www.hankwilliams.com Williams' signature
HIRAM KING "HANK" WILLIAMS (/ˈhæŋk ˈwɪljəmz / ; September 17,
1923 – January 1, 1953) was an American singer-songwriter and
musician. 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 "> He moved 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 as backup for
When several of his band members were conscripted into military
World War II
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 which led
to his poor health and death. 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. He has been inducted into multiple music halls of
fame, such as the
Country Music Hall of Fame
* 1 Life and career
* 1.1 1923–1937: Early years * 1.2 Early career * 1.3 1940s * 1.4 1950s * 1.5 Death * 1.6 Personal life
* 2 Legacy
* 2.1 Lawsuits over the estate
* 2.1.1 WSM\'s Mother\'s Best Flour
* 2.2 Tributes
* 3 Awards * 4 Discography
* 5 References
* 5.1 Works cited
* 5.1.1 Books * 5.1.2 Journals
* 6 Further reading * 7 External links
LIFE AND CAREER
1923–1937: EARLY YEARS
Williams' family house in Georgiana, Alabama
Williams was born in
Butler County, Alabama , the son of Jessie
Lillybelle "Lillie" (née Skipper; August 12, 1898 – February 26,
1955) and Elonzo Huble "Lon" Williams (December 22, 1891 – October
25, 1970). His parents married on November 12, 1916.
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 hospital.
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 Georgiana,
My Bucket\'s Got a Hole in It The popular song "My Bucket's
Got a Hole in It" became a hit for
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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
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, a name he said was better suited to his desired career in country music. 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 "Dissatisfied." He never learned to read music and, for the rest of his career, based his compositions in storytelling. After school and on weekends Williams sang and played his Silvertone guitar on the sidewalk in front of the WSFA radio studios. 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" 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$249.90 in 2017).
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 at the head of the household, so he stayed only long enough to celebrate Williams' birthday in September before he returned to the medical center in Louisiana.
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 American entry into
World War II
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 on 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
In 1945, when he was back in Montgomery, Williams started 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. 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' 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". The recordings "Never Again" and "Honky Tonkin\' " became successful, and earned Williams the attention of MGM Records.
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Williams signed with
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 .
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 number one.
Hank's career reached a peak in August–September 1951 with his
Hadacol tour of the U.S. with actor
In November 1951 Hank suffered a fall during a hunting trip with his fiddler 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
In June 1952, he recorded "Jambalaya," "Window Shopping," "Settin'
the Woods on Fire," and "I'll Never Get out of this World Alive." In
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
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 in 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. In October 1952 he married Billie Jean Jones.
During his last recording session on September 23, 1952, Williams
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
Williams was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in
Charleston, West Virginia
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. 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 lyrics.
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.
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 a serious problem 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, 1952.
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.
Williams was a vocal supporter of
Dwight D. Eisenhower . According to
Hank is widely recognized as "The King Of Country Music", a title he shares with fellow artists Roy Acuff and George Strait . Hank Williams' star at 6400 Hollywood Boulevard, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Gordon Persons officially proclaimed September 21
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, his grandson, 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 2011 Williams' 1949 MGM number one hit, "Lovesick Blues", was
inducted into the Recording Academy
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
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 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 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 2016.
LAWSUITS OVER THE ESTATE
After Williams' death,
Audrey Williams filed a suit in Nashville
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 by Time-Life in October 2008 titled The Unreleased Recordings.
Main article: List of tributes to Hank Williams
YEAR AWARD AWARDS NOTES
1989 Music Video of the Year CMA with Hank Williams, Jr.
1989 Vocal Event of the Year CMA with Hank Williams, Jr.
1989 Video of the Year Academy of Country Music with Hank Williams, Jr.
1990 Vocal Collaboration of the Year TNN/Music City News with Hank Williams, Jr.
1990 Video of the Year TNN/Music City News with Hank Williams, Jr.
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* Peterson, Richard A. (1997). Creating country music: fabricating
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Retrieved March 8, 2011.
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* Williams, Hilary; Roberts, Mary Beth (2010). Sign of Life: A Story
of Family, Tragedy, Music, and Healing. Da Capo Press. ISBN
* Williams, Roger M (1981). Sing a sad song: the life of Hank
Williams. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-00861-0 .
Retrieved March 6, 2011.
* Windham, Kathryn Tucker (2007). Alabama, One Big Front Porch.
NewSouth Books. ISBN 978-1-58838-219-1 .
* Whitburn, Joel (1991). Joel Whitburn Presents Billboard #1s,
1950–1991: A Week-by-week Record of Billboard's #1 Hits. Record
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* Wolff, Kurt (2000). Country Music: The Rough Guide ; . Rough
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* Young, William H.; Young, Nancy K. (2010).
World War II
* "The Year\'s Top Country & Western Artists/The Year\'s Top Country
& Western Records". The Billboard : 19. January 13, 1951. ISSN
0006-2510 . Retrieved March 7, 2011.
* Nielsen Business Media, Inc (May 23, 1953). "
* Caress, Jay (1979). Hank Williams: Country Music's Tragic King. New York: Stein and Day. ISBN 978-0-8128-2583-1 . OCLC 4492866 . * Williams, Lycrecia; Dale Vinicur (1989). Still in Love with You: Hank and Audrey Williams. Nashville, Tenn.: Rutledge Hill Press. ISBN 978-1-55853-105-5 . OCLC 42469829 . * Rivers, Jerry (1967). Thurston Moore, ed. Hank Williams: From Life to Legend. Denver: Heather Enterprises. LCCN 67030642 . OCLC 902165 .
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