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Posts Tagged ‘Hank Williams’ radio programs’

The ranks of those with a direct first person link to Hank Williams was greatly diminished with the death of Braxton Schuffert  a native of Prattville Alabama. He was 97.

From all reports he was a delightful man who was a very close personal friend to Hank in the early years and acted as a pallbearer at Hank’s funeral. No bigger honor than that.

They first met when Hank was 15 and Schuffert, who was already on radio despite his youth, helped Hank get on the local radio station. He was at Hank’s first ever show and played in his band for a number of years in the late 30’s and early 40’s. When the success came, Schuffert decided not to leave a job in Alabama and join Hank on the road.

In later years he was very generous in sharing his memories with Hank fans.

Braxton was a pretty sweet traditional country singer in his own right as you can hear here:

And here’s Braxton with some memories and music from a Montgomery Advertiser Video recorded a year ago when he was 96!

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/videonetwork/2333333400001?odyssey=mod|tvideo|article

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The vitally important ‘Health and Happiness’ live radio programs recorded by Hank Williams in 1949 will be back on the market September 13th. The eight 15 minute programs will apparently be part of a new Box Set released by Time Life which produced the recent series of Mother’s Best Flour radio program recordings. This means the recording should receive the tasteful professional presentation we’ve seen with Mother’s Best.

Despite the importance of this blog to many Hank Williams fans I don’t get any advance  detailed factual information from record companies or movie makers or Hank tribute performers or museums. I picked this news about ‘Health and Happiness’ from the Great American Country news site. The articles are not clear whether the new release will contain complete shows similar to the Health and Happiness 2 CD Box Set released by PolyGram in 1993.

The September release will also include some very early Hank Williams recording from 1938 and other rarities.

But to me the rerelease of ‘Health and Happiness’ is really good news. The two CD Box Set  had been dropped from the catalogue by Hank’s current label Lost Highway records.

The title of the box set is ‘The Legend Begins’.

I consider ‘Health and Happiness’ to be equal to Mother’s Best in importance.

There are only 8 programs in this series, but they are much more slickly produced than the sloppy easy-going Mother’s Best. In addition each program contains 3 full songs rather than just 2. We do realize that part of the charm of Mother’s Best is the amount of chatter  which reveal much about Hank’s personality. But Health and Happiness gives us more singing and shows Hank off as a real pro radio personality.

I have written some earlier articles about and mentioning the Box Set of  Health and Happiness here.

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The name Hank Williams will once again be part of the Grammy Awards as the Time Life production of the The Complete Mother’s Best Flour 1951 radio programs is nominated for Best Historical Album.

The actual nominees are: the producers Colin Escott, Mike Jason & Jett Williams, compilation producers; Joseph M.Palmaccio, mastering engineer.

The competition looks a little tough. The re-release of The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings), Not Fade Away: The Complete Studio Recordings and More (Buddy Holly), and a compilation of  the best recordings being made in Los Angeles in the mid 60’s.

The Grammy Award show will be held February 13th.

The Complete  Mother’s Best is a 15 CD Box Set, with a bonus DVD, all packaged in a simulated vintage radio format. The Box  Set contains all of the 15 minute radio shows which Hank Williams recorded live to disk on acetates to be played on the air when he was on the road and couldn’t do the show live. They contain some of Hank Williams  most dramatic and memorable singing performances. The Mother’s Best shows reveal a more  informal relaxed radio personality which Hank fans haven’t heard before. The sound quality is better than the original MGM recordings, showcasing  a richer deeper more expressive Hank Williams’ singing style. Finally, the radio programs reveal a wide range of musical interests as Hank searched through his wide knowledge of folk and gospel music to find material to fill the requirements of a daily radio show.

Time Life was chosen by the Hank Williams estate to handle the Mother’s Best programs once it achieved ownership after a lengthy legal battle.  Two 3 CD highlight compilations were released in 2008 and 2009. Then this year  it was decided to release the entire Mother’s Best  catalogue in one big package. The Box Set at $199.00 US has received excellent reviews from major newspapers and music journals. The decision to release the entire historical record of Mother’s Best Shows has now been rewarded with a nomination by the biggest musical award show there is, The Grammy Awards.

