Author Topic: Hiram "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953)  (Read 70 times)


  • Administrator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 165
    • View Profile
Hiram "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953)
« on: February 24, 2020, 07:35:10 PM »
Stage Name:
• Hank Williams = 51 (Full Reduction)

Full Birth Name:
• Hiram Williams = 147 (English Ordinal)
• Hiram Williams = 44 (Septenary)

Birth certificate misspelling:
• Hiriam Williams = 222 (Reverse Ordinal)

Hiram "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953) was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Regarded as one of the most significant and influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th century, Williams recorded 35 singles (five released posthumously) that reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart, including 11 that ranked number one (three posthumously).

Born in Mount Olive, Butler County, Alabama, Williams relocated to Georgiana with his family, where he met Rufus Payne, an African American blues musician, who gave him guitar lessons in exchange for meals or money. Payne had a major influence on Williams' later musical style, along with Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb. Williams would later relocate to Montgomery, where he began his music career in 1937, when producers at radio station WSFA hired him to perform and host a 15-minute program. He formed the Drifting Cowboys backup band, which was managed by his mother, and dropped out of school to devote his time to his career.

When several of his band members were conscripted into military service during World War II, Williams had trouble with their replacements, and WSFA terminated his contract because of his alcohol abuse. Williams eventually married Audrey Sheppard, who was his manager for nearly a decade. After recording "Never Again" and "Honky Tonkin'" with Sterling Records, he signed a contract with MGM Records. In 1947, he released "Move It on Over", which became a hit, and also joined the Louisiana Hayride radio program.

One year later, he released a cover of "Lovesick Blues" recorded at Herzog Studio in Cincinnati, which carried him into the mainstream of music. After an initial rejection, Williams joined the Grand Ole Opry. He was unable to read or notate music to any significant degree. Among the hits he wrote were "Your Cheatin' Heart", "Hey, Good Lookin'", and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".

Years of back pain, alcoholism and prescription drug abuse severely compromised his health. In 1952 he divorced Sheppard and was dismissed by the Grand Ole Opry because of his unreliability and alcohol abuse. On New Year's Day 1953, he died suddenly while traveling to a concert in Canton, Ohio, at the age of 29. Despite his short life, Williams is one of the most celebrated and influential popular musicians of the 20th century, especially in regard to country music.

Many artists covered songs Williams wrote and recorded. He influenced Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, George Jones, Charley Pride, and The Rolling Stones, among others. Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1961), the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1970), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987). The Pulitzer Prize jury in 2010 awarded him a posthumous special citation "for his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life."

Williams was born in Butler County, Alabama. His parents were Jessie Lillybelle "Lillie" (née Skipper) and Elonzo Huble "Lon" Williams, and he was of Welsh, English, and German 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 suffering a severe blow to the head.[citation needed]

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 the 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). His name was misspelled as "Hiriam" on his birth certificate which was prepared and signed when Hank was about 10 years old.

Williams was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia, on Wednesday December 31, 1952. Advance ticket sales totaled US$3,500. That day, because of an ice storm in the Nashville area, Williams could not fly, so he hired a college student, Charles Carr, to drive him to the concerts. Carr called the Charleston auditorium from Knoxville to say that Williams would not arrive on time owing to the ice storm and was ordered to drive Williams to Canton, Ohio, for the New Year's Day concert there.

They arrived at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Carr requested a doctor for Williams, as he was feeling the combination of the chloral hydrate and alcohol he had drunk on the way from Montgomery to Knoxville. Dr. P. H. Cardwell injected Williams with two shots of vitamin B12 that also contained a quarter-grain of morphine. Carr and Williams checked out of the hotel; the porters had to carry Williams to the car, as he was coughing and hiccuping. At around midnight on Thursday, January 1, 1953, when they crossed the Tennessee state line and arrived in Bristol, Virginia, Carr stopped at a small all-night restaurant and asked Williams if he wanted to eat. Williams said he did not, and those are believed to be his last words. Carr later drove on until he stopped for fuel at a gas station in Oak Hill, West Virginia, where he realized that Williams was dead, and rigor mortis had already set in. The filling station's owner called the chief of the local police. In Williams' Cadillac, the police found some empty beer cans and unfinished handwritten lyrics.

