Days Gone By - stories from the past

[see films, story, pics] On the 1st day of January 1953, Hank Williams died at the young age of twenty-nine

He was born September 17, 1923, in Mount Olive, Butler County, Alabama and was regarded as one of the most significant and influential musicians of all-time.


He recorded 35 singles (five released posthumously) that would place in the Top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart, including 11 that ranked number one.  Do you know his name?

Hank_Williams_wearing_a_houndstooth_jacket_and_holding_a_guitar

Hank Williams wearing a houndstooth jacket and holding a guitar ca. 1940 (Alabama State Archives)

Hank Williams, Sr. was the third child of Lon and Lillie Williams and grew up in a household that never had much money. His father worked as a logger before entering the Veterans Administration hospital when young Hank was just six. Father and son rarely saw each other over the next decade, with Williams’ mother, who ran rooming houses, moving the family to Greenville and later to Montgomery, Alabama. His childhood was also shaped by his spinal condition, spina bifida, which set him apart from other kids his age and fostered a sense of separateness from the world around him.

Hank Williams boyhood home in Georgiana, Butler County, Alabama is now Hank William’s museum

 

Hank-Williams-Georgiana-House

Picking up the guitar for the first time at the age of eight, Williams was just 13 when he made his radio debut. Williams moved to Georgiana, where he met Rufus Payne, a black street performer known as “Tee Tot” who gave him guitar lessons in exchange for meals or money. Payne had a major influence on Williams’s later musical style, along with Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb.rufus payne

Hank & Hezzy’s Driftin’ Cowboys ca. 1938 –  Left to right: Smith Adair, Braxton Schuffert, Irene Williams, Hank Williams, Freddie Beach. Front: Carolyn Parker and unknown woman

(Alabama State Archives)size (1)

During this time, Williams informally changed his name to Hank, believing it to be a better name for country music. He moved to Montgomery and his music career began there in 1937 when WSFA radio station producers hired him to perform and host a 15-minute program. A year later he was entering talent shows and had his own band, Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys which was managed by his mother, Lillie. He dropped out of school to devote his time to his career.

Hank Williams with guitar on streets of Montgomery, Alabama in 1938 (Alabama State Archives)

Hank_Williams_with_a_guitar_on_a_sidewalk_in_Montgomery_Alabama

Early Hank Williams, Sr.

According to his biographer, Colin Escott, this is the earliest known recording of Hank singing one of his own songs. The song was recorded in the spring of 1942 by the owner of Griffin’s Radio Shop in Montgomery, Alabama.

Hank Williams’ First Recordings (Aug./Sept. 1938)-Fan It / Alexander’s Ragtime Band

His mother drove the group to venues in her station wagon and collected gate money. By the early 1940s, Hank was one of the biggest draws in the region, and had come to the attention of several Nashville artists and music business luminaries. But his reputation as a singer was already matched by the one he’d built for drinking and unreliability. Most considered him an unsafe bet.

I recently found this old song by Hank Williams. I never heard Hank Williams sing it before. The Blind Child, brings back many memories for me personally. I remember my grandmother singing and playing this on the piano often.  I can still hear her singing it in my mind and it brings back warm memories.  I am curious to actually know the age of the song. I don’t believe it was one he wrote.  If you have more information about it, please share in the Reply section below. I’d like to know more about the song.

Hank Williams at opening of Chevrolet dealership in Luverne” in Crenshaw County, Alabama ca. 1940 (Alabama State Archives)size (2)

In 1943 Hank met Audrey Mae Sheppard, an Alabama country girl with 2-year-old daughter Lycrecia from a previous marriage. Audrey learned to play stand-up bass well enough to play in the band, and began acting as manager.

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

Hank Williams, Audrey Sheppard Williams and the Drifting Cowboys band

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hank and Audrey Williams (Lycrecia – Audrey’s daughter and Hank Williams Jr)

hank-fam3

 

Desperately craving a singing career, Audrey pushed for inclusion in the show at every chance. Her ambition, however, far exceeded her talent. Audrey would vie with Lillie for Hank’s attention throughout the relationship.

Films of Hank Williams performing live are rare but this one was made in 1952.

This is an especially rare film of Hank Williams performing with Anita Carter, the sister of June Carter (Johnny Cash’s wife) on the Kate Smith Evening Hour. June Carter introduces them.

