As I was discussing in Part 1, there is very little video of Hank Williams performing with live audio. The only readily accessible songs come from the Kate Smith Show in 1952. They are ‘Hey Good Lookin’, ‘Cold, Cold Heart’, and ‘I Can’t Help It If I’m Still in Love with You’. There is film without sound of Hank walking around and some of performance without sound.
The accessibility of video has been made much more difficult especially for newcomers by the ill-conceived practice of using the limited video available from Kate Smith and dubbing the recordings of other songs over the existing video. This is a stupid idea. It does absolutely nothing to further or enhance Hank Williams’ legacy or reputation. The dubbing is so poorly done it makes the performer look like he can’t get the words straight, since his lips don’t sync with the words, and the expressions don’t fit with the sentiments in the recording. Seeing one of these would be enough to drive a newcomer to Hank Williams away, and he or she might never return.
The absolute worst case of this occurred in the 90’s when a newly discovered recording called ‘There’s a Tear in My Beer’ was dubbed over one of the Kate Smith videos and then Hank Williams Junior foolishly allowed himself to be taped in the same picture doing a so-called “duet” with his father. What a sad day that was.
Hank’s performance of ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ on Kate Smith is a masterpiece. Although not much more than 6 months from death and suffering from excruciating back pain after surgery in December, Hank delivers every word of this masterpiece at the peak of his powers. There is a point in this video at the end when the camera comes right in close and Hank looks straight into the lens and he knows Audrey is back home watching and he just lays it out with devastating force. The woman could never have been the same after that night.
Here it is:
Many would say ‘I Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love with You’ is Hank’s greatest. It’s one of his masterpieces of concise poignant language, and the creation of images and situations which say more than words and stay with you forever: “Today I passed you on the street, And my heart fell at your feet”.
This video is very short. Obviously this song had to be cut to face the time restraints of live TV. It’s a duet with the magnificent Anita Carter with her pure beautiful voice and expression. Many will recall that later she became a frequent duet partner with Hank Snow and they produced many memorable recordings.
The song begins with Anita alone, then Hank comes on the set and sings ‘Someone new stood by your side and he looked so satisfied’. I’ve always thought this was one of the most beautifully delivered lines in the Hank Williams’ canon.
This video was made about 8 months from Hank’s death. Notice as he comes into view, you can see how thin he is, as his left shoulder-blade almost seems visible under his shirt.
As mentioned Hank sang in group settings at the Kate Smith Show. You can easily find the closing cast rendition of ‘I Saw the Light’ on You Tube.