by Dr. Steve Goodson

I was born in and grew up near Montgomery, Alabama, which Hank Williams considered his hometown. I was born six-and-a-half years after Hank died, but I became interested in him as a child, in part because of a stack of 78rpm records my dad would sometimes play for my brother and me and in part because of a (not terribly accurate!) movie made about Hank's life in the mid ‘60s. So I am a lifelong fan, but it was only in graduate school at Emory University that I learned that scholars take popular culture seriously. My first book wasmusic-events-community16 on public entertainment in Atlanta between 1880 and 1930.

My next book project was The Hank Williams Reader, which I co-edited with two other historians (Pat Huber and David Anderson) that Oxford University Press published in 2014. The Reader is a collection of the best writing about Hank Williams produced from the time of his career (he recorded from 1946 to 1952, before dying at age 29), until very recent years. We were excited when glowing reviews of our book appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the Times Literary Supplement of London, among other publications.

From the time I arrived at UWG in 1995, I have been interested in forging links between the campus and the local community. I have collaborated with my wife Martha (a librarian) on many public programs over the years. So perhaps it was not surprising that after the book came out I decided – with the encouragement of then-Dean Randy Hendricks – to stage a program about Hank Williams in Carrollton. Generously sponsored by the Southwire Company, the UWG College of Arts and Humanities, and the UWG School of the Arts, this event took place in September at the Cultural Arts Center and was by all accounts a success, with more than 230 people attending. Now we are going to take the program – a mixture of readings from The Hank Williams Reader, live music by Daniel Williams and his Driftin’ PoBoys Band, and vintage recordings and video clips – to Newnan, where it will be held at the Wadsworth Auditorium on February 20. Tickets are $5.00 each, are available at several Newnan venues, and will be sold at the Auditorium box office on the night of the performance as well.

In a sense the Hank Williams programs are serving as a preview to a long-term project we intend to kick off in 2017. With the support of the COAH, the School of the Arts, and other sponsors, we are planning an annual series to be titled “Icons of Southern Music.” Each year we will honor a legendary musical artist with a series of events to be held in Carrollton and Newnan. The first person we have chosen to celebrate is Johnny Cash. Given the South’s rich musical heritage the list of musicians to choose from in subsequent years is virtually unending.

We’re hoping that you will join us in the years ahead as we pay tribute to some of the many musical treasures that the South has offered to the world!


Dr. Steve Goodson is a history professor and chair of the Department of History.
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Posted on January 6, 2016