Williams in a WSM Radio publicity photo, 1951
|Birth name||Hiram King Williams|
|Also known as||
September 17, 1923|
Butler County, Alabama, United States
January 1, 1953
Oak Hill, West Virginia, United States
Signature of Hank Williams
Hiram King "Hank" Williams, Sr. (; September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953) was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Regarded as one of the most significant and influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th century, Williams 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.
Born in Mount Olive, Rufus Payne, a black street performer who gave him guitar lessons in exchange for meals or money. Payne had a major influence on Williams' later musical style, along with Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb. 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. He formed as backup the Drifting Cowboys band, which was managed by his mother, and dropped out of school to devote his time to his career.
When several of his band members were conscripted into military service during World War II, Williams had trouble with their replacements and was dismissed by WSFA due to his alcoholism. Williams eventually married Audrey Sheppard, who managed the singer for nearly a decade. After recording "Never Again" and "Honky Tonkin'" with Sterling Records, he signed a contract with MGM Records. In 1948 he released "Move It on Over", which became a hit, and also joined the Louisiana Hayride radio program. One year later, he released a cover of "Lovesick Blues", which carried him into the mainstream of music. After an initial rejection, Williams joined the Grand Ole Opry. He was unable to read or notate music to any significant degree. Among the hits he wrote were "Your Cheatin' Heart", "Hey, Good Lookin'", and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".
Several years of back pain, alcoholism and prescription drug abuse severely deteriorated Williams' health; he divorced Audrey and was dismissed by the Grand Ole Opry, which cited unreliability and frequent drunkenness. 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. Despite his short life, Williams has had a major influence on twentieth-century popular music, and especially country music. He recorded forty-one records in a span of six years as a country singer before his death. The songs he wrote and recorded have been covered by numerous artists, and have been hits in various genres. He has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame, such as the Country Music Hall of Fame (1961), the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1970), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987).
Life and career 1
- Early life 1.1
- Early career 1.2
- 1940s 1.3
- 1950s 1.4
- Death 1.5
- Personal life 1.6
Lawsuits over the estate 2.1
- WSM's Mother's Best Flour 2.1.1
- Tributes 2.2
- Lawsuits over the estate 2.1
- Awards 3
- Discography 4
Cited texts 5.1
- Books 5.1.1
- Journals 5.1.2
- Cited texts 5.1
- Further reading 6
- External links 7
Life and career
Williams was born in  Since Elonzo Williams was a Mason, and his wife was a member of Order of the Eastern Star the child was named after Hiram I of Tyre (one of the three founders of the Masons, according to Masonic legend), but his name was misspelled as "Hiriam" on his birth certificate.
As a child, he was nicknamed "Harm" by his family and "Herky" or "Poots" by his friends. He was born with  Williams' father was frequently relocated by the lumber company railway for which he worked, and the family lived in many southern Alabama towns. In 1930, when Williams was seven years old, his father began suffering from facial paralysis. At a Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic in Pensacola, Florida, doctors determined that the cause was a brain aneurysm, and Elonzo was sent to the VA Medical Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. He remained hospitalized for eight years, rendering him mostly absent throughout Hiram's childhood.From that time on, Lillie Williams assumed responsibility for the family.
In the fall of 1934 the Williams family moved to
- Hank Williams at the Internet Movie Database
- Hank Williams at AllMusic
- Hank Williams at Find a Grave
- Listing of all Hank Williams' songs and alternatives
- Hank Williams at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
- Hank Williams 1923–1953 at Library of Congress Authorities, with 127 catalog records
- Hank Williams Biography – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Retrieved February 11, 2015
- Hank Williams Sputnik Music profile Retrieved September 8, 2014
- I Saw the Light: Hank Williams' Sixty Years of Influence on American Music|The New School Retrieved September 8, 2014
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 4.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 6.
- Flippo, Chet 1985, p. 12.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 7.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 10.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 9.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 26.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 18.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 13.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 14.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 27.
- Hemphill, Paul 2005, p. 17.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 13.
- Lipsitz, George 1994, p. 26.
