Jimmie Rodgers, Moon
Mullican, and Roy Acuff. In 1937 Williams got into a fight with
his physical education coach 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 eventually, Payne also moved to
Montgomery, where he died in poverty in 1939. Williams later credited
him as his only teacher.
Hank Williams playing guitar in
Montgomery, Alabama in 1938
In July 1937, the Williams and McNeil families opened a boarding house
on South Perry Street in downtown Montgomery. It was at this time that
Williams decided to change his name informally from Hiram to Hank. As
Williams told the story about it in his later concerts, the
name-change was supposedly all because of a cat's yowling, though,
as the Hank Williams: The Biography authors point out, "Hank" simply
sounds more like a hillbilly and western star than "Hiram". During
the same year he participated in a talent show at the Empire Theater.
He won the first prize of $15, singing his first original song "WPA
Blues". Williams wrote the lyrics and used the tune of Riley Puckett's
He never learned to read music and, for the rest of his career, based
his compositions in storytelling & 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 US$255.3 in 2018).
In August 1938, Elonzo Williams was temporarily released from the
hospital. He showed up unannounced at the family's home in Montgomery.
Lillie was unwilling to let him reclaim his position as the head of
the household, so he stayed only long enough to celebrate Hank
Williams' birthday in September before he returned to the medical
center in Louisiana. Hank's mother had claimed that he was dead.
Williams' successful radio show fueled his entry into a music career.
His salary was enough for him to start his own band, which he dubbed
the Drifting Cowboys. The original members were guitarist Braxton
Schuffert, fiddler Freddie Beach, and comedian Smith "Hezzy" Adair.
James E. (Jimmy) Porter was the youngest, being only 13 when he
started playing steel guitar for Williams. Arthur Whiting was also a
guitarist for The Drifting Cowboys. The band traveled throughout
central and southern Alabama performing in clubs and at private
parties. James Ellis Garner later played fiddle for him. Lillie
Williams(Hank's mother) became the Drifting Cowboys' manager. 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, 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 honkey-tonks. Williams' alcohol use started to be a
problem during the tours, on occasion spending a large part of the
show revenues on alcohol. Meanwhile, between tour schedules, Williams
returned to Montgomery to host his radio show.
The American entry into
World War II
World War II in 1941 marked the beginning of
hard times for Williams. While he received a 4-F deferment from the
military for his back after falling from a bull during a rodeo in
Texas, his band members were all drafted to serve. Many of their
replacements refused to play in the band due to Williams's worsening
alcoholism. He continued to show up for his radio show
intoxicated, so in August 1942 radio station WSFA fired him for
"habitual drunkenness". During one of his concerts Williams met his
Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry star
Roy Acuff backstage, who later warned
him of the dangers of alcohol, saying, "You've got a million-dollar
talent, son, but a ten-cent brain."
He worked for the rest of the war in 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 in 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 sixty-day trial reconciliation.
Hank Williams, Audrey Sheppard Williams and the
Drifting Cowboys band
In 1945, when he was back in Montgomery, Williams started for to
perform again for radio station WSFA. He wrote songs weekly to perform
during the shows. As a result of the new variety of his
repertoire, Williams published his first song book, Original Songs of
Hank Williams. The book only listed lyrics, since its main purpose
was to attract more audience, though it's also possible, that he
didn't want for to pay for transcribing the notes. It included ten
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". Williams became recognized as a songwriter, Sheppard
became his manager and occasionally accompanied him on duets in some
of his live concerts.
On September 14, 1946, Williams auditioned for Nashville's Grand Ole
Opry but was rejected. After the failure of his audition, Williams and
Audrey Sheppard tried to interest the recently formed music publishing
firm Acuff-Rose Music. Williams and his wife 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, Rose agreed, and he liked
Williams's musical style. Rose signed Williams to a six-song
contract, and leveraged this deal to sign Williams with Sterling
Records. On December 11, 1946, in his first 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.
A major hit for Hank Williams, "Lovesick Blues" moved him to the
mainstream of country music and assured him a position in the Grand
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Williams signed with
MGM Records in 1947 and released "Move It on
Over", which became a massive 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, 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 &
Irving Mills song
"Lovesick Blues", made popular by Rex Griffin. Williams' version
became a huge country hit; the song stayed at number one on the
Billboard charts over four consecutive months, crossing over to
mainstream audiences and 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 first 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, earning an estimated US$1,000 per
show (equivalent to US$10,285.3 in 2018). That year Audrey
Williams gave birth to Randall
Hank Williams (
Hank Williams Jr.).
