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Hank Williams
and The Drifting Cowboys
Born:  September 17, 1923
Died:  January 1, 1953
Academy of Country Music Pioneer (1973)
Alabama Music Hall of Fame (1985)
Country Music Hall of Fame (1961)
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1970)
Shreveport Walk of Stars (2004)
KWKH Louisiana Hayride
WSM Grand Ole Opry
KWKH Shreveport, LA
WSFA Montgomery, AL
WSM Nashville, TN

About The Artist

Hiram "Hank" Williams was born in Mt. Olive, Alabama, the son of Elonzo (Lon) H. and Lilly Williams. His parents were in Georgiana for a while until they moved up to Mt. Olive in 1923. By then, they had a year old baby girl, Irene.

Hank learned to play the guitar legend has it from a black street singer by the name of Rufe Payne or Tee Tot as everyone called him. Ole Tee Tot would come to town a couple times a week as the story goes and would play songs for the folks anywhere they'd let him and collect a few coins for his efforts. He also had a bunch of little boys around him to that would follow him around. One of them was Hank, where he probably got his influence from the blues guitar and lonesome sounds played by this street singer.

Along the way, Hank's interest in music kept growing. He got a new guitar one Christmas after trading in an old $3.50 guitar his mom had given him. Then, along came amateur night at the Montgomery Empire Theater. Hank was said not to have been to a movie theatre to even see a movie, let alone perform at one. But, by that time he had written his first tune, "WPA Blues".

"I got a home in Montgomery
A place I like to stay.
But I have to work for the WPA
And I'm dissatisfied—I'm dissatisfied.

Early on, Hank formed his band and it was called the Drifting Cowboys. Over the years when he was at his peak, that band would become the sound of legends along with Hank and the tunes they did.

He continued to write his songs. Some of those first efforts included, "Never Again (Will I Knock on Your Door)" - (the flip side of Hank's "Lovesick Blues" record eventually), "I Don't Care (If Tomorrow Never Comes)" and "Six More Miles". Early in his songwriting career it goes that Hank sold a song called "I'm Praying For The Day That Peace Will Come" to another legend in the business, Pee Wee King. They said Hank was down on his luck a bit at the time when he sold the song when he had met up with Pee Wee King and Minnie Pearl who were in Dothan, Alabama to do a show.

Hank eventually went to Nashville and was signed up by Fred Rose at Acuff-Rose. Hank had met Roy Acuff several times when Roy would be performing down in Alabama. One of the legendary stories about Hank's ability to write songs was when he first met Fred Rose and more or less wanted to test him after he sang him a few songs after showing up at their offices unannounced. Fred said he didn't know that Hank actually wrote them, so he gave Hank a situation where a gal married a rich boy instead of the poor boy who lived in the cabin. Hank went to another room and composed his song. It took him a half hour to write "A Mansion On The Hill". And the legend grows.

Later on, after being signed by Acuff-Rose, Hank got a spot on the WSM Grand Ole Opry. Another legend has it that when he made that first appearance and did Lovesick Blues, he brought the house down. And got the unheard of response of six encores. And the legend grows...

Hank first was signed by the Sterling Record label. Hank did two sessions with Sterling, being paid a flat fee for them instead of getting royalties. But Fred Rose was impressed enough with what he had heard and wanted to negotiate a contract with a larger label. Fred knew Frank Walker who had previously been president of the Columbia and RCA Victor labels. At the time, he was in the midst of starting a new label for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. And so, Hank was signed by MGM as one of their first artists.

Throughout his career it is well documented that the songs he wrote often mirrored what was going on his life. His marriage to Audrey Williams is well documented in several of the biographies about Hank's life. She also wanted to be a singer herself. Though at times that may have caused some tension at her insistence on being a performer, too, Hank and Audrey recorded several duets together along the way. Hank and Audrey had a child, Hank Williams, Jr. or Little Bocephus as he was nicknamed and who later on in his life, would become a famous entertainer himself. But the happiness in their marriage didn't last. And eventually, the day would come they were divorced.

Hank always fought a battle with his drinking. He could go months without it, but then when he would drink, it seems it got the best of him many times. He also had back problems that he had to deal with, seeing doctors, getting medication, etc. It all came to a point where the Opry decided they had to deal with it by letting Hank Williams go. Everyone knew he was sick at the time and needed to recuperate. But fate never allowed that to happen it seemed. He went back home to Alabama. And later on, hooked up with the Louisiana Hayride who were willing to give Hank a chance to restart his career. Everyone knew he could still sing.

