Hank Williams SR.
Posted by: GA Cacher
N 32° 23.128 W 086° 17.464
16S E 566681 N 3583384
Quick Description: On a windy hill in Oakwood Annex Cemetery, Montgomery, AL
is the grave of Hank Williams SR and his wife Audrey.
Location: Alabama, United States
Date Posted: 6/1/2006 6:59:42 PM
Waymark Code: WME1Z
Hank Williams is the father of contemporary country music. Williams was a superstar by the age of 25; he was dead at the age of 29. In those four short years, he established the rules for all the country performers that followed him and, in the process, much of popular music. Williams wrote a body of songs that became popular classics, and his direct, emotional lyrics and vocals became the standard for most popular performers. Hank lived a life as troubled and reckless as that depicted in his songs.
Hank Williams was born in Mount Olive, Alabama, on September 17, 1923. When he was eight years old, Williams was given a guitar by his mother. His musical education was provided by a local blues street singer, Rufus Payne, who was called Tee Tot. From Tee Tot, Hank learned how to play the guitar and sing the blues, which would come to provide a strong undercurrent in his songwriting. Williams began performing around the Georgiana and Greenville areas of Alabama in his early teens. His mother moved the family to Montgomery, AL, in 1937, where she opened a boarding house. In Montgomery, Hank formed a band called the Drifting Cowboys and landed a regular spot on the local radio station, WSFA, in 1941. During his shows, Williams would sing songs from his idol, Roy Acuff, as well as several other country hits of the day. WSFA dubbed him the Singing Kid and Williams stayed with the station for the rest of the decade.
Hank assembled the most famous edition of the Drifting Cowboys, featuring guitarist Bob McNett, bassist Hillous Butrum, fiddler Jerry Rivers, and steel guitarist Don Helms. Soon, he and the band were earning $1,000 per concert and were selling out shows across the country. Williams had no fewer than seven hits in 1949 after "Lovesick Blues," including the Top Fives "Wedding Bells," "Mind Your Own Business," "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)," and "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It." In addition to having a string of hit singles in 1950 -- including the number ones "Long Gone Lonesome Blues," "Why Don't You Love Me," and "Moanin' the Blues," as well as the Top Tens "I Just Don't Like This Kind of Livin'," "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy," "They'll Never Take Her Love from Me," "Why Should We Try," and "Nobody's Lonesome for Me." That same year, Williams began recording a series of spiritual records under the name Luke the Drifter.
Williams continued to rack up hits in 1951, beginning with the Top Ten hit "Dear John" and its number one flip-side, "Cold Cold Heart." That same year, pop vocalist Tony Bennett recorded "Cold, Cold Heart" and had a hit, leading to a stream of covers from such mainstream artists as Jo Stafford, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Teresa Brewer, and several others. Hank had also begun to experience the fruits of crossover success, appearing on the Perry Como television show and being part of a package tour that also featured Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and Minnie Pearl. In addition to "Dear John" and "Cold, Cold Heart," Hank had several other hits in 1951, including the number one "Hey, Good Lookin'" and "Howlin' at the Moon," "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)," "Crazy Heart," "Lonesome Whistle," and "Baby, We're Really in Love," which all charted in the Top Ten.
In January of 1952, Hank and Audrey separated for a final time and he headed back to Montgomery to live with his mother. The hits were still coming fast for Williams, with "Honky Tonk Blues" hitting number two in the spring. In fact, he released five more singles in 1952 -- "Half As Much," "Jambalaya," "Settin' the Woods on Fire," "You Win Again," and "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" -- which all went Top Ten. In spite of all of his success, Hank turned completely reckless in 1952, spending nearly all of his waking hours drunk and taking drugs, while he was frequently destroying property and playing with guns.
Williams left his mother in early spring, moving in with Ray Price in Nashville. In May, Audrey and Hank were officially divorced. She was awarded the house and their child, as well as half of his future royalties. Williams continued to play a large number of concerts, but he was always drunk during the show, or he missed the gig altogether. In August, the Grand Ole Opry fired Hank for that very reason. He was told that he could return once he was sober. Instead of heeding the Opry's warning, he just sank deeper into his self-destructive behavior. Soon, his friends were leaving him, as the Drifting Cowboys began working with Ray Price and Fred Rose no longer supported him. Williams was still playing the Louisiana Hayride, but he was performing with local pickup bands and was earning reduced wages.
Williams was having heart problems and Toby Marshall, a con-man doctor, was giving him various prescription drugs to help soothe the pain.
Hank Williams was scheduled to play a concert in Canton, OH, on January 1, 1953. He was scheduled to fly out of Knoxville, TN, on New Year's Eve, but the weather was so bad he had to hire a chauffeur to drive him to Ohio in his new Cadillac. Before they left for Ohio, Williams was injected with two shots of the vitamin B-12 and morphine by a doctor. Williams got into the backseat of the Cadillac with a bottle of whiskey and the teenage chauffeur headed out for Canton. The driver was stopped for speeding when the policeman noticed that Williams looked like a dead man. Williams was taken to a West Virginian hospital and he was officially declared dead at 7:00 AM on January 1, 1953. Hank Williams had died in the back of the Cadillac, on his way to a concert. The last single released in his lifetime was "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."
Hank Williams was buried in Montgomery, AL, three days later. His funeral drew a record crowd, larger than any crowd since Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the President of the Confederacy in 1861. Dozens of country music stars attended, as did Audrey Williams, Billie Jean Jones, and Bobbie Jett, who happened to give birth to a daughter three days later. "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" reached number one immediately after his death and it was followed by a number of hit records throughout 1953, including the number ones "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Kaw-Liga," and "Take These Chains from My Heart."
Hank Williams's impact never diminished. His songs have become classics, his recordings have stood the test of time, and his life story is legendary. It's easy to see why Hank Williams is considered by many as the defining figure of country music. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Hank Williams’s legend has long overtaken the rather frail and painfully introverted man who spawned it.
Almost singlehandedly, Williams set the agenda for contemporary country songcraft, but his appeal rests as much in the myth that even now surrounds his short life. His is the standard by which success is measured in country music on every level, even self-destruction.
Date of birth: 09/17/1923
Date of death: 01/01/1953
Area of notoriety: Art
Marker Type: Monument
Visiting Hours/Restrictions: Close at Dusk
Fee required?: No
Web site: [Web Link]
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