- Brackett, David 2000, p. p. 98.
- Dicaire, David 2007, p. p. 124.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 16.
- Browne, Ray Broadus; p. 66.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 153.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 16, 17.
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 11.
- Hemphill, Paul 2005, p. 34.
- Hemphill, Paul 2005, p. 39.
- Cusic, Don 2008, p. 61.
- Hemphill, Paul 2005, p. 40.
- Lipsitz, George 1994, p. 27.
- Lipsitz, George 1994, p. 28.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 19.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 42.
- Cusic, Don p.61
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 111.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 42, 59.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 59.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 60.
- Young, William H.; Young, Nancy K. 2010, p. 234.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 70, 71.
- Keillor, Garrison. "Long Gone Daddy: A Biography of Hank Williams, Country Music's Tragic Hero.” New York Times September 25, 2005: G18.
- Browne, Pat 2001, p. p. 913.
- Evans, Mike 2006, p. 15.
- Young, William H.; Young, Nancy K. 2010, p. 235.
- Ching, Barbara 2003, p. p. 55.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 127.
- Bernstein, Cynthia; Nunnally, Thomas; Sabino, Robin 1997, p. 250.
- Peppiatt, Francesca 2004, p. 82.
- Whitburn, Joel 1991, p. 26.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 153, 154.
- Wolff, Kurt 2000, p. 160.
- Lornell, Kip; Laird, Tracey 2008, p. p. 82.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 70.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 74.
- Olson, Ted 2004, p. 296.
- Olson, Ted 2004, p. 298.
- Olson, Ted 2004, p. 300.
- Olson, Ted 2004, p. 303.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 79.
- Olson, Ted 2004, p. 306.
- Celon, Curtis 1995, p. 80.
- Escott, Colin; Merritt, George; MacEwen, William 1994, p. 243.
- Stanton, Scott 2003, p. p. 262.
- Peterson, Richard A. 1997, p. 182.
- Sheckler Finch, Jackie 2011, p. 72, 73.
- Koon, George William; p. 161.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 96.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. XII.
- Williams, Hilary; Roberts, Mary Beth 2010, p. 127.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 46.
- Stafford, Jo Song of the Open Road: An Autobiography and Other Writings, BearManor Media, June 28, 2012, page 195
- Windham, Kathryn Tucker 2007, p. 33.
- George-Warren, Holly; Romanowski, Patricia; Romanowski Bashe, Patricia; Pareles, Jon 2001, p. 1066.
- Williams, Roger M 1981, p. 140.
- Caress, Jay p. 228
- Koon, George William 1983, pp. 153–154.
- Billboard May 23, 1953; p. 15.
- Koon, George William 1983, p. 247.
|1989||Grammy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration ("There's a Tear in My Beer").||Grammy||with Hank Williams, Jr.|
|1989||Music Video of the Year||CMA||with Hank Williams, Jr.|
|1989||Vocal Event of the Year||CMA||with Hank Williams, Jr.|
|1989||Video of the Year||Academy of Country Music||with Hank Williams, Jr.|
|1990||Vocal Collaboration of the Year||TNN/Music City News||with Hank Williams, Jr.|
|1990||Video of the Year||TNN/Music City News||with Hank Williams, Jr.|
|2010||Special Awards and Citation for his pivotal role in transforming country music||The Pulitzer Prize||Posthumously|
In 1951, Williams hosted a fifteen-minute show for Mother's Best flour in WSM radio. Due to Williams' tour schedules some of the shows were previously recorded to be played in his absence. The original acetates were in possession of Jett Williams, while existing duplicates were found and intended to be published by a third party. In February 2005, the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling stating that Williams' heirs—son, Hank Williams Jr., and daughter, Jett Williams—have the sole rights to sell his recordings made for a Nashville radio station in 1951. The court rejected claims made by Polygram Records and Legacy Entertainment in releasing recordings Williams made for the Mother's Best Flour Show. The recordings, which Legacy Entertainment acquired in 1997, include live versions of Williams' hits and his cover version of other songs. Polygram contended that Williams' contract with MGM Records, which Polygram now owns, gave them rights to release the radio recordings. A 3-CD selection of the tracks, restored by Joe Palmaccio, was released by Time-Life in October 2008 titled The Unreleased Recordings.
WSM's Mother's Best Flour
After Williams' death, Audrey Williams filed a suit in Nashville against MGM Records and 
Lawsuits over the estate
In June 2014 it was announced that British actor Tom Hiddleston would portray Williams in the upcoming biopic I Saw the Light, based on Colin Escott's 1994 book Hank Williams: The Biography. Marc Abraham is directing the film. Filming took place in October through December 2014 and the film is set to release sometime in 2015.
Material recorded by Williams, originally intended for radio broadcasts to be played when he was on tour, or for its distribution to radio stations nationwide resurfaced throughout time. In 1993, a double-disc set of recordings of Williams for the Health & Happiness Show was released. Broadcast in 1949, the shows were recorded for the promotion of KSIB in Creston, Iowa. Gimarc contacted Williams' daughter Jett, and Colin Escott, writer of a biography book on Williams. The material was restored and remastered by Michael Graves and released by Omnivore Recordings.
In 2006, a janitor of Sony/ATV Music Publishing found in a dumpster the unfinished lyrics written by Williams that had been found in his car the night he died. The worker claimed that she sold Williams' notes to a representative of the Honky-Tonk Hall of Fame and the Rock-N-Roll Roadshow. The janitor was accused of theft, but the charges were later dropped when a judge determined that her version of events was true. The unfinished lyrics were later returned to Sony/ATV, which handed them to Bob Dylan in 2008 to complete the songs for a new album. Ultimately, the completion of the album included recordings by Alan Jackson, Norah Jones, Jack White, Lucinda Williams, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Patty Loveless, Levon Helm, Jakob Dylan, Sheryl Crow and Merle Haggard. The album, named The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams was released on October 4, 2011.
In 2011 Williams' 1949 MGM number one hit, "Lovesick Blues", was inducted into the Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame. The same year Hank Williams: The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings….Plus! was honored with a Grammy nomination for Best Historical Album. In 1999, Williams was inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame. On April 12, 2010, the Pulitzer Prize Board awarded Williams a posthumous special citation that paid tribute to his "craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life". Keeping his legacy, Williams' son, Hank Williams, Jr., daughter Jett Williams, grandson Hank Williams III, and granddaughters Hilary Williams and Holly Williams are also country musicians.recorded Williams songs during their careers. Conway Twitty and ,Jack Scott ,Ricky Nelson ,Carl Perkins ,Gene Vincent ,Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan ,Elvis Presley". Many artists of the 1950s and 1960s, including I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry The website Acclaimedmusic, which collates recommendations of albums and recording artists, has a year-by-year recommendation for top artists. Hank Williams is ranked first for the decade 1940–1949 for his song " ranked him number 74 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.Rolling Stone In 2004 . His son, Hank Jr., was ranked on the same list.Johnny Cash's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music in 2003, behind only CMT He was ranked second in  under the category Early Influence.Rock and Roll Hall of Fame In 1987, he was inducted in the On February 8, 1960, Williams' star was placed at 6400 Hollywood Boulevard on the
Williams had 11 number one hits in his career ("
Alabama governor Gordon Persons officially proclaimed September 21 "Hank Williams Day". The first celebration, in 1954 featured the unveiling of a monument at the Cramton Bowl, that was later placed in the grave site of Williams. The ceremony featured Ferlin Husky interpreting "I Saw the Light".
Williams was a lifelong Republican and was a vocal supporter of Dwight D. Eisenhower. According to singer Jo Stafford, he sent Eisenhower a telegram on his birthday prior to the 1952 presidential election informing him that Williams considered it a personal honor to endorse a military figure to lead the nation in its coming future.