During 1949, he joined the first European tour of the Grand Ole Opry,
performing in 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".
Beyond the Sunset
One characteristic of Williams' recordings as Luke the Drifter is the
use of narration rather than singing.
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In 1950, Williams began recording as "Luke the Drifter" for his
religious-themed recordings, 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, in 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 from different
characters and philosophizing about life. Some of the
compositions were accompanied by a pipe organ.
Hank Williams in concert in 1951
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", that 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
Hank's career reached a peak in August–September 1951 with his
Hadacol tour of the U.S. with actor
Bob Hope and other luminaries.
During the tour, Hank was photographed signing a motion picture deal
with MGM. In October Hank recorded a demo, "There's a Tear in My Beer"
for a friend, "Big Bill Lister", who recorded it in the studio. The
demo was later overdubbed by his son,
Hank Williams Jr.
Hank Williams Jr. On November
14, 1951 Hank flew to New York with his steel guitar player Don Helms
where he appeared on television for the first time on The Perry Como
Show. There he and Perry sang "Hey Good Lookin'". Photos but no
existing footage remain of his appearance.
In November 1951 Hank suffered a fall during a hunting trip with his
Jerry Rivers in Franklin, Tennessee. The fall reactivated his
old back pains. He later started to consume painkillers, including
morphine, and alcohol to 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.
During March and April 1952 Hank flew to New York with steel guitarist
Don Helms, where he made two appearances with other Grand Ole Opry
members on The Kate Smith Show. 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. Footage remains of these appearances. That spring
he had a brief affair with dancer Bobbi Jett, with whom he fathered a
Jett Williams (born January 6, 1953, two days after his
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". In early July,
Audrey Williams divorced Hank. The
next day he recorded "You Win Again" and "I Won't be Home No More".
About this time he met Billie Jean Jones, a girlfriend of country
singer Faron Young, at the Grand Ole Opry. As a girl, Billie had lived
down the street from Hank when he was with the Louisiana Hayride, and
now Hank began to visit her frequently in Shreveport, causing him to
Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry appearances.
On August 11, 1952, Williams was dismissed from the
Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry for
habitual drunkenness and missing shows. He returned to Shreveport,
Louisiana to perform on
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. In October
1952 he married Billie Jean Jones.
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 suffer 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
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.
On December 15, 1944, Williams married Audrey Sheppard. It was her
second marriage and his first. Their son, Randall Hank Williams, who
would achieve fame in his own right as
Hank Williams Jr., was born on
May 26, 1949. The marriage, always turbulent, rapidly disintegrated,
and Williams developed serious problems with alcohol, morphine, and
other painkillers prescribed for him to ease the severe back pain
caused by his spina bifida. The couple divorced on May 29,
In June 1952, Williams moved in with his mother, even as he released
numerous hit songs, such as "Half as Much" in April, "Jambalaya (On
the Bayou)" in July, "Settin' the Woods on Fire"/"You Win Again" in
September, and "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" in November.
His substance abuse problems continued to spiral out of control as he
moved to Nashville and officially divorced his wife. A
relationship with a woman named Bobbie Jett during this period
resulted in a daughter, Jett Williams, who was born five days after
Williams' death. His mother adopted Jett, who was made a ward of the
state and then adopted by another couple after her grandmother died.
Jett Williams did not learn that she was Hank Williams' daughter until
the early 1980s.
On October 18, 1952, Williams and
Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar were
married in Minden, Louisiana by a justice of the peace. It was
the second marriage for both (each being divorced with children).
The next day two public ceremonies were also 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 Eshlimar's divorce had not become final until eleven days after
she married Williams. Williams' first wife, Audrey, and his mother,
Lillie Williams, were the driving forces behind having the marriage
declared invalid and pursued the matter for years. Williams had also
married Audrey Sheppard before her divorce was final, on the tenth day
of a required 60-day reconciliation period.
In the 1952 presidential election campaign, Williams was a vocal
supporter of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican party
nominee. According to singer and recording artist Jo Stafford,
Williams sent Eisenhower a birthday telegram on October 14 informing
him that he considered it a personal honor to endorse a military
figure to lead the nation in its coming future. Eisenhower was sworn
in as thirty fourth president nineteen days following Williams death.