In 1946 Audrey accompanied her husband to Nashville to meet publisher Fred Rose. Fred and his partner Roy Acuff, later a giant in the industry, ran a successful “hillbilly” publishing concern. At first Fred was interested in Hank only as a writer. Hank had begun writing shortly after he started singing and playing guitar, and he sold songbooks at his club appearances. Within the year, however, Fred had made Hank’s singing career a pet project, and arranged for him to record four songs for the Sterling label. In March 1947, in a deal engineered by Fred, Hank signed with MGM.

This is a live radio show of Hank and Audrey Williams singing.

Hank Williams at WSM Studios – Spring 1952 (Alabama State Archives)Hank_Williams_at_WSM_Studios

 Hank Williams at his last personal appearance Dec. 28, 1952 (Alabama State Archives)

Hank_Williams_at_his_last_personal_appearance

In 1951, a fall suffered during a hunting trip in Tennessee reactivated his old back pains. He later started to consume painkillers, including morphine, and alcohol to ease the pain. His marriage with Audrey, 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. His alcoholism worsened in 1952, on August 11, 1952, Williams was dismissed from the Grand Ole Opry for habitual drunkenness.

After his divorce, he had a brief relationship with Bobbie Jett. His alcoholism worsened in 1952, on August 11, 1952, Williams was dismissed from the Grand Ole Opry for habitual drunkenness.

During his last recording session on September 23, 1952, Williams recorded “Kaw-Liga”, along with “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Take These Chains from My Heart”. Due to Williams’s excesses, Fred Rose stopped working with him. In October 1952 he married Billie Jean Jones. By the end of 1952, Williams started to suffer heart problems. Hank Williams had a heart attack at the age of 29 in 1953 in the backseat of his Cadillac exacerbated by pills and alcohol. Williams died in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day in 1953 at the age of 29 from heart failure exacerbated by pills and alcohol.

His final single released during his lifetime was titled “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” was written and recorded in 1952 but released in 1953 after Williams’s death. The song was number one on the country charts for six weeks.

Hank Williams – 40 Greatest Hits

After Hank Williams died, a daughter from his brief relationship with Bobbie Jett, was born January 6, 1953 in Montgomery, Alabama five days after her father’s death. She was legally adopted by Hank Williams’s mother Lillian Stone in December 1954. She was then named Catharine Yvonne Stone. After Lillian died in 1955, the young Cathy was made a ward of the state of Alabama and subsequently adopted by parents who renamed her Cathy Louise Deupree.

Jett knew she was adopted, but she did not learn who her biological parents were until the early 1980s. Although Hank Williams had executed a custody agreement three months before her birth that gave him custody of his unborn daughter, she was forced to go to extreme lengths to prove the relationship and be recognized as Williams’ daughter. Her older half brother, country music singer Hank Williams, Jr. was reportedly very slow to accept her as kin.

Jett WilliamsJett Williams

 

Hank Williams, Jr.

hankwilliamsjrclose

In September 1984, she met and retained Washington, D.C. investigative attorney Keith Adkinson to help her. Within days, he had a copy of the custody contract, and within months had conclusive proof Jett was defrauded for the financial gain of others. A lawsuit was filed based on this discovery. On September 28, 1986, Jett and Keith married in Washington. Adkinson passed away 19 June 2013.

This is a long, but interesting video of Jett Williams about her life and research to find her father (from Alabama State Archives)

In 1985, the Alabama State Court ruled she was the daughter of Hank Williams. On October 26, 1987, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled she was entitled to her half-share in the Williams estate, as she had been the victim of fraud and judicial error. Hank Williams, Jr. appealed the case in federal court, but the ruling stood when the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the case in 1990.

Lillie Stone, Audrey Williams, and Hank Williams, Jr., seated on a bed while looking through letters and cards received after the death of

Hank Williams, Sr (Alabama State Archives)

Lillie_Stone_Audrey_Williams_and_Hank_Williams_Jr_seated_on_a_bed_while_looking_through_letters_and_cards_received_after_the_death_of_Hank_Williams_Sr

This video is long. It includes the whole recorded funeral service of Hank Williams, Sr. and also shows his body in the casket as people walk by paying their respects. You may not want to watch it if this scene bothers you, but I’m glad that someone recorded the minister’s words.

