Posts Tagged ‘Hank Williams biography’

It’s always gratifying to get a comment and a compliment as well.

I got this one on here a while ago and decided it was worth highlighting with a post of it’s own.

Just found this website and I enjoyed it very much. I met Hank Williams in 1951 when he was traveling with the Hadacal Caravan. I was a boy of 12 and surrounded by country music in my family. What a joy to hear him, then to get his autograph. He wrote “best wishes Hank Williams”. I knew I was witnessing history as his sound and presents was a memory for life.

Still have that autograph.

Wally Bredemeier

Thanks  Wally

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I was hopeful that attorney Keith Adkinson, the husband of Jett Williams, might be able to untangle some of  mysteries surrounding the untimely death of Hank Williams on his final journey to a show in the last days of 1952. Adkinson and Williams had vowed in a Newsletter last year to tackle and solve the 60 year old mystery once and for all.

Sadly the untimely death of Adkinson, who successfully proved Jett Williams was the legitimate daughter of Hank Williams and co heir to his estate, will  now be cut short.

I have received thousands of visitors to a blog posting I did on this issue. HERE. Make sure you read the comments section which has articles from people claiming special knowledge of the death of Hank Williams.

A lot of the interest in the death of hank Williams has been stirred up by the recent film ‘The Last Ride’ which has just come out on DVD, Blu Ray and download.

Here’s a list of all the Blog Posts I’ve done on the film. There sure are a lot!

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Very informative lengthy taped interview with the author of the distinctive Hank Williams’ guitar sound, Don Helms.

This interview was done at the Hank Williams’ Festival in June 1997 by Tom Casesa. He is a New York based musician and visual artist.

Casera asks a lot of good questions and drills down a bit into some interesting topics. When you hear these interviews you often say why didn’t he ask this? That didn’t happen too much in this interview. Tom seems to have gained Don Helms’ trust so he’s very honest. The interview is on You Tube with still pictures.

Thanks to Robert Ackerman for sending it along and Tom Casesa for sharing it with Hank Williams fans through Robert.

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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!


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Soon there won’t be anyone left to offer personal stories of meeting and talking to Hank Williams. I guess we should say that anyone with a first hand personal story of Hank should make sure it is recorded somewhere for posterity. Or if anyone is in possession of a guaranteed accurate written account from someone who has passed away, should make sure it is preserved. I guess the Hank Williams’ Museum would take care of items like that.

Here’s a remembrance from Miller Williams (no relation) a well known Arkansas poet, published in the Arkansas literary magazine the ‘Oxford American’. Notice, he is the father of the very well known and well respected true American Country contemporary singer songwriter Lucinda Williams.

Yes, [in 1952] I was on the faculty of McNeese State College in Lake Charles, Louisiana, when he had a concert there. I stepped onstage when he and his band were putting their instruments away and when he glanced at me I said, “Mr. Williams, my name is Williams and I’d be honored to buy you a beer.” To my surprise, he asked me where we could get one. I said there was a gas station about a block away where we could sit and drink a couple. (You may not be aware that gas stations used to have bars.) He asked me to tell his bus driver exactly where it was and then he joined me. When he ordered his beer, I ordered a glass of wine, because this was my first year on a college faculty and it seemed the appropriate thing to do. We sat and chatted for a little over an hour. When he ordered another beer he asked me about my family. I told him that I was married and that we were looking forward to the birth of our first child in about a month. He asked me what I did with my days and I told him that I taught biology at McNeese and that when I was home I wrote poems. He smiled and told me that he had written lots of poems. When I said, “Hey—you write songs!” he said, “Yeah, but it usually takes me a long time. I might write the words in January and the music six or eight months later; until I do, what I’ve got is a poem.” Then his driver showed up, and as he stood up to leave he leaned over, put his palm on my shoulder, and said, “You ought to drink beer, Williams, ’cause you got a beer-drinkin’ soul.” He died the first day of the following year. When Lucinda was born I wanted to tell her about our meeting, but I waited until she was onstage herself. Not very long ago, she was asked to set to music words that he had left to themselves when he died. This almost redefines coincidence.

