Tail of the Weak 1.24
Updated: Jan 24, 2020
Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.
Hearin' the sound of a lonesome whipporwill
Breakin' up the still night makin' me feel so lonesome I could cry
Lonesome I might die—so lonesome can't you see—I need you here to comfort me
— “Lonesome” by Uncle Dave Griffin
On a December 31st afternoon in 1952, Hank Williams climbed into the back seat of his powder blue Cadillac and headed out of Montgomery, Alabama, to a New Year's Eve show in Charleston, West Virginia. His driver, Charles Carr, a college student, called ahead from Knoxville, to let them know Hank would not arrive on time due to the severe ice storm that had crippled air and road transportation. Carr was told to head the car on towards Canton, Ohio, where Hank was scheduled to play on New Year's Day.
In Knoxville, the driver requested a doctor for Mr. Williams. After Dr. P. H. Cardwell injected Hank with two shots of Vitamin B12, containing a quarter-grain of morphine, they toted him out to the backseat and headed out again.
Carr drove the car on until Oak Hill, West Virginia, where he stopped to refuel the blue Cadillac at about 5:30 am. Somewhere between Knoxville and Oak Hill, Hank Williams, the King of Country Music, passed away.
On January 4, Hank's funeral was held at the Montgomery Municipal Auditorium, where over 20,000 fans and loved ones passed by his silver coffin to pay their final respects. His body was laid to rest at the Oakwood Annex Cemetery in Montgomery.
My entry into this world followed Hank Williams's exit, exactly nine months to the day. I've probably been listening to him since I was conceived, seeing as how my daddy owned every album he had ever released.
It's the first music I heard growing up as a child; and, it still holds a sacred place in my heart. I can only imagine how much Daddy loves his songs.
Hank Williams, one of the 20th century's most-celebrated singer-songwriters, had 11 number one hits over his career, as well as a slew of others in the Top Ten record charts. His legacy was immense.
In 1960, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 1961, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In 1985, he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1999, he was inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame.
In 2010, he was awarded a posthumous songwriting citation by the Pulitzer Prize Board.
In 2011, his 1949 number one hit, “Lovesick Blues”, was inducted into the Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame.
Hank Williams was an inspiration to many artists of the Fifties and Sixties, including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Ricky Nelson, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Conway Twitty.
It's safe to say that Daddy's love for Hank's music was well-warranted, as was millions of other devotees around the world.
December 15 of 2015, I was invited to play a songwriter Guitar Pull at the Cloverdale Playhouse in Montgomery, Alabama. I shared the stage with fellow Georgians, Kate and Corey of Atlanta, and Heather Luttrell from East Point. As part of our compensation, we each received two passes to the Hank Williams Museum downtown.
The next morning, my wife, Lynne, a Grand Ol' Opry country music-lovin' girl herself, rode with me, as we took in the sights and sounds of Hank Williams's town. We started with lunch at Chris' Hot Dogs, the oldest restaurant in Montgomery, where Hank used to dine.
Moving on, we found Hank's bronze lifelike statue in a downtown park, then visited the museum several blocks away, where we discovered a treasure of memorabilia, including his '52 blue Cadillac, his famous cream colored Nudie suit, covered with blue notes on a musical staff, and his 1947 Gibson acoustic guitar.
From the museum, we eased on up Upper Wetumpka Road and turned into the Oakwood Cemetery Annex. We found the gravesite of Hank Williams, a beautiful marble testament to the man, also known as Luke the Drifter.
I wrote a song, in honor of Hank Williams, along about 10 years ago; and, I was hellbent on singing it that day. I pulled my Martin guitar out of its case, dropped the 6th string down to a D, and started singing.
“Takin' a ride in a long, blue Cadillac...”
A cold December rain began to fall.
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