Jett Williams Headlines Hank Festival

Jett Williams Will Perform At 33rd Annual Hank Williams Festival In Georgiana, Alabama. Jett Williams will take the stage in honor of her father, for the 33rd Annual Hank Williams Festival in Georgiana, Alabama. The event will take place June 1-2 at the Hank Williams Music Park and will feature free karaoke (May 31), Hank’s boyhood home and museum, arts and crafts, a food court and lots of good country music. Jett Williams will be headlining the mini-Opry on Saturday (June 2) which is the highlight of the outdoor event. It will also feature Moe Bandy, Larry Gatlin and Jeremy Parsons. “I have had the pleasure and the honor to participate in the Georgiana tribute to my dad for decades now. Seeing his boyhood home and hearing that lonesome whistle come down the tracks is like a time travel machine for me. I enjoy being able to take a traditional country music show there, and share the talent of my friends and colleagues with the fans of The Great One. At the same time, fans also will be able to experience my dad’s boyhood home and community. Come join us, you won’t regret it!” -Jett Advanced tickets for the weekend festival are $30 and are available through May 25. Ticket order forms are available online at www.hankwilliamsfestival.com. For information call, (334)-376-2396.

Hank Williams Boxed Set Garners Positive Press

Hank Williams achieves even more success from beyond. Years after the early loss of the lonesome rebel, Hank Williams continues to garner positive press from even the biggest of critics. Spin Magazine, The Tennessean, Country Weekly, CMT and many more have been showering this boxed collection, “Hank Williams: The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings…Plus!” with so many compliments it could give a girl a toothache! These timeless recordings are from the pinnacle of Williams’ career and he prerecorded his Mother’s Best shows when he was planning to be out on tour. The acetates miraculously survived and give the listener a personal, intimate connection with this American music legend, where Williams was unguarded in both his conversation and choice of songs. Fans can hear him perform songs from his childhood and debut two new recordings at the time, “Cold, Cold Heart” and “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You).” The sound quality of these exceptional radio shows is at least comparable to his studio recordings, and many critics have remarked that the “direct-to-disc” Mother’s Best recordings actually have more presence and clarity. This collection features fifteen audio discs and a bonus DVD. The shows contain so many priceless moments, including many songs he never recorded elsewhere such as “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and “On Top of Old Smoky.” On the DVD, two of Hank’s original band members give their last interviews on tape, Don Helms and Big Bill Lester. The project also contains a 108 page book, written by respected music writer and Hank Williams historian, Colin Escott, along with an introduction by Hank Williams, Jr. and afterword by Jett Williams. This deluxe, limited box set is packaged in an antique working radio where the listener presses the radio dial and selections of Williams will play.Country Music Photo Gallery

Hank Williams: The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings

Take an inside listen to the personality of a legend on Hank Williams: The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings….Plus! Long before Hank Williams was a household icon, he was just a simple artist who hosted a sponsored radio show as he made his way through the trials and tribulations of a Nashville artist. During that time, you could find Hank on air peddling his crooning vocals right beside products from the Mother’s Best grain mills. The witty banter, and casual pickin and playing on these recordings humbly reminds us all that one of country music’s greatest legends at one time was still a struggling performer looking for their place in the music industry. I recently got to hear an advanced copy and personally loved the recordings and I believe you will too. Time Life, along with the family of Hank Williams Sr. launches the official website, www.hankwilliamsmothersbest.com to offer fans an exclusive opportunity to pre-order the limited edition, one-of-a-kind box set, Hank Williams: The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings….Plus!. The project can also be pre-ordered by calling, 212-991-5195. The first one hundred pre-orders will be accompanied by a specially designed tee shirt or other memorabilia. In addition to ordering the set, the website will also offer fans the latest news about Hank Williams, exclusive audio and video, notes from Hank Williams Jr. and Jett Williams, box set details and much more. Take a peek: Country Music Photo Gallery

About Hank Williams

Hank Williams is the father of contemporary country material. He 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 who followed him and, in the process, much of successful music. Hank wrote a body of music that became successful classics, and his direct, emotional lyrics and vocals became the standard for most successful performers. He lived a life as troubled and reckless as that depicted in his songs.

Hiram King Williams was born in Mount Olive, AL, on September 17, 1923. When he was eight years old, he 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, Williams 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, he formed a lineup called the Drifting Cowboys and acquired a regular spot on a local radio station, WSFA, in 1941. while his shows, Williams would sing music 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.

Williams met Audrey Mae Sheppard, a farm girl from Banks, AL, in 1943 during he was performing a medicine show. The not long after year, the couple married and moved into Lilly’s boarding house. Audrey became Williams’ manager just before the marriage. By 1946, he was a local celebrity, but he was unable to make much headway nationally. That year, Hank and Audrey visited Nashville with the intent of meeting songwriter/music publisher Fred Rose, one of the heads of Acuff-Rose Publishing. Rose liked Williams’ music and asked him to album two sessions for Sterling Records, which resulted in two singles. Both of the singles — “Never Again” in December 1946 and “Honky Tonkin'” in February 1947 — were popular and Williams signed a record deal with MGM Records early in 1947. Rose became the singer’s manager and record producer.

