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 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’.