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Hank used ‘Happy Rovin Cowboy’ as his theme song on the ‘Health and Happiness Shows’. This reflects Hank’s love of cowboy imagery in the name of his band, and his stage costumes. Bob Nolan of the Sons of the Pioneers was the writer. The song also reflects Hank’s near obsession with the afterlife. Hank sings the opening of this song eight times, and each time grabs a hold on the last line, ” I’ll sing this song, till they call me home to the land beyond the blue”.

This is Part II of what will be a three-part discussion of these live to disk radio program recordings which were made in the fall of 1949 when Hank had just turned 26.

Hank’s voice is rich but restrained on the first song ‘Wedding Bells’. As with all of the recordings on ‘Health and Happiness’ Hank gives it everything he has in the knowledge that these shows will likely be played many times at radio stations across the south.

The versions of ‘Lovesick Blues’ on these programs are  probably the definitive take on Hank’s biggest hit during his lifetime. This is a better recording than the original hit version he recorded in Cincinnati. I think one of the two versions of ‘Lovesick Blues’ we find on ‘Health and Happiness’ is the one used over and over again on later compilations where you hear the band applause at the end.

On Show 2 Hank renders one of his deepest most profound singing performances on a hymn he calls “one of the best that  anyone ever wrote”, ‘The Tramp on the Street’ written by Grady and Hazel Cole.

I’ve always thought Hank Williams had a profound sympathy for the poor, the  destitute, the downtrodden.  Had he lived he might have developed a political edge like a Johnny Cash, or Bob Dylan, or Bruce Springsteen. In our times this old time Christianity that preaches that the lowest among us will be rewarded in heaven and be united with Jesus is out of fashion. But when you hear Hank Williams sing ‘The Tramp on the Street’ you can believe that if Jesus  came to your door he would come dressed as a tramp on the street. And that Jesus when crucified was left to die like a tramp in the street a homeless person we might see today. And that if you turn away a beggar at your door you have turned away Jesus himself. The writer draws direct parallels between the lowest level of humanity and Jesus. And if you turn away the tramp you have turned away Jesus and will be denied a place in heaven. Hank sings every word of this with  a forcefulness and sincerity that says “I believe this is the absolute truth”.

Show 3 features ‘I’m a Long Gone Daddy’ and ‘When God Comes and Gathers his Jewel’ two familiar Hank Williams’ compositions, as well as ‘I’m Telling You’ by Audrey.

The first song after the theme on Show 4 is a definitive performance of one of Hank’s most enduring signature songs. It’s the Leon Payne composition ‘Lost Highway”.Of course this title has been used as a TV documentary title, and is the name of the current Hank Williams record label which ironically has dropped ‘The Health and Happiness Shows’ from his catalogue.

The sound quality on this classic cut is superb. Hank’s voice is rich and deep. ‘Lost Highway’ is a song that requires a huge range as a singer and an ability to grab and hit the notes right out of thin air so to speak. You have to be right on with no chance to wander around the melody and fake it. You can’t cheat when you sing ‘Lost Highway’.

Hank was rarely if ever insincere in his delivery, but in this performance you can hear immediately that Hank understands this song, although he didn’t write it, encapsulates the life story of Hank Williams. On some of the phrases his voice is sharp and aching at the same time, delivering a picture of his own reality as I am sure he understood it:  “Just a deck of cards and jug of wine, and a woman’s lies make a life like mine”, “Now I’m lost, too late to pray”,   “Don’t ramble on this road of sin, or you’re sorrow bound”, “Alone and a lost, For a life of sin I’ve paid the cost”. The depth of his understanding is palpable, as he hits those perfect tragic notes clear  as a bell every time.