Main article: Death of Hank Williams
Entrance marker of the Oakwood Annex Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama
Williams was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in
Charleston, West Virginia
Charleston, West Virginia on Wednesday December 31, 1952. Advance
ticket sales totaled US$3,500. That day, because of an ice storm in
the Nashville area, Williams could not fly, 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 ordered to drive
Williams to Canton, Ohio, for the New Year's Day concert there.
They arrived at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee,
where Carr requested a doctor for Williams, as he was feeling the
combination of the chloral hydrate and alcohol he had drunk on the way
from Montgomery 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; the porters had
to carry Williams to the car, as he was coughing and hiccuping. At
around midnight on Thursday January 1, 1953, when they 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
was dead, and rigor mortis had already set in. The filling station's
owner called the chief of the local police. In Williams' Cadillac
the police found some empty beer cans and unfinished handwritten
Dr. Ivan Malinin performed the autopsy at the Tyree Funeral House.
Malinin found hemorrhages in the heart and neck and pronounced the
cause of death as "insufficiency of the right ventricle of the
heart". That evening, when the announcer at Canton announced
Williams' death to the gathered crowd, they started laughing, thinking
that it was just another excuse. After
Hawkshaw Hawkins and other
performers started singing "I Saw the Light" as a tribute to Williams,
the crowd, now realizing that he was indeed dead, sang along. Dr.
Malinin also wrote that Williams had been severely beaten and kicked
in the groin recently. Also local magistrate Virgil F. Lyons ordered
an inquest into Williams' death concerning the welt that was visible
on his head.
His body was transported to Montgomery, Alabama, on Friday January 2
and placed in a silver coffin that was first shown at his mother's
boarding house for two days. His funeral took place on Sunday January
4 at the Montgomery Auditorium, with his coffin placed on the
flower-covered stage. An estimated 15,000 to 25,000 people passed
by the silver coffin, 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 told Billboard
magazine that the company got only about five requests for pictures of
Williams during the weeks before his death, but over three hundred
afterwards. The local record shops sold out of all of their records,
and customers were asking for all records ever released by
Williams. His final single, released in November 1952 while he was
still alive, was ironically titled "I'll Never Get Out of This World
Alive". "Your Cheatin' Heart" was written and recorded in September
1952 but released in late January 1953 after Williams' death. The
song, backed by "Kaw-Liga", was number one on the country charts for
six weeks. It provided the title for the 1964 biographical film of the
same name, which starred George Hamilton. "Take These Chains From
My Heart" was released in April 1953 and went to #1 on the country
charts. "I Won't Be Home No More", released in July, went to #3, and
an overdubbed demo, "Weary Blues From Waitin'", written with Ray
Price, went to #7.
Hank Williams' star at 6400 Hollywood Boulevard, on the Hollywood Walk
Williams is widely recognized as "The King of Country Music", a title
he shares with fellow artists
Roy Acuff and George Strait.
Gordon Persons officially proclaimed September 21
Hank Williams Day". The first celebration, in 1954 featured the
unveiling of a monument at the Cramton Bowl, that was later placed in
the grave site of Williams. The ceremony featured Ferlin Husky
interpreting "I Saw the Light".
Williams had 11 number one country hits in his career ("Lovesick
Blues", "Long Gone Lonesome Blues", "Why Don't You Love Me", "Moanin'
the Blues", "Cold, Cold Heart", "Hey, Good Lookin'", "Jambalaya (On
the Bayou)", "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive", "Kaw-Liga",
"Your Cheatin' Heart", and "Take These Chains from My Heart"), as well
as many other top ten hits.
Hank Williams III, is also a musician
On February 8, 1960, Williams' star was placed at 6400 Hollywood
Boulevard on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 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
Hank's 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 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
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame under the category
Early Influence. He was ranked second in CMT's 40 Greatest Men of
Country Music in 2003, behind only Johnny Cash. His son, Hank Jr., was
ranked on the same list.
Rolling Stone ranked him number 74 on its list of the 100
Greatest Artists of All Time. The website Acclaimedmusic, which
collates recommendations of albums and recording artists, has a
year-by-year recommendation for top artists.
