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Hank Williams, Sr.
Hank Williams Promotional Photo.jpg
Williams in a WSM Radio publicity photo, 1951
Background information
Birth name Hiram King Williams
Also known as Luke the Drifter, The Hillbilly Shakespeare.
Born (1923-09-17)September 17, 1923
Butler County, Alabama, United States
Died January 1, 1953(1953-01-01) (aged 29)
Oak Hill, West Virginia, United States
Genres Country, Western, gospel, blues, honky-tonk, folk
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1937–1953
Labels Sterling, MGM
Associated acts Drifting Cowboys, Audrey Williams

Hank Williams, Sr. (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953), born Hiram King Williams, was an American singer-songwriter and musicians.

Early life

Williams's family house in Georgiana, Alabama

Williams's parents, Elonzo Huble "Lon" Williams and Jessie Lillybelle "Lillie" Skipper married on November 12, 1916. Hank Williams was of English-American ancestry. Elonzo Williams worked as an engineer for the railroads of the W.T. Smith lumber company. He was drafted during World War I, serving from July 1918 until June 1919. He was severely injured after falling from a truck, breaking his collarbone and sustaining a severe hit to the head. After his return, the family's first child, Irene, was born on August 8, 1922. Another son of theirs died shortly after birth. Their third child, Hiram, was born on September 17, 1923, in Mount Olive. Since Elonzo Williams was a Mason, and his wife was a member of Order of the Eastern Star the child was named after Hiram I of Tyre (one of the three founders of the Masons, according to Masonic legend), but his name was misspelled as "Hiriam" on his birth certificate. As a child, he was nicknamed "Harm" by his family and "Herky" or "Poots" by his friends.


Hank Williams Drifting Cowboys Cropped
Williams, Sheppard, and the Drifting Cowboys band in 1951

In July 1937, the Williams and McNeils opened a boarding house on South Perry Street in downtown Montgomery. It was at this time that Williams decided to change his name informally from Hiram to Hank. During the same year, he participated in a talent show at the Empire Theater and won the first prize of US$15 (equivalent to $300 in 2022) singing his first original song "WPA Blues". Williams wrote the lyrics and used the tune of Riley Puckett's "Dissatisfied".

He never learned to read music; instead he based his compositions in storytelling and personal experience. After school and on weekends, Williams sang and played his Silvertone guitar on the sidewalk in front of the WSFA radio studio. His recent win at the Empire Theater and the street performances caught the attention of WSFA producers who occasionally invited him to perform on air with Dad Crysel's band.

Williams' successful radio show fueled his entry into a music career, and he started his own band for show dates, the Drifting Cowboys, and dropped out of school to devote all his time to music. After recording "Never Again" and "Honky Tonkin'" with Sterling Records, he signed a contract with MGM Records. He released the hit single "Move It On Over" in 1947 and joined the Louisiana Hayride radio program. The next year he released a cover of "Lovesick Blues", which quickly reached number one on Billboard's Top Country & Western singles chart and propelled him to stardom on the Grand Ole Opry.

Williams is known as "the Father of Country and Western Music", because his songs were some of the first to come from that genre. As with many musical pioneers, Williams did not set out to create a new kind of music. He simply wanted to make music that his listeners would enjoy, that he would also enjoy making for them.

Some of Williams's songs are "Your Cheatin' Heart", "Hey Good Lookin'", "Jambalaya", and "Cold, Cold Heart". The songs were easy to remember, and many fans sang along when they heard them. Other singers began to include Hank Williams songs in their repertoires. Williams made recordings, performed on radio and early television, and also made live appearances.


Williams suffered from heart failure and died suddenly in the back seat of a car near Oak Hill, West Virginia, en route to a concert in Canton, Ohio, on New Year's Day 1953. He was 29 at the time of his death. He left behind a wife and son, Hank Williams Jr., who also grew up to become a country musician. Williams' songs are still popular, and sung by many musicians. Hank Jr. performed his father's music for many years, but later found success with songs of his own.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Hank Williams para niños

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