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Posts Tagged ‘Death of Hank Williams’

It always gratifying to know that Hank Williams’ home town has established  annual ceremonial activities to remember it’s legendary native son.

On his birthdate in September, and on New Year’s Day the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery Alabama  honors the great American singer and  songwriter. A reading through this blog will establish that Williams has become a world class artist whose influence is felt through many facets of arts and culture in American and across the globe.

Here’s an announcement from the Museum on January 1st events in 2014.

January 1, 2014, we will honor Hank’s legacy at the Hank Williams Museum with music from 10:30-1pm.  $10 admission. Black eye peas served with the trimmings. Yum Yum
10am Oakwood Cemetery Annex for the 61st Memorial and wreath laying.
Musicians attending this year are:
The Sheppard Family, The Schuffert Family, Vinny D’Amico, Tyler Jones, Gaynell Moore, Andy Norman, Peter Loper, Roger Wilson and Special Guest-Spencer Bohren.
Here is a stunning announcement of news that soon traveled around the world 61 years ago.

 

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As the last weekend of 1952 drew close, a young Alabama student was approached by country music superstar Hank Williams with a request to drive him from Montgomery north to Louisville and Canton Ohio for package tour shows. The 17-year-old agreed and they set out in the star’s 1952 blue Cadillac convertible.

The student, Charles Carr died recently at the age of 79. He was remembered as a man who never tried to exploit his short-lived relationship with Hank Williams. For on that trip the 29-year-old star died under what are still thought to be mysterious circumstances.

When these events  happened, Carr was so young and so inexperienced that the few days must have seemed like a confusing incoherent rush of disconnected events.

Through the years, he tried to answer questions as honestly as he could,I think. But the things that happened on that trip were so chaotic, he was never able to offer answers which could satisfy the many questioners and conspiracy theorists.

I believe Charles Carr acted in truthfulness and honor.

In my mind the central question in the death of Hank Williams is why he had to travel through all those winter miles and roads with only an almost child as companion and protector.

Hank was a superstar making millions for a record company, a publisher, promoters, Opry style package shows and various hangers-on.

Why did Hank embark on this final ride to a death in the back seat of his Cadillac alone and friendless? Why was it allowed to happen?

Sure times were different then. But I refuse to believe Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Eddie Arnold, and Roy Acuff jumped in the back of their Cadillac for a thousand mile drive with only  a naive 17-year-old as companion and driver.

Rest in peace Charles Carr. I think you did your best.

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I was hopeful that attorney Keith Adkinson, the husband of Jett Williams, might be able to untangle some of  mysteries surrounding the untimely death of Hank Williams on his final journey to a show in the last days of 1952. Adkinson and Williams had vowed in a Newsletter last year to tackle and solve the 60 year old mystery once and for all.

Sadly the untimely death of Adkinson, who successfully proved Jett Williams was the legitimate daughter of Hank Williams and co heir to his estate, will  now be cut short.

I have received thousands of visitors to a blog posting I did on this issue. HERE. Make sure you read the comments section which has articles from people claiming special knowledge of the death of Hank Williams.

A lot of the interest in the death of hank Williams has been stirred up by the recent film ‘The Last Ride’ which has just come out on DVD, Blu Ray and download.

Here’s a list of all the Blog Posts I’ve done on the film. There sure are a lot!

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On the anniversary of his death,  Saving Country Music  put together a very detailed page outlining the main details surrounding the death of Hank Williams and the immediate aftermath. This is a great country site and a lot of work has gone into this posting.

This fine history  can be found here.

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Thanks very much to Hank Williams’ authority Ed Guy for sending me his first hand report on the commemorations of Hank Williams’ death held in Montgomery on the New Year’s weekend.

NEW YEAR’S EVE 12-31-12 & NEW YEAR’S DAY 1-1-13

Had an enjoyable trip to Montgomery, AL and visited with many Hank Fans, Beth & Jeff Petty, Braxton Schuffert, Andy Norman, Rick & Marie Angers, and others.