Last Rites for Hank Williams in Montgomery, Alabama

size

 

Hank williams 1952 Blue Cadillac in which he took his final journey is in Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Alabamahank williams 1952 Blue Cadillac in which he took his final journey in Hank Williams museum, Montgomery, Alabama

Hank Williams museum

hank-williams-museum-052011jpg-5aef98443e61cbe8

 

hank-williams-museum

He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery cemetery in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.

Hank_Williams_Memorial_Montgomery_Alabama

hank-williams-memorial

 

Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) – A novel inspired by the experiences of the Cottingham family who immigrated from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Bibb County, Alabama

 

Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)


Features: Discordance The Cottinghams
By (author): Donna R Causey
List Price: $9.77 USD
New From: $9.50 USD In Stock

(Visited 13,694 times, 1 visits today)

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me
All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .
For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

Tags:

152 comments

  1. Sarah Lois Kelly

    I had no idea he was from Alabama!

  2. James R Smith Sr.

    I used to sing to my girl friend,now my wife of 62years,if you got the money honey I’ve got the time!!!o

  3. James R Smith Sr.

    I used to sing to my girl friend,now my wife of 62years,if you got the money honey I’ve got the time!!!o

  4. Ronald Cook

    the talent..amazing !!!

  5. Bill Rozier

    It’s too easy- not even gonna open the link

  6. Meloney Ashworth

    Hiram ‘Hank’ Williams.

  7. Greg Creech

    Well, DUH! If you don’t know this one you’re either not from Alabama or your musical upbringing has been pathetic.

  8. Sarah Thagard Norrell

    Gosh hard to believe he was only 29.

  9. David Speigner

    Oh it’s too hard. Who could it be

  10. Richard A Wyatt

    the one and only Mr Hank Williams Sr.

  11. Leigh Ann Courington

    “you don’t have to call me “mister” mister…the whole world calls me Hank…”

  12. Donna Alsbrooks Miles

    I sure do know him. I’ll fly away

  13. Lisa Lipscomb Pate

    There is a Hank Williams museum in Montgomery, AL that is pretty neat…..the car (Cadillac) that he died in is in there, his clothes & lots of other things.

  14. Rita Heath

    Hank Williams best

  15. Theron Fuller

    Big Mama was friends with his wife. She took me to see Hank’s grave in Montgomery, and to see his boots and guitar on display at the state capitol.

  16. Glenda Busby Mayo

    A lot of good information on this site.

  17. Nancy Price

    My brother thought Hank was the greatest singer ever born.

  18. Mary Christian Hodo

    Actually he was from a community called McWilliams, in Wilcox County.

  19. Mark Nagell

    What is his name ?

  20. Ron Rhodes

    He could take simple lyrics and make them words from the heart that live forever. He was a great talent.

  21. Gene Crowder

    Shine his boots once gave me a dollar

  22. Patricia Williams

    It has to be Hank Williams

  23. Patricia Williams

    It has to be Hank Williams

  24. Gerald Snyder

    Hiram Williams, Hank Williams, one in the same.

  25. Gerald Snyder

    Hiram Williams, Hank Williams, one in the same.

  26. Gerald Snyder

    Go to his gravesite, it’s an awesome tribute.

  27. Gerald Snyder

    Go to his gravesite, it’s an awesome tribute.

  28. Shirley Pierce Robertson

    Hank Williams!!! OF COURSE!!! My dad played guitar with him years ago! My dad is still living and is in Fairhope Al! He’s got some awesome stories!

  29. Shirley Pierce Robertson

    Hank Williams!!! OF COURSE!!! My dad played guitar with him years ago! My dad is still living and is in Fairhope Al! He’s got some awesome stories!

  30. Patricia Kay Mocherman Bell

    Love love love to listen to him, one of my all time favorites

  31. Patricia Kay Mocherman Bell

    Love love love to listen to him, one of my all time favorites

  32. Wayne Hawkins

    Hank Williams of course

  33. Nancy Stephens

    Good country singer,

  34. I didn’t know he ever wore glasses, until I visited his museum.

  35. Donnis K Scruggs

    Hank and my parents grew up together

  36. Larry Jordon

    His music is timeless…

  37. Janet Ladnier Raue

    Hank Williams of course!

  38. William Armour

    Didn’t know he did the Chevrolet dealership. Interesting

  39. W. Travis Cox

    Hank Williams, Luke the drifter.