Hank Williams is ranked
first for the decade 1940–1949 for his song "I'm So Lonesome I Could
Cry". Many artists of the 1950s and 1960s, including Elvis
Presley, Bob Dylan,Tammy Wynette, David Houston, Jerry Lee Lewis,
Merle Haggard, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, Ricky
Nelson, Jack Scott, and Conway Twitty recorded Williams
songs during their careers.
In 2011 Williams' 1949 MGM number one 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". Keeping his legacy alive, Williams' son, Hank Williams
Jr., daughter Jett Williams, grandson
Hank Williams III, and
granddaughters Hilary Williams and
Holly Williams are also country
In 2006, a janitor of
Sony/ATV Music Publishing
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.
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, the shows were
recorded for the promotion of Hadacol. The set was re-released on Hank
Williams: The Legend Begins in 2011. The album included unreleased
songs. "Fan It" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band", recorded by Williams
at age fifteen; the homemade recordings of him singing "Freight Train
Blues", "New San Antonio Rose", "St. Louis Blues" and "Greenback
Dollar" at age eighteen; and a recording for the 1951 March of
Dimes. In May 2014, further radio recordings by Williams were
released. The Garden Spot Programs, 1950, 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
In June 2016 British actor
Tom Hiddleston portrayed Williams in the
biopic I Saw the Light, based on Colin Escott's 1994 book Hank
Williams: The Biography.
Marc Abraham directed the film. Filming took
place in October through December 2014 and the film was released in
Lawsuits over the estate
After Williams' death,
Audrey Williams filed a suit in Nashville
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 first
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 other fifty percent was
considered uncertain; those involved included the second Mrs. Williams
and her daughter and Hank Williams' mother and sister. On October
22, 1975, a federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia, finally ruled Jones
Eshlimar's marriage was valid and that half of Williams' future
royalties belonged to her.
WSM's Mother's Best Flour
In 1951, Williams hosted a fifteen-minute show for Mother's Best flour
in WSM radio. Due to Williams' tour schedules some of the shows were
previously recorded to be played in his absence. The original
acetates made their way to the possession of Jett Williams. Prior to
that, duplicates were made and intended to be published by a third
party. In February 2005, the
Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower
court ruling stating that Williams' heirs—son,
Hank Williams Jr.,
and daughter, Jett Williams—have the 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.
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, which
Polygram now owns, gave them rights to release the radio recordings. A
3-CD selection of the tracks, restored by Joe Palmaccio, was released
Time-Life in October 2008 titled The Unreleased Recordings.
Main article: List of tributes to Hank Williams
Grammy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration ("There's a Tear in My
Hank Williams Jr.
Music Video of the Year
Hank Williams Jr.
Vocal Event of the Year
Hank Williams Jr.
Video of the Year
Academy of Country Music
Hank Williams Jr.
Vocal Collaboration of the Year
TNN/Music City News
Hank Williams Jr.
Video of the Year
TNN/Music City News
Hank Williams Jr.
Special Awards and Citation for his pivotal role in transforming
The Pulitzer Prize
Hank Williams discography
See also: List of songs written by Hank Williams
Hank Williams Biography –
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
Retrieved February 11, 2015
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^ Koon, George William 1983, p. 6.
^ Flippo, Chet 1985, p. 12.
^ Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 7.
^ a b c Koon, George William 1983, p. 10.
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^ Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 18.
^ Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 13.
^ Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 14.
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^ Hemphill, Paul 2005, p. 17.
^ Koon, George William 1983, p. 13.
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set piece to explain how this came about. ... he'd say there was an
old cat walking up and down that fence yowling 'H-a-r-r-m-m,
h-a-r-r-m-m'. He said he thought the cat was calling him so he changed
his name to Hank. access-date= requires url= (help)
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Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
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Hank Williams Sr. makes his
Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry debut". History.com.
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^ Evans, Mike 2006, p. 15.
^ Young, William H.; Young, Nancy K. 2010, p. 235.
^ a b Ching, Barbara 2003, p. p. 55.
^ Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 127.
^ Bernstein, Cynthia; Nunnally, Thomas; Sabino, Robin 1997,
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^ "The Year's Top Country and Western Records". Billboard. January 13,
1951. p. 9.
^ Whitburn, Joel 1991, p. 26.
^ a b Koon, George William 1983, p. 153, 154.
^ Wolff, Kurt 2000, p. 160.
^ Lornell, Kip; Laird, Tracey 2008, p. p. 82.
^ a b c Koon, George William 1983, p. 70.
^ Koon, George William 1983, p. 74.
^ Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 96.
^ Koon, George William 1983, p. XII.
^ Williams, Hilary; Roberts, Mary Beth 2010, p. 127.
^ a b c Celon, Curtis 1995, p. 80.
^ Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 46.
^ Weston, Paul (June 28, 2012). Song of the Open Road: An
Autobiography and Other Writings. BearManor Media. p. 195.
^ Tharpe, Jim (July 2, 2013). "Hank Williams' last ride: Driver
recalls lonesome end". AccessAtlanta.com. Retrieved June 13,
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of Culture and History. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
^ Olson, Ted 2004, p. 296.
^ Olson, Ted 2004, p. 298.
^ Olson, Ted 2004, p. 300.
^ Olson, Ted 2004, p. 303.
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^ Olson, Ted 2004, p. 306.
^ Escott, Colin; Merritt, George; MacEwen, William 1994, p. 243.
^ Stanton, Scott 2003, p. p. 262.
^ a b Peterson, Richard A. 1997, p. 182.
^ Sheckler Finch, Jackie 2011, p. 72, 73.
Hank Williams Trail Brochure. Alabama Tourism Department. Alabama
Tourism Department. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
^ Koon, George William; p. 161.
^ Windham, Kathryn Tucker 2007, p. 33.
^ George-Warren, Holly; Romanowski, Patricia; Romanowski Bashe,
Patricia; Pareles, Jon 2001, p. 1066.
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Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. January 28, 2013.
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Alamhof.org. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Archived from the
original on February 13, 2003. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
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^ Caress, Jay p. 228
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of Fame and Museum, Inc. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
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Hank Williams receives additional
Grammy Recognition as "Lovesick
Blues" inducted into
Grammy Hall of Fame". Rodeo Attitude official
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^ "The Beatles' catalogue wins 'Best Historical Album' Grammy". WMMR.
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Pulitzer Prize Winners
Special Awards and Citations".
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Tom Hiddleston played country icon
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hank Williams.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Hank Williams
Hank Williams on IMDb
Hank Williams at AllMusic
Hank Williams at Find a Grave
Listing of all Hank Williams' songs and alternatives
"Hank Williams". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Hank Williams 1923–1953 at
Library of Congress
Library of Congress Authorities, with 127
Hank Williams Sings
Hank Williams on Stage
Three Hanks: Men with Broken Hearts
The Complete Hank Williams
"Move It On Over"
"I Saw the Light"
"Mind Your Own Business"
"My Bucket's Got a Hole in It"
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"
"Long Gone Lonesome Blues"
"Why Don't You Love Me"
"Cold, Cold Heart"
"Hey, Good Lookin'"
"Honky Tonk Blues"
"Half as Much"
"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)"
"You Win Again"
"I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive"
"Your Cheatin' Heart"
"Take These Chains from My Heart"
"The Blues Come Around"
"Six More Miles (To the Graveyard)"
"I'm Satisfied with You"
"The Pale Horse and His Rider"
Hank Williams Jr.
Hank Williams III
Death of Hank Williams
List of tributes to Hank Williams
Grand Ole Opry
The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams
The Garden Spot Programs, 1950
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
Country Music Hall of Fame 1960s
Jimmie Rodgers (1961)
Fred Rose (1961)
Hank Williams (1961)
Roy Acuff (1962)
Tex Ritter (1964)
Ernest Tubb (1965)
Eddy Arnold (1966)
James R. "Jim" Denny (1966)
George D. Hay (1966)
Uncle Dave Macon
Uncle Dave Macon (1966)
Red Foley (1967)
J.L. (Joe) Frank (1967)
Jim Reeves (1967)
Stephen H. Sholes (1967)
Bob Wills (1968)
Gene Autry (1969)
Special Citations and Awards (Arts)
Richard Rodgers and
Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Hammerstein II for
Roger Sessions (1974)
Scott Joplin (1976)
Milton Babbitt (1982)
William Schuman (1985)
George Gershwin (1998)
Duke Ellington (1999)
Thelonious Monk (2006)
John Coltrane (2007)
Bob Dylan (2008)
Hank Williams (2010)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 1987
The Coasters (Carl Gardner, Cornell Gunter, Billy Guy, Dub Jones)
Big Joe Turner
(Ahmet Ertegun Award)
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
ISNI: 0000 0000 7357 7397
BNF: cb13901187j (data)