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Hank Snow Story
By Hank Snow, the Singing Ranger
with Jack Owenbey and Bob Burris
University of Illinois Press
1994
555 Pages
ISBN:  0-252-02089-8

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The Hank Snow Story

Hank Snow, the Singing Ranger
with Jack Owenbey and Bob Burris

A Note on the Recordings by Charles K. Wolfe

This long-awaited autobiography of Hank Snow traces his life from humble beginnings through his emergence as an entertainer in Canada, the United States, and throughout the world, to his stature as one of the most unfluential figures in country music today. But more than a rags-to-riches memoir, this book presents Hank's life and career in his own voice, with remarkable candor and incredible detail. It provides the first extensive look at the early development of country music in Canada, reverals the inner workings of the music industry (including Hank's vital and unsung role in launching Elvis Presley's career), frankly discusses the nonglamorous side of stardom, and offers the reflections of an outspoken artist who has been professionally involved with country music for nearly sixty years.

As a boy, Hank faced the trauma of his parents' divorce, an abusive grandmother and a cruel stepfather. He found that music brought him comfort, and his mother encouraged him to develop his talents. At first he emulated his idol, Jimmie Rodgers, but soon Hank found his own style. He began his career with his own radio show on CHNS in Halifax. Developing his gifts as a songwriter, he cut his first records in Montreal in 1936, for RCA Victor's Canadian Bluebird label.

During this time Hank met and married Minnie Blanche Aalders, and they became the parents of a son, Jimmie Rodgers Snow. Thanks to a network radio spot and continued personal appearances, the man now known as Hank, the Singing Ranger" gained fans all across Canada. Determined to try his luck in the Lower 48, he came to West Virginia, where he appeared on the WWVA Jamboree in 1945. Here he acquired his trained horse, Shawnee, whose tricks and daredevil stunts with Hank endeared them to audiences.

hank criss-crossed the States to Hollywood, to Dallas and the Big D Jamboree, to Shreveport and the Louisiana Hayride, and to Chicago for his first American recording session in 1949. Through Ernest Tubb's intercession, he made his debut on Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. Disheartened by the lack of audience response, Hank nearly abandoned his dream. Then he recorded a song he had written, "I'm Movin' On." It climbed to the top of the charts, staying at number one for twenty-nine weeks. More hits followed, and his life and career changed forever.

Over the years, Hank has entertained servicepeople on military bases in Korea, Europe, and Vietname. Remembering his own childhood, he established the Hank Snow Foundation for the Prevention of Child Abuse. Elected in 1979 to the Country Music Hall of Fame and to the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, Hank continues to perform regularly on the Grand Ole Opry.

Fans Jack Owenbey and Bob Burris persuaded Hank that his story must be told and worked with him on thousands of hours of taped interviews. Charles Wolfe surveys Hank's recorded legacy, from the make-shift early studios of Depression-era Canada to the digital sophistication of contemporary Nashville.

  • Clarence Eugene "Hank" Snow has enjoyed a lengthy career as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Roy Glenn "Jack" Owenbey is a songwriter and retired history teacher. Robert Dee "Bob" Burris is a Farm Bureau agent. Charles K. Wolfe, a professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University, is an authority on country music.

    A volume in the series Music in American Life, published in association with the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame