I have to confess, I had no idea that Hank Williams died at the age of 29. His music was so fully developed, his influence so great, it seems impossible anyone could have accomplished so much in such a short time. Shoot, in the pictures I’ve seen, he even looks older.
Hank got his break in music by standing out in front of a radio station, playing his guitar and singing. The station owners liked him, and invited him in to play. The listening audience in Montgomery, Alabama kept requesting “The Singing Kid,” so the station gave him a regular show.
Hank put a band together, and started playing dates throughout Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida panhandle. But he began having problems with alcohol. World War II took his band mates away, and soon the radio station fired him for showing up intoxicated. Roy Acuff told him, “You’ve got a million-dollar voice, son, but a ten-cent brain.”
He moved to Nashville in 1946, and soon landed a recording contract. His first song was “Move It On Over,” later covered by George Thorogood. He went on to record such classics as “Lovesick Blues,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” and the gospel song “I Saw the Light.”
Williams was on his way to a concert, after shooting up with morphine and drinking beer. His chauffeur pulled in for a rest stop, and found Hank unresponsive in the back seat. The drinking and drugs had caught up with him.
Hank Williams is a member of both the Country Music and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame, and CMT ranked him #2 of the 40 Greatest Men of Country Music. Even so, we’ll always wonder about what could have been had this enormous talent been allowed to fully flourish…