On October 18, 1952, Williams and  The next day two public ceremonies were also held at the New Orleans Civic Auditorium, where 14,000 seats were sold for each. After Williams' death, a judge ruled that the wedding was not legal because Jones Eshlimar's divorce had not become final until eleven days after she married Williams. Williams' first wife, Audrey, and his mother, Lillie Williams, were the driving forces behind having the marriage declared invalid and pursued the matter for years. Williams also married Audrey Sheppard before her divorce was final, on the tenth day of a required sixty-day reconciliation period.
In June 1952, Williams moved in with his mother, even as he released numerous hit songs, such as " A relationship with a woman named Bobbie Jett during this period resulted in a daughter, Jett Williams, who was born five days after Williams' death. His mother adopted Jett, who was made a ward of the state and then adopted by another couple after her grandmother died. Jett Williams did not learn that she was Hank Williams' daughter until the early 1980s.
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  The couple divorced on May 29, 1952.
 Dr. Ivan Malinin performed the
They arrived at the 
Williams was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia on Wednesday December 31, 1952. Advance ticket sales totaled US$3,500. That day, because of an ice storm in the Nashville area, Williams could not fly, so he hired a college student, Charles Carr, to drive him to the concerts. Carr called the Charleston auditorium from Knoxville to say that Williams would not arrive on time owing to the ice storm and was ordered to drive Williams to Canton, Ohio, for the New Year's Day concert there.
During his last recording session on September 23, 1952, Williams recorded "
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. On May 21, he was admitted to North Louisiana Sanitarium for the treatment of his alcoholism, leaving on May 24. On December 13, 1951, he had back surgery at the 
Around this time Williams released more hit songs, such as "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy", "They'll Never Take Her Love from Me", "Why Should We Try Anymore", "Nobody's Lonesome for Me", "Long Gone Lonesome Blues", "Why Don't You Love Me", "Moanin' the Blues", and "I Just Don't Like This Kind of Living". In 1951 "Dear John" became a hit, but it was the flip side, "Cold, Cold Heart", that became one of his most-recognized songs. A pop cover version by Tony Bennett released the same year stayed on the charts for 27 weeks, peaking at number one.
One characteristic of Williams' recordings as Luke the Drifter is the use of narration rather than singing.
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Williams signed with MGM Records in 1947 and released "Move It on Over", which became a massive country hit. In 1948 he moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, and he joined the Louisiana Hayride, a radio show broadcast that propelled him into living rooms all over the southeast appearing on weekend shows. Williams eventually started to host a show on KWKH and started touring across western Louisiana and eastern Texas, always returning on Saturdays for the weekly broadcast of the Hayride. After a few more moderate hits, in 1949 he released his version of the 1922 Cliff Friend & Irving Mills song "Lovesick Blues", made popular by Rex Griffin. Williams' version became a huge country hit; the song stayed at number one on the Billboard charts over four consecutive months, crossing over to mainstream audiences and gaining Williams a place in the Grand Ole Opry. On June 11, 1949, Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry, where he became the first performer to receive six encores. He brought together Bob McNett (guitar), Hillous Butrum (bass), Jerry Rivers (fiddle) and Don Helms (steel guitar) to form the most famous version of the Drifting Cowboys, earning an estimated US$1,000 per show (equivalent to US$9,911.9 in 2016). That year Audrey Williams gave birth to Randall Hank Williams (Hank Williams, Jr.). During 1949, he joined the first European tour of the Grand Ole Opry, performing in military bases in England, Germany and Azores. Williams released seven hit songs after "Lovesick Blues", including "Wedding Bells", "Mind Your Own Business", "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)", and "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It".
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On September 14, 1946, Williams auditioned for Nashville's Grand Ole Opry but was rejected. After the failure of his audition, Williams and Audrey Sheppard tried to interest the recently formed music publishing firm Acuff-Rose Music. Williams and his wife approached Fred Rose, the president of the company, during one of his habitual ping-pong games at WSM radio studios. Audrey Williams asked Rose if her husband could sing a song for him on that moment, Rose agreed, and he liked Williams' musical style. Rose signed Williams to a six song contract, and leveraged this deal to sign Williams with Sterling Records. On December 11, 1946, in his first recording session, he recorded "Wealth Won't Save Your Soul", "Calling You", "Never Again (Will I Knock on Your Door)", and "When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels". The recordings "Never Again" and "Honky Tonkin'" became successful, and earned Williams the attention of MGM Records.