  40. Beamon Bryson

    His ghost is still out there on the highways and byways. https://youtu.be/S6uR1rZjKkM

  41. Virgil Morgan

    Ah yes, Dear Ole Hank. RIP.

  42. Sibyl Moucha Reeves

    Hank Williams, SR. – now he is country music!

  43. Cecilia Hartin Owens

    Hank Williams of course, The city of Georgiana will be celebrating this in a few weeks, My dad drank many bottles of whiskey with him as they grew up, I grew up hearing his Aunt Essie Mae tell many stories of him

  44. Jackie Brewer

    Loved Hank Williams Sr.

  45. Martha Hathcock Benfield

    I know but I am not going to give it away!

  46. Betty Jo Harrison Hicks

    Hank Williams. Great, great musician, song writer.

  47. Laura Cook

    Hank Williams and one of the very BEST!

  48. Linda Rydberg

    He was a genius and a very gifted songwriter

  49. Jack Bell

    Hank williams sr.

  50. Michael Stallings

    love hank williams sr songs..a true country star

  51. Ronald R. Sims

    His son can’t hold a candle to him!… Can you imagine what he would have become if he had live to an old age?

  52. James L. Patterson

    Saw a picture of him when he was locked up in Alexander City Jail. Think it was shortly before he died… The old story that goes with it said, He told them he would buy the jail/court house and tear it down and plant
    Turnip Greens on the spot… LOL

  53. Ron Griffin

    Hiram (Hank) Williams.

  54. Guynese Eiland

    Hank was my favorite singer.he had a great voice.

  55. Glenda Weathers

    Hank Williams, Sr. Alabama’s finest poet

  56. Albert Clayton

    Everybody knows the man that “saw the light”.

  57. Paul Harrison

    i think it is hank williams

  58. Tim Scales

    Yup…The ONE and ONLY HANK.

  59. […] is Hirarm “Hank” Williams, Sr. boyhood home. Hank was born September 17, 1923 in Mount Olive on a farm southwest of Georgiana, but […]

  60. […] recorded in over 19 different languages, and was recorded by great professionals of the time like: Hank Williams, Porter Waggoner, Roy Acuff, Charlie Pride, Bill Monroe, The Blackwood Brothers Quartet, The […]

  61. Debbie Cook

    I have been to the graves many times.. They are beautiful with lots of marble.I love the boots and cowboy hat.The cemetery however, was very run down and unkempt. I have not been there in several years, so maybe it is better kept now…

  62. Ann H. Nichols

    I remember that day. It was a huge shock to everyone. I was only 10 at the time , but all of the adults were stunned! It was so profound that I remember exactly where I was at the time we heard the news. We were at a huge family reunion at my grandmother’s home. I think Christine Cooke Poe may have been there also.

    1. Christine Cooke Poe

      Your grandmother Ms Lula Jones? I LOVED to go there, but I also loved going to Mr Dee Hughey’s too!

    2. Ann H. Nichols

      Yes, Jones. Think you came by that day to see Gladys, Allie V and others.

    3. Ann H. Nichols

      I do too ! Those were some fun days and great memories !

  63. Peggy Cravens

    Love to here him sing. I love his music.

    1. Nita Jeffers

      Thanks Barbara! I am going to try to go.

  64. Dot Lundy Smith

    Audrey is buried by Hank?? Wow.

  65. Wonda Heard

    I was about to turn 1 on the 4th

  66. Annie Rush

    Such a talent and so short-lived

  67. Mark Dorsett

    Wrote some real poetic songs that are immortal classics.

  68. Shirley Jacobson

    The Blind Child’s Prayer is a traditional folk song, not written by, but recorded by Williams: https://www.8notes.com/scores/3584.asp

  69. Anne Baxter

    Douglas Daniels,Mt Olive is where we went to the cemetary. Where your great grandmother Lowery was from.

  70. Jim Upchurch

    This isn’t MY “old Montgomery story,” it’s my Dad’s. He can’t tell it anymore, but I’ve heard and loved it so many times I thought this would be a good way to pass it on. I never got tired of hearing it.

    In 1951, my Dad, probably less than a year out of college at Huntingdon on the GI Bill, was a Jaycee — a member of the Montgomery Junior Chamber of Commerce. They were always planning fundraisers, and that year their idea for a fundraiser was to promote a Hank Williams concert at Montgomery’s new Garrett Coliseum. The Coliseum was standing by then, but not finished — or just finished enough to think about having a concert there. It would not be dedicated until 1953, I think, so the eventually beloved (and now sadly dilapidated) Concrete Tortoise was well away from 100% ready to go.

