Kids, there's a reason Hiram "Hank' Williams, who would have been 90 years old September 17, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Dead of an overdose of pain killers in the back of his long white Cadillac at 29, Williams was, in his brief interval in Nashville, not only a hit-making country star but a songwriting machine.
L-R: Leon Payne, author of "Lost Highway," Hank Williams, and Jerry Irby in Houston circa 1950
Now don't get me wrong, Hank was no Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, capable of building staggering cloudbursts of carefully sculpted, magnificent poetry. No, old Hank was the working man's bard, the guy who cut straight to the heart of any matter -- and most of those matters were either woman trouble, drinkin' trouble, or a combination of the two unless he decided to wax eloquent about mama goin' to heaven or the perils of gossip. The working class had a voracious appetite for almost anything Hank would commit to wax.
What many don't realize is that much of Williams' financial success came when his songs were cut by others who were sometimes not in the country genre at all. In fact, Williams was known as something of an egotistical braggart around Nashville, occasionally whipping out receipts for his royalty checks to impress other writers or executives.