“Move It on Over,” gave us later in 1947, became Hank’s first single for MGM. It was an immediate hit, climbing into the country Top Five. By the summer of 1948, he had joined The Louisiana Hayride, appearing both on its tours and radio programs. “Honky Tonkin'” was released in 1948, came by “I’m a Long Gone Daddy.” at a time of neither song was as successful as “Move It on Over,” they were popular, with the latter peaking in the Top Ten. Early in 1949, he recorded “Lovesick Blues,” a Tin Pan Alley song initially recorded by Emmett Miller and made popular by Rex Griffin. The single became a huge hit upon its release in the spring of 1949, staying at number one for 16 weeks and crossing over into the pop Top 25. Williams sang the song at the Grand Ole Opry, where he performed an unprecedented six encores. He had become a star.

Hank and Audrey Williams had their first child, Randall Hank, in the spring of 1949. Also in the spring, Hank assembled the most famous edition of the Drifting Cowboys, featuring guitar player Bob McNett, bassist Hillous Butrum, fiddler Jerry Rivers, and steel guitar player Don Helms. Soon, he and the band were earning $1,000 per concert at a time of selling out concerts across the country. Williams had no fewer than seven hits in 1949 after the success of “Lovesick Blues,” which included the Top Five hits “Wedding Bells,” “Mind Your Own Business,” “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave),” and “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It.” A string of additional singles came in 1950, including the number one hits “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” “Why Don’t You Love Me,” and “Moanin’ the Blues,” as well as the Top Ten hits “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 favorites 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 his own version of “Cold, Cold Heart” to successful acclaim, leading to a stream of covers from such mainstream performers as Jo Stafford, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Teresa Brewer, and several others. Williams had also begun to experience the fruits of crossover success, appearing on the Perry Como tv show and joining a package tour that also featured Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and Minny Pearl. In addition to “Dear John” and “Cold, Cold Heart,” Williams had several other favorites in 1951, which included the number one song “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.

Though his professional career was soaring, Hank’s personal life was beginning to spin out of control. He had suffered a mild drinking problem before becoming a star, but it had been more or less controlled at a time of his first few years of fame. However, as he started to earn large amounts of money and spend long times away from home, he started to drink repeatedly. Furthermore, Hank’s marriage to Audrey was deteriorating. Not only were they fighting, resulting in occasional separations, but Audrey was trying to create her own recording career without any success. In the fall of 1951, Hank was on a hunting trip on his Tennessee farm when he tripped and fell, re-activating a dormant back injury. Williams started taking morphine and other painkillers for his back and rapidly became addicted.

In January of 1952, Hank and Audrey separated for a final time and he headed back to Montgomery to live with his mother. The move had little effect on his music career, however, with “Honky Tonk Blues” peaking at number two during the spring. In fact, he issued five additional 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” — all of which charted in the Top Ten. In spite of such success, Hank turned completely reckless in 1952, spending nearly all of his waking hours drunk and taking drugs. He also repeatedly destroyed property and played with guns.

Williams departed 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 at a time of the show, and he sometimes missed the gig altogether. In August, the Grand Ole Opry fired Williams for that very reason, explaining that he could return once he was sober. Instead of heeding the Opry’s warning, the singer just sank deeper into his self-destructive behavior. Soon, his friends were leaving him, as the Drifting Cowboys began working with Price and Fred Rose no longer supported him. Williams was still playing The Louisiana Hayride, but he was playing with local pickup bands and started earning reduced wages. That fall, he met Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar, the 19-year-old daughter of a Louisiana policeman. By October, they were married. Hank also signed an agreement to support the baby — who had yet to be delivered — of one of his other girlfriends, Bobbie Jett, in October. By the end of the year, Williams was having heart dilemmas and Toby Marshall, a con man doctor, was giving him assorted prescription drugs to help soothe the pain.

Hank 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 that he had to hire a chauffeur to drive him to Ohio in his new Cadillac. Before they departed for Ohio, Williams was injected with two shots of vitamin B-12 and morphine by a doctor. Williams got into the backseat of the Cadillac (allegedly with a bottle of whiskey), and the teenage chauffeur headed out for Canton. When the driver was stopped for speeding, the policeman noticed that Hank looked like a dead man. Williams was taken to a West Virginia hospital and he was officially declared dead at 7:00 a.m. on January 1, 1953. He had died in the back of the Cadillac, on his way to a concert. Ironically, the last single put forth in his lifetime was “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”

Hank was buried in Montgomery, AL, three days later. His funeral drew a album 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.”

After his death, MGM wanted to keep issuing Williams records, so they took some of his original demos and overdubbed bands onto the original recording. The first of these, “Weary Blues from Waitin’,” was a hit, but the others weren’t quite as successful. In 1961, Hank was one of the first inductees to the Country songs Hall of Fame. Throughout the ’60s, Williams’ records were gave us in overdubbed versions featuring heavy strings, as well as reprocessed stereo. For years, these bastardized versions were the only records in print, and only in the ’80s, when his music was issued on compact disc, was his catalog restored to its original form. Even while those years when only overdubbed versions of his hits existed, Williams’ impact never diminished. His music 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 songs.