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Archive for March, 2010

The founder of the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery has died. Cecil Jackson died on March 15 of complications after surgery. He was 73.

Jackson was one of that dwindling group of people who actually knew Hank Williams. He met him as a youngster when Hank bought him a coke at a local store. In a footnote to history, Jackson changed the tires on Hank’s Cadillac in preparation for  the tragic trip north over  New Years  1952/53.

But Jackson’s great contribution to the Hank Williams legacy came as he collected memorabilia. Finally in 1999 he opened the Hank Williams Museum. He also was involved with the annual New Years vigil at the Williams’ gravesite.

This has been a tragic period for those involved in perpetuating the memory of Hank Williams, as several colleagues have passed on. Back in December, Mary Wallace a board member of the Georgianna Museum and a founder of the Hank Williams Festival in that community died. Earlier, Dale Vinicur a Hank Williams historian and author passed away. Hank biographer and Alabama native Paul Hemphill also died last year.

Of course in August 2008,  the world lost the legendary centerpiece  of the Hank Williams’ sound, steel guitar artist Don Helms.

The effort to preserve and enhance the reputation of Hank Williams as a significant world artist is reaching a turning point as so many of those who were his contemporaries and  friends  leave us. Fortunately, a new generation of seems to be coming forward. As examples, we have a major exhibition at the Hall of Fame, new books with new attitudes (the late Paul Hemphill’s biography for instance), a film by Harry Thomason in production, an article in the New Literary History of America, Jack White and Bob Dylans proposed new album of Hank songs, tribute shows and Broadway style productions,  Norah Jones interest in Hank, Dave Mathews performance with Neil Young on the worldwide Haiti relief benefit, and of course the obvious devotion of those who produced the Mother’s Best box sets.

I imagine as Hank Williams’ legacy endures and grows in the centuries ahead, Cecil Jackson and the others will be remembered always as people who understood early and profoundly the importance preserving his works and memory for the generations they knew would follow in their footsteps and see Hank Williams as an artist of world wide importance.

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Henry Thomas, the actor best known for his role in ET as a child, who is playing Hank Williams in a Harry Thomason film called ‘The Last Ride’ does have a musical background.

Although, if the movie sticks only to Hank’s last three days on earth, not much singing will be required, but since we haven’t seen the script we don’t know if flashbacks will be used. So I don’t know if Thomas will be required to perform. But the fact that he is a musician might be a hint that there will be some singing required.

According to Wikipedia, Thomas  worked with a Texas band called ‘The Blue Heelers’. The group produced an album on their own called ‘Twister’ which was played on radio and given some good reviews in Texas.  The band broke up in the late 90’s and since then Thomas has been pursuing some music projects on his own.

One of his songs with  the ‘Twisters’ called ‘Truckstop Coffee’ was featured on the soundtrack of the movie which Thomas appeared in called  ‘Niagara, Niagara’. Four songs written and performed by Thomas were featured in the movie  ‘Honey Baby’ in which Thomas played a singer. Thomas was working on a full album of his songs with Nikki Sudden when the project suddenly ended with her death in 2006.

If you are researching Thomas on the net you will soon learn that the “real” Henry Thomas, as far as music is concerned, was a legendary blues performer from the 20’s and 30′ who was known as Henry ‘Ragtime’ Thomas and is now seen as a blues pioneer. Lots of recordings by him on You Tube which are well worth listening to. Sings and plays in a Robert Johnson style.

I couldn’t find any clips from the modern Henry Thomas on You Tube, but there are 4 or 5 recordings of his own songs, sung  by Thomas on his My Space site. I thought the song ‘Good Cause to Grieve”, had a lot of Hank Williams’ elements in it, with a very sincere singing style.  Sounds like he is a real fan. Hope you enjoy it.

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