Towards the end of his life, Hank met up with a gal by the name of Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar and they were to marry on October 18, 1952. But it wasn't to be any ordinary wedding. It was a very public ceremony, combined with a performance on the Louisiana Hayride.

Then, late in 1952, there was to be a new tour for Hank to show everyone he was on the way back. A performance in Canton had been scheduled for New Year's Eve in Canton, Ohio. Hank had arranged with Don Helms to have a few of the Drifting Cowboys meet him up there, using the old limousine they toured in. Hank was originally supposed to fly up there and meet them. But when the day came around, snow had started to fall and flying was out of the question. So, Hank hired a driver, a fellow by the name of Charles Carr, to drive him to Canton. Along the way, Carr got pulled over in Knoxville, Tennessee for speeding. The officer had asked about the fellow in the back seat that wasn't moving it seems, but the driver mentioned that he had taken a sedative and was just sleeping it off. Into the night they drove and about when he got to Oak Hill, West Virginia, he decided to check up on Hank after pulling into a Pure Oil station. But he couldn't wake Hank and drove him to the Oak Hill Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

On January 1, 1953, the legend of Hank Williams' life came to an end. But the legend of his musical legacy lives on today. In the music played by his original band the Drifting Cowboys, in the careers by his son, Hank Williams, Jr., his grandson, Hank Williams III and a daughter born after he had died, Jett Williams. And his music also lives on as there is hardly a country band that won't play a tune by Hank Williams at one time or another. His music stands the test of time, simple as it was, but in that simplicity lies its greatness and ability to touch folks that listen to it and play it.

They've written many tribute songs about Hank after his death. They've written many an article about his life and music. They've written many a book, too. Even made movies and plays about the man and his music. But perhaps the best way to know Hank, is to listen to the music. It says it better than anything else.

Timeline and Trivia Notes

Band Members:

  • Hank Williams, lead, vocals, guitar
  • Don Helms, steel guitar
  • Jerry Rivers, fiddle
  • Hillous Butrum, bass
  • Bob McNett, guitar
  • Sam Pruitt, guitar
  • Slim Watts, bass

Suggested Further Reading

  • Hank Williams The Biography
    By Colin Escott with George Merritt and William MacEwen
  • Hank Williams Country Music's Tragic King
    By Jay Caress
  • Sing a Sad Song
    The Life of Hank Williams
    By Roger M. Williams
  • From Life to Legend
    By Jerry Rivers

More information on the above books can be found in our "Library" section.