This bring to an end my second article on “The Health and Happiness Shows”. Show 4 ends Disc 1. And that completes my look at the work Hank did on a Sunday afternoon in October 1949. In my final article I will take a look at some of the performances on Disc 2, the four 15 minute shows recorded on the next Sunday afternoon.

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Hank Williams fans have been excited recently about the release of stunning recordings of the Mother’s Best Flour radio programs  from  1951.

The  breadth of musical interest  shown by Hank Williams in the Mother’s Best transcriptions and the richness and depth of his vocal style as he stretched his powers into songs such as ‘On Top Of Old Smokey’ and ‘Cool Water’ and ‘Searching for  a Soldiers Grave’ have changed our appreciation of Hank  Williams forever.

But almost two years earlier, in October of 1949, Hank Williams recorded eight live to disk 15 minute radio programs for distribution to radio stations. These were called ‘Health and Happiness’ shows because the original sponsor was supposed to be the Hadacol Corporation. That patent medicine company had employed Hank and a collection of country music and Hollywood stars on a traveling sales caravan earlier in the year. Actually the Hadocol company had gone broke during the caravan and so the producer decided not identify the company  in the programs  and just left blank spaces so that any sponsor name could be inserted. The words “health and happiness” would serve to give the sponsor a nice plug without narrowing it down any further.

But there are a lot of interesting revelations of Hank’s genius on these first live to disk radio shows from 1949.. Rather than being recorded over the space of a year as ‘Mother’s Best’ were, ‘Health and Happiness’ shows were recorded four each on two successive Sundays.

There really aren’t any surprising selections such as we find on ‘Mother’s Best’. Of course,  a lot of Hank’s most famous songs hadn’t been written yet! But as Colin Escott mentions in the liner notes, Hank sang with an intensity that shows he knew that these acetates would be played over and over on radio stations all across the south and knew it was his chance to make a huge impact on country music and , more importantly, on generations to come. He knew these shows would last.

There may be some disagreement on this, but I would say the ‘Health and Happiness’ shows are more slickly and professionally produced than ‘Mother’s Best’. The announcer is the WSM Grand Ole Opry  premier announcer Grant Turner. There is less chat and so less is revealed about Hank’s personality, and so for each 15 minute show there are three full songs, plus intro, extro, and instrumental interlude. On Mother’s Best presumably because  of the number of shows they needed to fill, there are only two songs plus an instrumental, but more talk and live commercials for Mother’s Best Flour.

Some may find it a big drawback that on the first four shows there are performances by Audrey Williams. But I’m glad she’s on there for the historical record if nothing else. For the record, here are Audrey’s contributions: Show 1: duet on ‘Where the Soul of Man Never Dies'; Show 2: solo on ‘There’s a Bluebird on Your Windowsill’, Show 3: solo on I’m telling You’ and Show 4: duet on ‘I Want to Live and Love’.

Sadly and really unbelievably ‘The Health and Happiness Shows’ 2CD package has been deleted by Hank’s current record company Lost Highway which is a spin-off of Mercury Nashville. The original was released in 1993 under the Polygram label. Fortunately, both new and used copies of the set are still available at Amazon.

In Part II I will take a look at some of  Hank’ solo performances on ‘The Health and Happiness  Shows’.

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Time Life’s decision to release the complete Mother’s Best radio program recordings by Hank Williams is getting a rave review from a noted music critic and Hank Williams biographer.

Chet Flippo in Nashville Skyline on the Country Music Television website says the Complete Mothers Best transcends country music. His most dramatic description of the new album comes in the opening paragraph:

If I could send any recorded music collection into distant outer space to forever preserve and represent the true nature of American popular music, I think I would choose this extensive Hank Williams set of his little 15-minute radio shows from the 1950s. They contain a breathtaking display of the width and breadth of American music and culture from the first half of the 20th century and even earlier. The songs Hank sang transcend country.

He says the performances: “open a candid window on Southern culture in the 1950s, on its music, religion, humor and social attitudes.”

Of course Flippo fills in a lot of background about the origin of the historic recordings and how they were made, information already quite familiar to readers of this blog.

