When Hank Williams died on New Year's Day 1953 at the age of twenty-nine, his passing appeared to bring an abrupt end to a saga of rags-to-riches success and anguished self-destruction. As it turned out, however, an equally gripping story was only just beginning, as Williams's meteoric rise to stardom, extraordinary musical achievements, turbulent personal life, and mysterious death all combined to make him an endlessly intriguing historical figure. For more than sixty years, an ever-lengthening parade of ...
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The Hank Williams Reader

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When Hank Williams died on New Year's Day 1953 at the age of twenty-nine, his passing appeared to bring an abrupt end to a saga of rags-to-riches success and anguished self-destruction. As it turned out, however, an equally gripping story was only just beginning, as Williams's meteoric rise to stardom, extraordinary musical achievements, turbulent personal life, and mysterious death all combined to make him an endlessly intriguing historical figure. For more than sixty years, an ever-lengthening parade of journalists, family and friends, musical contemporaries, biographers, historians and scholars, ordinary fans, and novelists have attempted to capture in words the man, the artist, and the legend. The Hank Williams Reader, the first book of its kind devoted to this giant of American music, collects more than sixty of the most compelling, insightful, and historically significant of these writings. Among them are many pieces that have never been reprinted or that are published here for the first time. The selections cover a broad assortment of themes and perspectives, ranging from heartfelt reminiscences by Williams's relatives and shocking tabloid exposes to thoughtful meditations by fellow artists and penetrating essays by prominent scholars and critics. Over time, writers have sought to explain Williams in a variety of ways, and in tracing these shifting interpretations, this anthology chronicles his cultural transfiguration from star-crossed hillbilly singer-songwriter to enduring American icon. The Hank Williams Reader also features a lengthy interpretive introduction and the most extensive bibliography of Williams-related writings ever published.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199349890
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/31/2014
  • Series: Readers on American Musicians
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Patrick Huber is a professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He is the author of three other books, including Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the Piedmont South (2008), which won the International Country Music Conference's 2009 Belmont Book Award and the American Folklore Society's 2010 Wayland D. Hand Prize.

Steve Goodson is Professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of West Georgia. He is the author of Highbrows, Hillbillies, and Hellfire: Public Entertainment in Atlanta, 1880-1920 (2002), which won the Georgia Historical Society's Malcolm Bell, Jr., and Muriel Barrow Bell Award.

David M. Anderson is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. He is the co-author of "The Making of Dale Hawkins" in Shreveport Sounds in Black and White (2008).

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Table of Contents

A Note about Editorial Policies

PART I. "King of the Hillbillies": Chronicling Hank Williams During His Lifetime (1946-1953)
1. "Hank Williams Rides on Down Trail of National Popularity on Air Records" William E. Cleghorn
2. "Pulpit Echoes" Rev. A. S. Turnipseed
3. "'Cause Hank Is Moving In, Move It Over, Big Time" Allen Rankin
4. "Got 'Lovesick Blues'? No Sir, Not Hank Williams" Gene L. Roe
5. "Gold in Them Hillbillies" Unidentified newspaper
6. "Golden Oatunes: H. Williams Clefs 22 Hillbilly Toppers" Billboard
7. "Hank Has a Method: Williams Tells How and Why His Disks Click" Billboard
8. "Country Music Goes to Town" Rufus Jarman
9. Excerpts from Divorce Complaint and Defendant's Answer and Cross-Bill in Audrey Mae Williams vs. Hank Williams, Et Al. Audrey and Hank Williams
10. "Hank Williams Hillbilly Show Is Different" Edith Lindeman
11. "Famous Song Composer is Arrested Here" Shreveport Times

PART II. "Hank, It Will Never Be the Same without You": Mourning the Death of Hank Williams (January-February, 1953)
12. "Mystery Shrouds Death of Singer Hank Williams" Knoxville Journal
13. "Hank Williams Had Premonition of Death" H. B. Teeter
14. "Hank's Funeral is Far Largest in All Montgomery's History" Joe Azbell
15. Selected Newspaper Editorials Various newspapers
16. "So Long, Hank. Hear You Later" Allen Rankin
17. Selected Letters to the Editor Various newspapers
18. "Frank Walker's Letter to Hank Williams" Cash Box

