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Country Music Hall of Fame,
Class of 1961

About the record: B-side of MGM K10932, recorded Dec. 21, 1950, at Castle Studio in downtown Nashville. Released March 16, 1951, under artist name Luke The Drifter.

I’m of the opinion that death was a great career move for Hank Williams. He was a super peformer, for sure, and a top-notch songwriter. But with a personal life in shambles and some rough hillbilly edges that were certain to resist smoothing, it’s not clear he’d have fared well in the coming Nashville Sound and countrypolitan eras.

In that vein, here’s one of a series of performances that were so preachy and un-commercial that he and his mentor Fred Rose developed a separate personna and nom de sermon under which to market them: Luke The Drifter. I suppose you could say ol’ Hank was a charter Hall of Famer despite works like this. But they do point to his ability to paint a picture with his lyrics, and it’s hard to get long-gone-lonesomer than this recitation.

Longtime followers here know that a song can’t be too treacly for me; “Men With Broken Hearts” is proof. After all, as Luke himself says, it’s written that the greatest men never get too big to cry.

Hank Williams’ Hall of Fame profile.

Next up: Roy Acuff

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June 4-6

Why this weekend? Exactly three years after D-Day, MGM Records marked its own d-day – “d” for “debut,” the debut of Hank Williams on the label.

About the record: MGM 10033, recorded on April 21, 1947, at the Castle Studio in downtown Nashville’s Tulane Hotel. Released June 6 of that year, eventually reaching No. 4 on Billboard’s country chart. First LP appearance was on Memorial Album, MGM E-3272, released January 1956.

On his first big hit, Hank Williams plowed some of the same ground that Tennessee Ernie Ford, Bill Monroe, Cowboy Copas and other country artists did in the late 1940s, scoring with a 12-bar blues number that suggested the coming rock ‘n’ roll onslaught. Williams the songwriter devised a memorably clever tale of the wayward husband relegated to the doghouse, and the call-and-response motif was a nice touch.

And what about that band! These aren’t the Drifting Cowboys we know so well and who added so much to the Hank Williams sound. But thanks to Zeke Turner on lead guitar, Smokey Lohman on steel, our friend Tommy Jackson on fiddle and Brownie Reynolds on bass, this song rocks.

My first exposure to “Move It On Over” was MGM’s horrid update from the mid-‘60s, with strings and without the hot lead guitar break. Fortunately, I got hold of the restored original, and it’s now one of my favorite Hank Williams songs. Enjoy, and see you Monday.

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Jan. 26: This No. 3 Billboard country hit form 1972 was the follow-up to Hank Williams Jr.’s smash “Eleven Roses.” It was recorded 38 years ago today, during his days on MGM.

For the next half-dozen years, he’d have moderate success on the label that was also his daddy’s home on record. Not until the late ’70s, on a new label and with a new, rowdy attitude, would Hank Jr. become a consistent hit-maker and an icon of country rebellion, building a career that, honestly, makes him a deserving candidate for enshrinement in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Will he ever get there? The class of 2010 will be announced soon, so we’ll see. But, based on how previous Nashville boat-rockers fared with the selectors, ol’ Bocephus might have to wait awhile. He’s not at the top of my list, but the idea of his plaque hanging there among the greats is in no way hard to swallow. Check out this summary of his career and decide for yourself.

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Jan. 9: This is my favorite Hank Williams number, his first cut to feature the band that would become known as “The Original Drifting Cowboys”: Don Helms on steel, Jerry Rivers on fiddle, Bob McNett on electric guitar and Ernie Newton on bass. Joined on the session by prolific rhythm guitarist Jack Shook, these guys provided ol’ Hank’s tightest backing yet – and with him were entering two years of making one hit after another.

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Williams_CrazyHeart

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Nov. 3: The Country Music Hall of Fame was born 48 years ago today, with the induction of its first three members. One was Jimmie Rodgers, the first big star of commercial country music. The other two are represented here, in a song written by Fred Rose and recorded by his superstar protege, Hank Williams, in 1951.

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To listen, click on player at left

To listen, click on player at left

Oct. 17: The Osborne Brothers’ upside-down harmony first made waves on the country charts with this song, recorded 52 years ago today in Nashville. Its success pushed them into the mainstream, where they straddled the worlds of bluegrass and country music for the next decade and a half.

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Click to listen

Sept. 17: To celebrate what would have been his 86th birthday, here’s Hank Williams as he sounded on the Grand Ole Opry. It’s a glimpse of the “hillbilly Shakespeare” as a performer and a man, before his untimely death made him larger than life.

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