    Hank was getting pretty famous by then, at least among country music lovers — you have to remember, Hank played a big role in bringing country music into general public awareness. But it wasn’t as though Shania Twain or Garth Brooks was coming to town: lots of the Jaycees had hardly heard of him — so, being affordable to promote, the concert seemed like a good idea. So they booked it. It was slated for July 15, 1951 — a Sunday. Country stars Hank Snow and the Carter Sisters also performed, but whenever my Dad told the story it was all about Hank, and he was the headliner The concert was billed as a “welcome home” for Hank, who had his professional start playing on the streets of Montgomery as a young boy, and later, performing a 15-minute show for WSFA radio a couple of times a week. (Ominously, he lost that job due to drinking.)

    None of the Jaycees were experienced promoters: they were hardly more than teenagers, though many were back from WWII. So as the day drew nearer, panic took hold. Would ANYONE show up? If no one did, how would they pay Hank? And what happened if you didn’t pay Hank? A lot of thought was put into this. I’m willing to bet that apart from these anticipated concert proceeds, the Jaycees would have had a bankroll of maybe $500. A more public humiliation of very young men trying to earn a spot in their local business community could hardly be imagined.

    The day arrived. In my Dad’s words, every okie from every corner of Alabama who had enough twine to hold up his pants showed up, many of them looking like a carload of Joads from “The Grapes of Wrath.” Cars lined up way back along the highway. A HUGE crowd. The parking area and the Coliseum filled up. And Hank showed up too, which was not always a given in those days. His reputation for whiskey-soaked absenteeism was well known by then. Sure enough, with the Coliseum’s seats filled and the crowd impatient, Hank suddenly refused to go onstage. They found him in his dressing room, or whatever corner of the Coliseum was being used for a dressing room — all dressed, but way too drunk to go on and unable to stand up straight. As his band members poured coffee down Hank, Ol’ Hiram suddenly piped up that he would go on ONLY if paid in advance, IN CASH. After some pretty angry discussions, the Jaycees rifled through the day’s take and got enough folding money to come up with Hank’s fee. When the fee was presented in cash and the Drifting Cowboys struck up the theme, Hank suddenly and miraculously stood up, got a glint in his eye, and took the stage. And sang a heck of a show, even allowing for the Coliseum’s legendarily bad acoustics and a half-functional PA system.

    So the show went on. But there was enough grumbling about the bad sound that the Jaycees figured they needed to get the money off the premises quickly. My Dad was delegated responsibility for the cash, but it being Sunday, there was no bank to put it in. He took it to the duplex apartment my folks (and I, aged about 2) lived in and hid it under the bed. My Dad used to say he never closed his eyes all night — it was maybe $5,000, more money than my Dad had ever seen or even imagined in those days. As soon as the bank opened in the morning, he finally deposited the take and that was it.

    It’s sort of funny but Hank’s story was really a sad one. About a year after the Coliseum show, his drinking got him kicked off the Grand Ol’ Opry, which had been the greatest source of his fame. He banged around for another year or so, trying to get back on the beam with the Louisiana Hayride, but his drinking and drug use made things so bad even his agent, the legendary music promoter Fred Rose, who had made a ton of money promoting Hank’s songs and career, finally refused to have anything else to do with him. Williams died in the back of a Cadillac on the way to yet another one-night stand, from a mix of heart disease, ill-advised medication, and alcohol. There was some evidence he had recently suffered a beating, which remains something of a mystery. It was just less than 18 months after the Coliseum Show. Hank was well known with a string of hits, but several of his greatest recordings including Your Cheatin’ Heart, were not released until after he died — at age 29. As is often the case with beloved intemperate musicians, he did not become a legend until after his death. The last single released during his lifetime was “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive.”

    1. Darrell Driskell

      Great story. Would be a great part to a movie.

  71. Lou Merle Stewart Venable

    I remember my father taking me to mt. Olive as a child. I remember maybe a church not sure. I do remember a stream of water. I do remember him saying my aunt Emma Anderson land was a joint to hanks mothers and fathers land
    I don’t know if this is true. With being so young I could have misunderstood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *