Sunday, June 11, 2023

Hank Williams Makes Grand Ole Opry Debut on June 11, 1949

His 1949 breakout smash hit “Lovesick Blues” was so popular that the Grand Ole Opry finally gave in after denying him an invite for 2 years because of his well-established alcohol problem.

The crowd called him out for 6 encores — all of this one incredible and unique song, apparently — and demanded even more but he had to stop because other musicians were waiting to play. 

Hank Williams, “Lovesick Blues”

He had a pretty rough life, but this surely helped him write and sing about heartache so convincingly, as it was definitely not an act:

Hank Williams was only 25 years old when he was invited to appear for the first time on the Grand Ole Opry. As a young man growing up dirt poor in southern Alabama, he began supporting his family at the age of seven by shining shoes and selling peanuts, but by 14 at least, he was already performing as a professional musician. The life of a “professional musician” playing the blood-bucket honky-tonks of the Deep South bore little resemblance to the lifestyle that would later become available to him, but it was there, in country music’s backwater proving grounds, that Hank Williams developed his heavily blues-influenced style and began writing his own music. Williams left music behind during WWII, but then he went to Nashville in 1946 hoping to sell some of his songs. Quickly signed to a publishing contract by one of Nashville’s most prominent music publishers, Fred Rose, Williams soon had a recording contract with MGM and his first hit record with “Move It On Over” (1947).

His impact on 20th century music — and especially on other musicians — cannot be overestimated.

Just three years later in July 1952 he was fired for alcohol-related incidents, and by January 1 of 1953 he was dead, of heart failure (also due to alcohol).