Category Archives: hank williams

Three chords and the truth

Been reading the excellent Hank Williams biography Lovesick Blues, by Paul Hemphill (who just passed away last July).  Some choice anecdotes:

Hank’s manager and backup band both thought “Lovesick Blues” was about the worst country they’d ever heard.  They tried to keep him from recording it, telling him it would kill his career.  He was given 10 minutes to record it in the studio and he got it down in only 2 takes.  It went on to be #1 on the charts for 4 months and is possibly the greatest country song ever.


He used to tell his guitar players to keep it very very simple.  “A lot of pickers has educated themselves clean out of a job,” he would say.


Harlan Howard on Hank’s music: three chords and truth.



Hank at his best:  “You got to have smelled a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.”

Hank at his worst:  One night when he stumbled onstage in Lafayette, Louisiana, too drunk to perform, he waited until the catcalls subsided before speaking into the microphone: “I bet y’all drove a long way to see ol’ Hank, didn’t you?”  It was true and the crowd cheered.  “Well, now you’ve seen him,” he said, laying his guitar on the floor, turning on his heels and stalking off.


Hank had back surgery in 1951.  The surgeons reluctantly let him go home for Christmas.  He was ordered to strict bed rest, but when his witchy wife Audrey came home from one of her many trysts, he rose from bed to throw a chair at her, re-injuring his back and having to go back to the hospital for more surgery.


Paul Hemphill’s father was a huge Hank fan and the inspiration for the book.  He was kicked out of an old folks’ home for playing Hank endlessly on the grand piano, frightening the bluehair widows.

Once he came and saw a new car his son had bought.  A Chrysler man, he wasn’t impressed by the Chevy Blazer.

“Probably got a bad transmission,” he said.

“Yeah, but it’s got a real good radio,” I told him.

“Will it pick up country music?”

“Of course it will.”

“Must be a hell of a radio, then,” he said.  “Ain’t been no country music since Hank died.”