Andy, Beth Cooper, and Tyler Jones (an excellent teenage singer of Hank Songs from Killen, AL) were the performers who stood out.  Braxton was so endearing as he told stories of Hank and sang some of the old songs and explained how they were written on demand (by Fred Rose)

Karo provided the Karaoke Program on NY’s Eve before the live music.

Jeff Petty, as always, was the perfect MC.

An ardent Hank Fan and Fan Club Member – Rabbi Ben Alpert of Boynton Beach, FL – presented an interesting discussion of Hank’s life and music which was well received at both the Gravesite and in the Museum.

Bobby Linzey of Cumming, GA, who was a neighbor of Hank’s in Montgomery, recalled his experiences as a young boy frequenting Miss Lilly’s Boarding House, seeing Hank in life and also his recollections of Hank’s Funeral.  He displayed some interesting photographs.

Terry Faust, “Hank’s Grave Tender” sang a haunting tribute song to Hank at the Gravesite.  Other singers & musicians included T J Bohannon, 10 years old, of Rome, GA; Roger “Hurricane” Wilson of Kennesaw, GA; and
the Slim Pickin’s Band who are scattered throughout Georgia.

Two events…….. the Candlelight Vigil & Singing at Hank’s Statue on Perry Street on NY’s Eve and the Gravesite Service on NY’s Day with music by the Sheppard Family from Banks, AL and fine food both days with a good attendance. (On NY’s Day, Beth Petty and Betty Jackson served the traditional black-eyed peas dinner.

Due to illness, Charles Carr was unable to attend.  Hopefully he will recover soon and have a most Happy & Healthy New Year.

Even had appearances by Mary Margaret McCord, Miss Alabama USA, and Lorin Holcombe, Miss Teen Alabama USA.

Beth Petty, Curator of the HW Museum reminds everyone that there will be an Open House at the Museum in Montgomery on Feb 10, 2013 to celebrate the Museum’s 14th Anniversary.

Ed Guy
Palm Coast, FL

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The Nashville newspaper The Tennessean has an intelligent, thoughtful  article about Hank Williams. The paper’s long time country music writer Peter Cooper paid tribute to Hank on the 60th anniversary of his death.

I was attracted to this piece because although he doesn’t dwell on it, Cooper briefly mentions Hank’s back problems and seems to take it seriously noting Hank’s”back always hurt”. I don’t think he is suggesting Hank used his back problems to get drugs, although that might have been a view at the time.

Readers of this blog know that I think it’s likely  Hank suffered from a serious spinal cord disease called Spina Bifida. We know  for a fact  and that in December of 1951, Doctors at Vanderbilt thought it was serious enough that he underwent  a spinal fusion operation also known as open back surgery.

This is serious unpredictable surgery today in 2012, and the pain which often results is often unbearable even with the pain control advancements made by the pharmaceutical industry in the past 60 years..

For those interested in all of the details and controversies surrounding Hank’s last ride  around New Years 52/53, Cooper also provides  a link to a very thorough, factual, non sensational, history of that trip which he wrote in 2003.

Here’s the link:

http://blogs.tennessean.com/tunein/2012/12/28/hank-williams-music-mystery-legacy-live-on/

And here’s a link to three  of the  articles I wrote about spinal fusion surgery including Bono’s back surgery.

http://ahankwilliamsjournal.wordpress.com/?s=Bono+spinal+fusion

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The Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery Alabama is sponsoring memorial events surrounding the 60th anniversary of the death of Hank Williams on New Year’s Day 1953.

On New Year’s Eve for a modest charge there will be food and music at the Commerce Street museum with a candlelight vigil to nearby  statue of Hank Williams  at midnight. At the same time, The City of Montgomery is sponsoring a street party honoring Hank and Commerce Street  will be blocked off near the museum.

On New Year’s Day, participants will meet at Hank’s grave at the Oakwood Cemetary Annex at 10am for a wreath laying and memorial service.

Following the service everyone is invited to the museum for black-eyed peas and more music. Events wrap up at 1pm.

I think I speak for Hank fans all around the world who, although they are unable to journey to Montgomery, deeply appreciate that a sincere, touching, heartfelt, tribute is being held at the Hank Williams gravesite on the anniversary  his death every year.

