by Amy K. Lavender
A crowd of music and history enthusiasts gathered at the Carrollton Cultural Arts
Center on Friday at the invitation of UWG's College of Arts and Humanities to reminisce
about country music legend Hank Williams, and maybe learn a few things about the music
icon, during the aptly named “The Life and Music of Hank Williams.”
The history department's Dr. Steve Goodson, along with the help of co-editors David Anderson and Patrick Huber, highlighted segments of their recently released book, "The Hank Williams Reader," during the sold-out event, which was co-sponsored by Southwire and UWG’s the School of The Arts.
“Hank Williams’ life ended more than 60 years ago,” Dr. Goodson said, “but people have been listening to and writing about his music ever since.”
And there were several examples on display throughout the course of the evening through excerpts presented during the program. Audience members learned about Hank's childhood in a rural south Alabama town, his limited musical training, as well as his rocket trajectory to stardom.
“Hank Williams’ recording career lasted only six years, and he was a top country star less than four,” Dr. Goodson said. “[But] he was the first country songwriter to consistently compose songs that became hits when covered by pop artists.”
The event also covered his battle with alcoholism, domestic troubles, and his untimely death at age 29 through a selection of the roughly 70 pieces in the reader. However, the constant theme was the undeniable draw and popularity of his music.
According to Hank himself in an excerpt from the reader, fans enjoyed his music because it was authentic. He called it the music of “common folk.” One excerpt read at the event was an article from a 1953 edition of Nation's Business entitled “Country Music Goes to Town.”
“You ask what makes our kind of music successful,” Hank was saying, “I’ll tell you. It can be explained in just one word: sincerity. [… The Hillbilly] sings more sincere than most entertainers because the hillbilly was raised rougher than most entertainers. You got to know a lot about hard work. You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly. The people who has been raised something like the way the hillbilly has knows what he is singing about and appreciates it. For what he is singing is the hopes and prayers and dreams and experiences of what some call the ‘common people.’ I call them the ‘best people,’ because they are the ones that the world is made up most of.”
Local musicians Daniel Williams and the Drifting Po Boys brought some of that sincerity to life for the audience as they performed some of Hank's top hits, such as "Move It On Over," “Your Cheatin' Heart,” and “Mind Your Own Business.”
Copies of “The Hank Williams Reader” are available for purchase on Amazon.com.