But like all of us who have listened to these recordings, as they were restored for the first two box sets, he can’t get over the quality of the sound.

So, what does it all sound like? Well, the fidelity of the sound is incredible. Imagine that you’re in a farmhouse kitchen on an early morning in 1951 and you’re just sitting down to some aromatic biscuits, dripping with fresh-churned butter and a cup of throat-scalding coffee, and you turn on the big table radio and the warm sound of clear-channel signal WSM fills the room.

Chet Flippo wrote ‘Your Cheatin Heart’ a biography of Hank Williams, and has written a biography of Paul McCartney. He is the editorial director of CMT.com and writes a weekly column called  called Nashville Skyline.  He has been writing about Country Music since the 60’s when he wrote liner notes for a couple of early Waylon Jennings records.

Here’s the link to the original article.

The Complete Mother’s Best with 72  complete radio shows from 1951 will be released September 28. I’ve posted the link to the sales site on an earlier article about the new record. The price is up in the $200.00 range.

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I was under a misapprehension over the past couple years of Mother’s Best Hank Williams releases. From earlier articles and releases, I had concluded that there would be a third box set this fall under roughly the same format as the first two. I wrote that several times, but I was wrong.

The Complete Mother’s Best to be released at the end of September will finish off the current series. I’m sure there will be various packages in different formats and outlets as the years go buy, but the new release will round out the series.

I should have realized there would have to be a change as I checked  through the Hank Williams Sr Listings Website which I have linked to in the Blogroll at the side. There are two things I forgot until I reread the fine color coded listings  of the content of all the Mother’s Best shows. When you do that, you find out two things;
One: There is a lot of repetiton of the Hank performances, and
Two: There are a lot of Audrey performances.

I don’t trash Audrey as most other commentators do, so don’t bother looking for it.

This means there really isn’t much left on the original acetates.

However, I still think a nice much more inexpensive package of edited  single performances could have been put together. There are a number of repeated performances I would like to hear. I’m especially interested in the different versions of the up tempo  rockabilly foundation numbers.

There are alternate versions of ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’, ‘Nobody’s Lonesome For Me’, ‘Move It on Over’, ‘I Just Don’t Like This Kind of Living’,’Hey Good Lookin’, ‘Mind Your Own Business’ and ‘Moanin the Blues’. There are also different versions of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing,’ and ‘My Sweet Love Ain’t Around’.

So I would like to see an inexpensive one disk release of edited singles from Mother’s Best which haven’t been released yet, even if they are duplicates..

But at the same time, there is an absolute historic necessity that the Mother’s Best Shows be released in their entirety as they were recorded. And shouldn’t all of the Armed Forces Recordings be assembled and released as well? I assume there’s more of that material than was released on ‘Live at the Grand Ole Opry’. But I’m not a researcher so can’t be sure.

My quibbling can’t detract at all from Time Life’s  enormous achievement  in this whole Mother’s Best release project. And the Williams’ estate deserves credit for selecting this company to handle this important historical artifact. The format, notes, packaging,  song selection, and remastering have been beyond criticism. I’m sure the new ‘Complete’ 16 disc set will live up to the standard set by the two 3CD releases. But I would still like to see some of those unreleased duplicates released in single song format.

Once again here’s the website for the new release.

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For those who want their Hank Williams pure and unedited, there’s news  from Robert Ackerman that a complete edition of the Mother’s Best radio programs will be released.

It appears that Time  Life, which has released two of three CD sets of highlights from the radio programs recorded in 1951, has arranged to have another company Direct Holding Americas to release a 16 Disc Complete Mother’s Best to be available at the end of September. A website has been set up but doesn’t have any informations on it yet.

Ackerman says he expects the set will cost about $200.00 which puts it out of my range.

I expect the third scheduled and final Time Life 3CD box set will be released in the fall.

Here is the link to the new website.

Update: The website linked to above now has a complete press release on the new 16 disc set which will contain 72 complete 15 minute Mother’s Best shows. It’s under the Latest News link on the site.

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