 

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Hank Williams had a back condition called spina bifida. His condition would appear to have been the mildest form of this deformity called spina bifida occulta.

In this condition the spinal cord emerges slightly from the protection of the spine itself. Many people live a whole lifetime hardly being aware of this disorder.

In others action must be taken.  Today surgery for spins bifida occulta is performed on the fetus long before birth.

In Mother’s Best Hank Williams mentions he could hardly stand because of the pain.

in December 1951 Hank Williams has a spinal fusion operation at Vanderbilt.

Early in 1952 Hank had to record an apology for missing a show. In that apology he truthfully and honestly described the horrors of his disease and the operation.

Hank mentions in his speech that the doctor told him that riding “several hundred thousands of miles in these automobiles” made his condition worse. This is exactly what would happen to a person with spina bifida occulta who continually bruised his exposed spinal cord by driving over rough old 1940′s roads.

I wrote a blog posting on this after Bono had similar surgery and cancelled a year of shows.

Recently Hank fan Robert Blair wrote a comment on that post.

“For all those who seem to know better maybe Hank should have written a song called “Walk a Mile in my Shoes.” Hank’s last year on earth must have been a
Living Hell. And I understand his surgery left him with incontinence for the
rest of his life. So much for MINOR surgery!
I’d rather be related to HANK WILLIAMS than any of the Presidents.
Robert Blair
JAPAN
Lifetime Hank Williams fan.”

Here’s my reply:

“Thanks so much for your comment Robert. The official and unofficial big name Hank biographers have ignored the seriousness of his spina bifada and subsequent open back spinal surgery, a spinal fusion performed in the early days of this surgery.
They have ridiculed the “Apology” statement which in retrospect sounds exactly like the pain of a spinal fusion as we now know it.
If you research spina bifida and spinal fusion you find incontinence is a common side effect.
It has always sounded to me that alcohol was the only pain-killer available that worked.

But the biographers say he was ONLY a weak, lazy, alcoholic unable to perform a mere few weeks after the surgery. Today even with our sophisticated drugs months would be allowed.”

Here’s 4 minute simplified little review of what spina bifida actually is.

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A short review in the Seattle Times doesn’t have much positive to say about the Hank Williams based movie ‘The Last Ride’.

A key paragraph goes like this:

But, alas, “The Last Ride” doesn’t deliver much insight into Williams or the lifestyle that killed him. And while there are some sweet moments, it’s riddled with clichés about the South, masculinity and coming of age. No doubt because of licensing expenses, not one Hank Williams performance appears on the soundtrack.

Of course the failure to present any authentic Hank Williams music has been a major criticism of this movie.
The reviewer ,Paul de Barros, also thinks the driver played by Jesse James becomes the center of attention in the movie instead of Hank played by Henry Thomas.
To be fair a lot of reviewers have praised Thomas’ performance.

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The Hank Williams bio pic covering the last 3 days of his life has earned a positive review by Kerry Lengel in the Arizona Republic Newspaper.

Lengel sees right away that this not really a Hank Williams biography and has little to do with his music, but, as others have said as well, is more of a “gloomy buddy road trip flick”.

But Lengel sees a lot more positives than many other critics I have talked about on this blog.

He calls the movie starring Henry Thomas as Hank “a subtlety affecting character study”. He says, “Hank longs for a simple human connection”.

I liked this comment about Thomas who he says does not attempt to imitate Hank Williams physically, but does,  “immerse himself in the character he’s been given: old before his time, with a mean streak to match his ego and alienated from all humanity, including himself.”  Not everyone would agree with this gloomy depressing insight into Hank’s character and the pain of his short life here on earth, but there is an element of truth in it.

A final quote from the review continues this theme: ” ‘The Last Ride’ measures the distance between the myth and the man. And if that doesn’t make for the cheeriest of viewing experiences, it does offer an alternative to the easy sentimentality that powers the biopic formula.”

As far as we know the movie will open in a more general release, and is not yet available in DVD.

Here’s a link to the review.

And here’s a list of all my posts on this movie over the past several years!!

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