Here is a link to the article.


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A Prince Edward Island broadcaster who specialized in Hank Williams and presented 997 consecutive Country Roots shows on Charlottetown radio has died after a long illness. After recovering from a heart attack,  Bill MacEwen reached the  1000th show milestone in 2004.

MacEwen was famous across Eastern Canada for his New Year’s Day Hank Williams tribute programs. Back in 1978 he was instrumental in the founding of the Hank Williams Appreciation Society with Tom Lipscombe. He was well-known for his huge collection of records which formed the base of his radio programs. He was the co author of a 1994 Hank Williams biography.

Part way down the link below there is a long newspaper tribute to Bill from 2004.

Thanks to Tom Lipscombe for sending this link to more information on Bill.

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Here’s a good description of an appearance by Hank Williams in 1949. It comes from the Vancouver Sun which is collecting reports of memorable events in the city to celebrate the papers 100th anniversary. Columnists John Mackie is asking readers to share their memories from years gone by:

One of my faves came from Art Currie, who was among the lucky people who saw country and western great Hank Williams perform at the PNE’s Exhibition Gardens on Sept. 13, 1949.

Neither The Sun nor Province covered the show, so how the gig went was a mystery. In fact, few people had any idea Williams had even played Vancouver until my friend Dave Chesney came across a mention of it on a Williams timeline. So I found the original ad, wrote an item, and Currie emailed to say he’d been to the show.

Currie still has the program for the touring show of Grand Ole Opry stars like Williams, Ernest Tubb, Cowboy Copas and Minnie Pearl.

“I actually went to see Ernest Tubb, who was my favourite guy,” recounts Currie, 88. “I’d heard of Hank Williams. He had a couple of songs (that were hits). Ernest Tubb didn’t show up at the show – he was sick. But Hank Williams, the way he did his thing, I more or less fell in love with Hank Williams right then. I was a fan of his ’til the day he died.”

Currie recalls Williams doing a 20-to 30-minute set.

“He sang the Lovesick Blues,” he said. “I remember he said, ‘When I showed this to my producer when I came to do a record, I sang that and the guy told me that’s the worst’s thing I’ve ever heard.’

“(Williams) was a funny guy. He was a tall, thin, pale guy, long black sideburns. He didn’t look like a well guy, even back then. He was never well, I don’t think. But he lived awhile after that.

“So he did Lovesick Blues, and Wedding Bells. He told some jokes in between, even with his sad songs.”

This remembrance is notable in that it represents Hank with ‘Lovesick Blues’ just as he was breaking through. Many of the great hits are still to come. But even at this time over three years before his death Hank is described as obviously not being a healthy looking person.

I am always shocked when I read these reports. Whether it was his record company MGM, The Opry, publisher Acuff Rose,  family, or musician friends, he was exploited for his money-making ability, ‘sliced and sold like bologna” as he once said, with no concern for him as a person. If there had been a few true friends was saw him as a troubled genius and put his welfare number one, he might have been saved. I know Fred Rose sincerely tried to help but seemed to drop out of the picture in the final year as Hank fought his demons and the horrible aftereffects of spinal fusion surgery.

We all know the tragic ending.

But in 1949 some guy from Vancouver could see all was not well for Hank Williams.

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Every once in while I go on You Tube and search for videos on spina bifida and spinal fusion surgery.

Hank Williams underwent a new and risky form of surgery to relieve acute back pain called spinal fusion. This surgery opened up the back cutting through the muscle to expose the actual bones,nerves and spinal cord itself. Even today recovery can be problematic and the effectiveness of this procedure is by no means guaranteed.

Biographer and writers about Hank Williams have down played the importance of this event. A month and a half after surgery the Grand ole Opry tried to force him back on the road.