In 1945, when he was back in Montgomery, Williams started to perform again for WSFA. He wrote songs weekly to perform during the shows. As a result of the new variety of his repertoire, Williams published his first song book, Original Songs of Hank Williams. The book only listed lyrics, since its main purpose was to attract more audience. It included ten songs: "Mother Is Gone", "Won't You Please Come Back", "My Darling Baby Girl" (with Audrey Sheppard), "Grandad's Musket", "I Just Wish I Could Forget", " Williams became recognized as a songwriter, Sheppard became his manager and occasionally accompanied him on duets in some of his live concerts.
He worked for the rest of the war in a shipbuilding company in 
The American entry into World War II in 1941 marked the beginning of hard times for Williams. All his band members were drafted to serve in the military, while he got a 4-F deferment from the military draft after falling from a bull during a rodeo in Texas. Many of their replacements refused to continue playing in the band because of Williams' worsening alcoholism. He continued to show up for his radio show intoxicated, so in August 1942 WSFA fired him for "habitual drunkenness". During one of his concerts Williams met backstage his idol, Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff, who later warned him of the dangers of alcohol, saying: "You've got a million-dollar talent, son, but a ten-cent brain".
Williams' successful radio show fueled his entry into a music career. His salary was enough for him to start his own band, which he dubbed the Florida Panhandle. The band started to play in theaters before the start of the movies and later in honky-tonks. Williams' alcohol problem started during the tours, on occasion spending an important part of the show revenues. Meanwhile, between tour schedules, Williams returned to Montgomery to host his radio show.
In August 1938, Elonzo Williams was temporarily released from the hospital. He showed up unannounced at the family's home in Montgomery. Lillie was unwilling to let him reclaim his position at the head of the household, so he stayed only long enough to celebrate Williams' birthday in September before he returned to the medical center in Louisiana.
In July 1937, the Williams and McNeil families opened a  So many listeners contacted the radio station asking for more of "the singing kid" that the producers hired him to host his own 15-minute show twice a week for a weekly salary of US$15 (equivalent to US$246.10 in 2016).
There are several versions of how Williams got his first guitar. His mother stated that she bought it with money from selling peanuts, but many other prominent residents of the town claimed to have been the one who purchased the guitar for him. While living in Georgiana, Williams met  Payne's base musical style was blues. He taught Williams chords, chord progressions, bass turns, and the musical style of accompaniment that he would use in most of his future songwriting. Later on, Williams recorded one of the songs that Payne taught him, "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It". Williams musical style contained influences from Payne along with several other country influences, among them "the Singing Brakeman" Jimmie Rodgers, Moon Mullican, and Roy Acuff. In 1937 Williams got into a fight with his physical education coach about exercises the coach wanted him to do. His mother subsequently demanded that the school board terminate the coach; when they refused, the family moved to Montgomery, Alabama. Payne and Williams lost touch, though eventually, Payne also moved to Montgomery, where he died in poverty in 1939. Williams later credited him as his only teacher.
The popular song "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" became a hit for Hank Williams in 1949.
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Their first house burned and the family lost its possessions. They moved to a new house on the other side of town on Rose Street, which Williams' mother soon turned into a boarding house. The house had a small garden, on which they grew diverse crops that Williams and his sister Irene sold around Georgiana. At a chance meeting in Georgiana, Hank Williams met U.S. Representative J. Lister Hill while he was campaigning across Alabama. Williams told Hill that his mother was interested to talk with him about his problems and her need to collect Elonzo Williams' disability pension. With Hill's help, the family began collecting the money. Despite his medical condition, the family managed fairly well financially throughout the Great Depression.
 and served as a night-shift nurse in the local hospital.cannery. She worked in a Great Depression where Lillie managed to find several side jobs to support her children, despite the bleak economic climate of the