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The Hillbilly Shakespeare
Birthday salute to the great American songwriter Hank Williams
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of America’s best-known cultural ambassadors, Luke the Drifter a.k.a. The Hillbilly Shakespeare a.k.a. Mr. Lovesick Blues a.k.a. Timber Snake a.k.a. singer-songwriter Hank Williams. He learned guitar from African-American blues musician Rufus Payne (a.k.a. Tee Tot), and that, along with the music of Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb, influenced Hank’s style.
Chronic back pain, alcoholism, and pill addiction took a toll on Hank’s heart and he died young and tragically, but in his short but hugely influential career he released 55 Top 10 singles with 12 #1 records. He’s cited as one of the essential pioneers of contemporary country music, but his reach extended into mainstream pop, rock’n’roll, and even jazz, as his songs (now considered to be American standards) were covered by hit-makers of the day—and still are
When I was a kid, a 78 of Hank’s “Lovesick Blues” turned up in my house. Then on TV I watched the biopic film I SAW THE LIGHT, a song that has always been with me. In recent years I started performing regularly in assisted living homes, and my set includes Hank’s “Hey Good Lookin’” (along with “Jambalaya”).
He wrote and recorded "Hey, Good Lookin'" in 1951 (it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001). The song has been covered by countless artists and was a precursor to the genre known as Rockabilly. Hank was friendly with musician Jimmy Dickens. Having told Jimmy that he needed a hit record if he was going to become a star, Hank said he’d write it and penned "Hey Good Lookin'" in only 20 minutes while on a plane with Jimmy and entertainer Minnie Pearl. A week later Hank recorded it himself, jokingly telling Jimmy, "That song's too good for you!" Here’s my cover of it (recorded by Chris von Sneidern). Meanwhile, HB HW and thank you for crafting so many great songs.
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