Dr. Ivan Malinin performed the autopsy at the Tyree Funeral House. Malinin found hemorrhages in the heart and neck and pronounced the cause of death as "insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart". That evening, when the announcer at Canton announced Williams' death to the gathered crowd, they started laughing, thinking that it was just another excuse. After Hawkshaw Hawkins and other performers started singing "I Saw the Light" as a tribute to Williams, the crowd, now realizing that he was indeed dead, sang along. Malinin also wrote that Williams had been severely beaten and kicked in the groin recently. Also, local magistrate Virgil F. Lyons ordered an inquest into Williams' death concerning the welt that was visible on his head.

His body was transported to Montgomery, Alabama on Friday, January 2, and placed in a silver coffin that was first shown at his mother's boarding house for two days. His funeral took place on Sunday, January 4, at the Montgomery Auditorium, with his coffin placed on the flower-covered stage. An estimated 15,000 to 25,000 people passed by the silver coffin, and the auditorium was filled with 2,750 mourners. His funeral was said to have been far larger than any ever held for any other citizen of Alabama and the largest event ever held in Montgomery. Williams' remains are interred at the Oakwood Annex in Montgomery. The president of MGM told Billboard magazine that the company got only about five requests for pictures of Williams during the weeks before his death, but over three hundred afterwards. The local record shops reportedly sold all their Williams records, and customers were asking for all records ever released by Williams.

His final single, released in November 1952 while he was still alive, was titled "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive". "Your Cheatin' Heart" was written and recorded in September 1952 but released in late January 1953 after Williams' death. The song, backed by "Kaw-Liga", was number one on the country charts for six weeks. It provided the title for the 1964 biographical film of the same name, which starred George Hamilton. "Take These Chains From My Heart" was released in April 1953 and went to number 1 on the country charts. "I Won't Be Home No More", released in July, went to number 3, and an overdubbed demo, "Weary Blues From Waitin'", written with Ray Price, went to number 7.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2020, 07:48:17 PM by Administrator »


  • Administrator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 165
    • View Profile
Re: Hiram "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953)
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2020, 07:39:49 PM »
Last Ride down the Lost Highway
by Robert A. Waters

Now that Dr. Conrad Murray has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson, it’s time to revisit a similar case from nearly 60 years ago. The “Hillbilly Shakespeare,” as the media sometimes called Hank Williams, lit up those old tube radios like no one before or since. He also lit up his body with alcohol, cocaine, morphine, chloral hydrate, and heroin. Hank died at the age of twenty-nine, just a few days after Christmas in 1952. Unfortunately, the bogus doctor who fed him the drugs that may have killed him was never prosecuted.

Hank Williams was one of the most influential American musicians who ever lived. He inspired country, folk, and rock artists for generations. Born dirt-poor in Alabama, Hank grew up hawking peanuts and shining shoes on the streets of Montgomery. It was during the Great Depression and everyone, young and old, worked to support the family. In fact, the first song he wrote was called “WPA Blues.”

By the time Hank was thirteen, he’d learned to drink whiskey and play the Silvertone guitar his mother had bought him. He joined a medicine show for a while. Then, still in his teens, he landed a radio gig at WSFA in Montgomery, quickly becoming the most popular act in the city.

Hank married Audrey Sheppard Guy, and formed a band called the Drifting Cowboys. The group toured the South, playing mostly in honky-tonks where tips were few and bloody fights numerous.

In 1947, Hank and Audrey drove to Nashville where he auditioned with a recovering alcoholic named Fred Rose, co-owner of Acuff-Rose Publishing Company. It was a smart move. Not only did Rose polish many of Hank’s songs before he published them, he tried to help the rising star kick his growing dependency on booze and drugs.

Within a few months, Hank had signed a deal with Sterling Records. He and his band recorded several songs and had his first hit on the “hillbilly” charts with “Move It on Over.” After switching to MGM Records, the mega-hits soon flooded the airways. Hank’s songs weren’t stylish or trendy or politically correct: many were sad word-sculptures cut from the stone of memory; others were humorous yet touching stories about relationships gone awry; still others, like the classic “I Saw the Light,” leaned on his fundamentalist religious upbringing.

As Hank’s popularity grew, his personal life sank into an abyss of relentless suffering. He’d been born with an undiagnosed disease called spina bifida occulta which kept him in constant and excruciating pain. In addition to his back ailment, there was no peace in his home. Audrey and his mother Lily hated each other. Both were aggressive, calculating, and determined. (This wasn’t all bad. Lily had encouraged Hank to study music and bought him his first guitar. Audrey had brow-beat a reluctant Hank into auditioning for Fred Rose which resulted in his profitable song-writing contract.) Still, for country music's first super-star, life was miserable.

Hank and Audrey eventually divorced. Near the end of his life he married a raven-haired Louisiana beauty named Billie Jean Jones.