PART III. "Hank Williams Won't Die": The Legend Emerges (1953-1964)
19. "Hank's First Wife Tells Up and Downs of Marriage" Audrey Williams, as told to the Montgomery Advertiser
20. Excerpt from Our Hank Williams, "The Drifting Cowboy," as Told by His Mother to Allen Rankin Mrs. W. W. Stone, with Allen Rankin
21. "Was Singer a Suicide?" Oklahoma City Times
22. "The Death of Hank Williams" Eli Waldron
23. "The Strange Life and Death of Hank Williams" Sanford Mabrie
24. "The Short Life of Hank Williams" Ed Linn
25. Three "Hank's Corner" Columns Irene Williams Smith
26. Liner Notes to Hank Williams' Greatest Hits Charlie Lamb
27. Excerpt from the Screenplay for Your Cheatin' Heart Stanford Whitmore

PART IV. Bringing the Legend to Life: The Search for the "Real" Hank Williams (1965-1974)
28. Excerpt from Country Music, U.S.A.: A Fifty-Year History Bill. C. Malone
29. "No Direction Signs Exist: Tourists Grope Their Way to Reach Williams' Grave" Joe Azbell
30. "Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and Then God!!" Ralph J. Gleason
31. Excerpt from Sing a Sad Song: The Life of Hank Williams Roger M. Williams
32. "Hank Williams Remembered" David Halberstam
33. "My Treasured Life with a Beloved Brother" Irene Williams Smith
34. Excerpt from Beneath the Applause (A Story about Country & Western Music and Its Stars-Written by a Fan) Harry E. Rockwell
35. Excerpt from The Great American Popular Singers Henry Pleasants

PART V. Scenes from the Lost Highway: Shedding Light on the Dark Side (1975-1984)
36. Excerpt from Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music Greil Marcus
37. "Fear and Loathing at Hank's Funeral" Billie Jean Horton
38. Excerpt from The Outlaws: Revolution in Country Music Michael Bane
39. Excerpt from I Saw the Light: The Gospel Life of Hank Williams Al Bock
40. Excerpt from Living Proof: An Autobiography Hank Williams, Jr., with Michael Bane
41. Excerpt from Minnie Pearl: An Autobiography Minnie Pearl, with Joan Dew
42. Excerpt from Your Cheatin' Heart: A Biography of Hank Williams Chet Flippo
43. Excerpt from The Best of Country Music John Morthland

PART VI. "Gone But Not Forgotten Blues": Entering the American Mainstream (1985-1994)
44. "'Pictures from Life's Other Side': Hank Williams, Country Music, and American Popular Culture" Kent Blaser
45. "'Everybody's Lonesome for Somebody': Age, the Body and Experience in the Music of Hank Williams" Richard Leppert and George Lipsitz
46. Excerpt from Ain't Nothing as Sweet as My Baby: The Story of Hank Williams' Lost Daughter Jett Williams, with Pamela Thomas
47. "The Day Hank Williams Died: Cultural Collisions in Country Music" Nolan Porterfield
48. "Sex, Drugs, and Country Music: A Profile of Hank Williams, America's Darkest Legend" Douglas McPherson
49. Review of Don Cusic, Hank Williams: The Complete Lyrics Lee Smith
50. Excerpt from Hank Williams: The Biography Colin Escott, with George Merritt and William MacEwen

PART VII. Our Hank Williams: Becoming an American Icon (1995-2011)
51. "Sing Me a Song about Ramblin' Man: Visions and Revisions of Hank Williams in Country Music" Christopher Metress
52. "Hank Williams Sr. Is Alive!" Teddy Gerald
53. Excerpt from Laid Bare: A Memoir of Wrecked Lives and the Hollywood Death Trip John Gilmore
54. "Howling at the Moon: The Queer But True Story of My Life as a Hank Williams Song" Craig Womack
55. Two Reviews of The Complete Hank Williams Sarah Vowell and Brian Alcorn
56. Excerpt from Lookin' Back on Hank: Some Things You Never Knew About the Legendary Hank Williams Joe "Penny" Pennington
57. Foreword to Hank Williams: Snapshots from the Lost Highway Rick Bragg
58. "Retracing a Ghostly Night Ride" Peter Cooper
59. Excerpt from The Haunted Hillbilly Derek McCormack
60. "Hank Williams" Mark Jacobson
61. Excerpt from Chronicles, Volume One Bob Dylan
62. "Imagining Tee-Tot: Blues, Race, and the Legend of Hank Williams" John R. George
63. Excerpt from I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive Steve Earle

Selected Bibliography

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