I got lucky the last time I checked You Tube in December. The first video I check showed an obviously sincere and intelligent woman, mature and not at all complaining or whining about her situation.

She touched on a number of issues which may have applied to Hank Williams.After six weeks the pain had not gone away;  she had a fall which made the situation worse; and with all of today’s sophisticated pain control options she was still having trouble with medication.

Hank Williams underwent spinal fusion surgery 61 years ago, And after a year of pain, incontinence, experimentation with primitive drugs,   and totally on his own, with no help or sympathy from friends, family,  or business colleagues,  he died 60 years ago.

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The Nashville newspaper The Tennessean has an intelligent, thoughtful  article about Hank Williams. The paper’s long time country music writer Peter Cooper paid tribute to Hank on the 60th anniversary of his death.

I was attracted to this piece because although he doesn’t dwell on it, Cooper briefly mentions Hank’s back problems and seems to take it seriously noting Hank’s”back always hurt”. I don’t think he is suggesting Hank used his back problems to get drugs, although that might have been a view at the time.

Readers of this blog know that I think it’s likely  Hank suffered from a serious spinal cord disease called Spina Bifida. We know  for a fact  and that in December of 1951, Doctors at Vanderbilt thought it was serious enough that he underwent  a spinal fusion operation also known as open back surgery.

This is serious unpredictable surgery today in 2012, and the pain which often results is often unbearable even with the pain control advancements made by the pharmaceutical industry in the past 60 years..

For those interested in all of the details and controversies surrounding Hank’s last ride  around New Years 52/53, Cooper also provides  a link to a very thorough, factual, non sensational, history of that trip which he wrote in 2003.

Here’s the link:


And here’s a link to three  of the  articles I wrote about spinal fusion surgery including Bono’s back surgery.


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Hank Williams had a back condition called spina bifida. His condition would appear to have been the mildest form of this deformity called spina bifida occulta.

In this condition the spinal cord emerges slightly from the protection of the spine itself. Many people live a whole lifetime hardly being aware of this disorder.

In others action must be taken.  Today surgery for spins bifida occulta is performed on the fetus long before birth.

In Mother’s Best Hank Williams mentions he could hardly stand because of the pain.

in December 1951 Hank Williams has a spinal fusion operation at Vanderbilt.

Early in 1952 Hank had to record an apology for missing a show. In that apology he truthfully and honestly described the horrors of his disease and the operation.

Hank mentions in his speech that the doctor told him that riding “several hundred thousands of miles in these automobiles” made his condition worse. This is exactly what would happen to a person with spina bifida occulta who continually bruised his exposed spinal cord by driving over rough old 1940’s roads.

I wrote a blog posting on this after Bono had similar surgery and cancelled a year of shows.

Recently Hank fan Robert Blair wrote a comment on that post.

“For all those who seem to know better maybe Hank should have written a song called “Walk a Mile in my Shoes.” Hank’s last year on earth must have been a
Living Hell. And I understand his surgery left him with incontinence for the
rest of his life. So much for MINOR surgery!
I’d rather be related to HANK WILLIAMS than any of the Presidents.
Robert Blair
Lifetime Hank Williams fan.”

Here’s my reply:

“Thanks so much for your comment Robert. The official and unofficial big name Hank biographers have ignored the seriousness of his spina bifada and subsequent open back spinal surgery, a spinal fusion performed in the early days of this surgery.
They have ridiculed the “Apology” statement which in retrospect sounds exactly like the pain of a spinal fusion as we now know it.
If you research spina bifida and spinal fusion you find incontinence is a common side effect.
It has always sounded to me that alcohol was the only pain-killer available that worked.

But the biographers say he was ONLY a weak, lazy, alcoholic unable to perform a mere few weeks after the surgery. Today even with our sophisticated drugs months would be allowed.”

Here’s 4 minute simplified little review of what spina bifida actually is.

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