Related Web Links


Appearance History This Month

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  10033 A Move It On Over
  10033 B (Last Night) I Heard You Crying In Your Sleep
  10073 A Fly Trouble
  10073 B On The Banks Of The Old Ponchartrain
  10124 A Rootie Tootie
  10124 B My Sweet Love Ain't Around
  10171 A Honky Tonkin'
  10171 B I'll Be A Bachelor Til I Die
  10212 A The Blues Come Around
  10212 B I'm A Long Gone Daddy
  10226 A Pan American
  10226 B I Don't Care (If Tomorrow Never Comes)
  10271 A I Saw The Light
  10271 B Six More Miles
  10328 A Mansion On The Hill
  10328 B I Can't Get You Off My Mind
  10352 A Lovesick Blues
  10352 B Never Again (Will I Knock On Your Door)
  10401 A Wedding Bells
  10401 B I've Just Told Mama Good-Bye
  10434 A Dear Brother
  10434 B Lost On The River
  10461 A Mind Your Own Business
  10461 B There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight
  10506 A You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)
  10506 B Lost Highway
  10560 A I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
  10560 B My Bucket's Got A Hole In It
  10609 A I Just Don't Like This Kind Of Livin'
  10609 B May You Never Be Alone
  10645 A My Son Calls Another Man Daddy
  10645 B Long Gone Lonesome Blues
  10696 A Why Don't You Love Me
  10696 B A House Without Love
  10760 A They'll Never Take Her Love From Me
  10760 B Why Should We Try Anymore
  10813 A I Heard My Mother Praying For Me
  10813 B Jesus Died For Me
  10832 A Nobody's Lonesome For Me
  10832 B Moanin' The Blues
  10904 A Cold, Cold Heart
  10904 B Dear John
  10961 A I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You
  10961 B Howlin' At The Moon
  11000 A Hey Good Lookin'
  11000 B My Heart Would Know
  11017 A I Dreamed About Mama Last Night
  11017 B I've Been Down That Road Before
  11028 A Please Don't Let Me Love You
  11028 B Faded Love And Winter Roses
  11054 A Crazy Heart
  11054 B Lonesome Whistle
  11100 A Baby, We're Really In Love
  11100 B I'd Still Want You
  11202 A Half As Much
  11202 B Let's Turn Back The Years
  11283 A Window Shopping
  11283 B Jambalaya (On The Bayou)
  11318 A Settin' The Woods On Fire
  11318 B You Win Again
  11366 A I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
  11366 B I Could Never Be Ashamed Of You
  11416 A Your Cheatin' Heart
  11416 B Kaw-Liga
  11479 A Take These Chains From My Heart
  11479 B Ramblin' Man
  11533 A I Won't Be Home No More
  11533 B My Love For You Has Turned To Hate
  11574 A I Can't Escape From You
  11574 B Weary Blues From Waiting
  11628 A When God Comes And Gathers His Jewels
  11628 B Calling You
  11675 A You Better Keep It On Your Mind
  11675 B Low Down Blues
  11707 A A House Of Gold
  11707 B How Can You Refuse Him Now
  11768 A I'm Satisfied With You
  11768 B Faded Love And Winter Roses
  11861 A The Angel Of Death
  11861 B Sing, Sing, Sing
  11928 A Faded Love And Withered Roses
  11928 B Please Don't Let Me Love You
  11975 A Message To My Mother
  11975 B Mother Is Gone
  12029 A A Teardrop On A Rose
  12029 B Alone And Forsaken
  12077 A The First Fall Of Snow
  12077 B Someday You'll Call My Name
  12127 A Thank God
  12127 B The Battle Of Armageddon
  12185 A Thy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine
  12185 B California Zephyr
  12244 A There's No Room In My Heart (For The Blues)
  12244 B I Wish I Had A Nickel
  12332 A Singing Waterfall
  12332 B Blue Love (In My Heart)
  12394 A The Pale Horse And His Rider
  12394 B Home In Heaven
  12438 A Ready To Go Home
  12438 B We're Getting Closer To The Grave Each Day
  12484 A Leave Me Alone With The Blues
  12484 B With Tears In My Eyes
  12535 A Waltz Of The Wind
  12535 B No One Will Ever Know
  12611 A I Can't Help It
  12611 B Why Don't You Love Me
  12635 A My Bucket's Got A Hole In It
  12635 B We Live In Two Different Worlds
  12727 A Just Waitin'
  12727 B Roly Poly
  13489 A You Win Again
  13489 B I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
  13630 A There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight
  13630 B They'll Never Take Her Love From Me
  30639 A Honky Tonk Blues
  30639 B Long Gone Lonesome Blues
  381 (Eng) A The Blues Come Around
  381 (Eng) B Moanin' The Blues
  459 (Eng) A I'm A Long Gone Daddy
  459 (Eng) B Cold Cold Heart
  483 (Eng) A Why Don't You Love Me
  483 (Eng) B I'd Still Want You
  505 (Eng) A Honky Tonk Blues
  505 (Eng) B I'm Sorry For You My Friend
  566 (Eng) A Jambalaya
  566 (Eng) B Settin' The Woods On Fire
  585 (Eng) A I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
  585 (Eng) B I Could Never Be Ashamed Of You
  666 (Eng) A Let's Turn Back The Years
  666 (Eng) B My Bucket's Got A Hole In It
  704 (Eng) A Weary Blues
  704 (Eng) B I Can't Escape From You
  733 (Eng) A There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight
  733 (Eng) B Crazy Heart
  931 (Eng) A Blue Love
  931 (Eng) B Singing Waterfall
  942 (Eng) A Low Down Blues
  942 (Eng) B My Sweet Love Ain't Around
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  S-201 A Never Again (Will I Knock On Your Door)
  S-201 B Calling You
  S-204 A Wealth Won't Save Your Soul
  S-204 B When God Comes And Gathers His Jewels
  S-208 A I Don't Care (If Tomorrow Never Comes)
  S-208 B My Love For You Has Turned To Hate
  S-210 A Honky Tonkin'
  S-210 B Pan American

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