January 1, 1953
November 3, 2008 by ahankwilliamsjournal
I remember the day Hank Williams died. I only mention it because it tells us something about his fame at the time.
I was almost nine and was spending the Christmas break at my Grandparents house. In the dining room of the brick farmhouse in a remote village there was a rather modern plastic radio near a dining room couch. Dining rooms were larger and more furnished in these distant times and living rooms were smaller.
My Grandparents were fans of old time country music, fiddling and barn dances and the like. But they didn’t follow hit parade country and the latest big artists in Nashville very much I don’t think. Television was still some time away. At that time I don’t think they owned a record player. Both came a few years later. So, radio, with dramas, news, women’s shows and more pop music, New York and Hollywood style, on syndicated shows and local productions, were their main sources of entertainment at home.
There was a standard high ratings local news show each day at 10 minutes to noon. It was on this personality based popular news show that we heard the news that Hank Williams had died. It may not have been January 1, 1953, perhaps it was the next day before we heard the news.
I remember a feeling of genuine shock and disbelief when this news came through. Later, an Uncle who was about 27 or 28 came by. He was more of a fan of Hank Williams than my Grandparents were I think, and this death became the main topic of conversation during his visit.
I was only 8, nearly 9 and don’t remember much more.
The only other time I recall this feeling of complete utter shock at a death was when Marilyn Monroe died. With the Kennedy assassination you knew what had caused it even though it left everyone shocked stunned with disbelief. Other celebrities deaths, such as say James Dean, were always accompanied by a plausible reason, a traffic accident, air crash or murder. Many of us could see Elvis’ decline as he entered his forties and there were books about it. Somewhere inside we may have thought the worst could happen.
But with Hank AND Marilyn it was: WHAT? and WHY?
I relate this story only to show that even in a remote area far from the home of country music or even its bedrock home area in the South, the name Hank Williams had seeped into the inner consciousness of many ordinary people with no special connection to the Nashville star machine or the Grand Old Opry fandom industry, such as it was, even back then.
Of course, for 99 per cent of people across America and around the world there was likely very little knowledge of the troubles with Hank Williams’ health and his personal life. They just knew the strong, young, healthy, well dressed good looking guy they saw in photographs and the powerful voice they heard on the radio.
Yes he was a super star even far from Nashville, and his death at such a young age for no apparent reason reverberated and sent sickening shock waves through homes hearts around the world. It made a permanent imprint on a 9 year old who knew nothing about him at the time.
I hope you enjoy this journal about Hank Williams.