In the last year of Hank’s life, a con-man and thief became Hank's personal doctor. Toby Marshall, a convicted robber and forger who’d bought his medical diplomas from a traveling salesman, promised to help Hank get off drugs and alcohol. One of Hank’s band members, Tommy Hill, described the daily routine as they toured the country playing one-nighters: “Me and a bunch of the pickers talked about how [Hank’s manager] Clyde Perdue and Toby Marshall were just in it for what they could get out of Hank cause he was making pretty fair money. But Hank never saw any of it. You see, if Hank took one shot of whiskey, he was drunk, so they’d get a six-pack and allot him so many beers after he woke up until the time of the show and that kept Hank happy. Then the doctor would give him a shot so he’d lose all his beer, throw it all up, then they’d put black coffee down him, let him do the show, then give him a six-pack and put him to bed. Same thing every day. I said, ‘They’re killing him.’ The booker and the doctor.”

One of Marshall’s favorite “treatments” for addiction was a sedative called chloral hydrate. The drug is known to be lethal, especially when mixed with alcohol.

In the last week of 1952, the South was iced in. But the bookers had lined up a show in Canton, Ohio for New Years day and were determined that Hank would make it. On December 30, he climbed into the back seat of his 1952 Cadillac as Charles Carr, a hired driver, began the long trip from Alabama to Ohio.

Carr and Hank stopped to spend the night in Knoxville, but the singer was ill. Dr. Paul H. Cardwell arrived at the hotel and administered two shots of morphine mixed with Vitamin B-12. Toby Marshall, in Canton awaiting the arrival of Hank, spoke with Carr on the phone and ordered him to leave immediately for Canton, regardless of Hank’s condition or the weather. It was the middle of the night and the roads were iced up. Inside, the car was freezing. Investigators later estimated that the temperature in the back seat may have dropped to zero.

Hank died somewhere between Knoxville and Oak Hill, West Virginia. When Carr stopped for gas, he found country music's greatest star lying face-up on the back seat.

Even though a local physician ruled the death a heart attack, many who knew Hank speculated that he died from a combination of drugs, alcohol, and hypothermia. An autopsy revealed alcohol in his system, but the doctor didn’t test his body for drugs.

Hank’s songs had affected millions of fans and there was an outpouring of grief throughout the country. While Lily, Audrey, and Billie Jean fought over his money, he was buried in his hometown of Montgomery.

Three months later, Toby Marshall's house of lies came tumbling down. In March, 1953, Fay, his estranged wife, died in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The death was suspicious since she appeared to be in good health. Cops began an investigation and found that Marshall had written Fay a prescription for cafergot, a medicine designed to relieve migraine headaches. During the probe into Fay Marshall's death, local police discovered that Hank Williams had also been Marshall's patient.

Since Marshall lived in Oklahoma City, state officals there began an investigation into the doctor's background. Detectives learned that he'd prescribed chloral hydrate, a powerful sedative and heart depressant, to Hank nine days before his death. The prescription he wrote was for 24 grains of chloral hydrate (24 capsules) and was dated December 12, 1952. When the bottle was found, it was nearly empty. The likelihood is that Hank had taken the drugs right up to the time of his death. Marshall, who had already served time in Oklahoma for forgery and was currently on parole, was forced to admit to investigators that he'd obtained his medical degrees fraudulently. He also admitted that he'd previously been convicted of robbery in California and had served two years in San Quentin.

Oklahoma authorities toyed with charging Marshall in Hank’s death but couldn’t prove that the singer had taken drugs while in the state. One investigator said “if Marshall furnished Williams with this chloral hydrate [in Oklahoma] and the chloral hydrate was a contributing factor in his death, then we could file a case of manslaughter against Marshall.” In the end, the fake doctor had his parole revoked and served the remainder of his sentence in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary before being released.

Authorities in New Mexico also wanted to make a case against Marshall. Fay's body, which had not been autopsied, was exhumed and examined. However, there wasn't enough evidence to try the con-man so the case was dropped.

In 1954, Marshall was arrested in Oklahoma City for vagrancy, possession of barbiturates, and attempting to pass a bogus check. He’d registered at a motel as a doctor.

Three years later, the bogus physician was convicted in Denver of dispensing habit-forming drugs without a prescription. He served six months for that offense.

Because of the uncertainty about where Hank died and the fact that the West Virginia coroner ruled his death a heart attack, charges against Toby Marshall were never filed.

In today’s world, an investigation into the singer's death would have been more aggressive and Marshall likely would have been prosecuted.