In this piece – Hank, Hank, Hank, and Hank
1. “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” Hank Williams with His Drifting Cowboys. “Jambalaya” evolved out of the world of Louisiana Cajun music. Although earlier versions reportedly exist, the melody is first well defined to my ears on the 1937 release “Alons Kooche Kooche” by the Louisiana Rounders. Steel guitarist Julius Angelle “Papa Cairo” Lamperez is credited with writing “Grand Texas,” which uses the same melody and was recorded by the Cajun group Chuck Guillory and His Rhythm Boys in 1948. Moon Mullican was familiar with Cajun music and had scored a major hit with “Jole Blon’s Sister” in 1947. Moon either wrote “Jambalaya” with the song being purchased by Hank or co-wrote it with Hank and received payment from Fred Rose to avoid publishing complications. The celebration of the Cajun lifestyle stayed at #1 for fourteen weeks in 1952 and crossed over to be a #3 pop hit for Jo Stafford. In the truth is stranger than fiction department, two of the best selling cover versions of the song are releases by the Carpenters and Harry Connick, Jr.
2. “Midnight,” Red Foley. Boudleaux Bryant and Felice Bryant are one of the most important songwriting teams in pop music history. Boudleaux was a classically trained musician who worked in the fields of country music and jazz in the 1940s. After marrying Felix, the couple concentrated on writing country songs and had their first hit with “Country Boy” by Little Jimmy Dickens in 1948. The songwriting pair is probably best known for their association with The Everly Brothers. Boudleaux Bryant and Chet Atkins co-wrote “Midnight,” a slow paced bluesy loneliness number, which sounds nothing like other country songs of this era and is aided by some fine blues licks from session guitar ace Grady Martin. A #1 country single, “Midnight” was supposedly the last song that Hank Williams ever sang, a capella in the passenger seat on his final road trip.
3. “Settin’ the Woods on Fire,” Hank Williams with His Drifting Cowboys. There were three songwriters in the New York Nelson family, who had their best success in Nashville. Father Ed Nelson co-wrote the 1931 Billy Eckstine hit “I Apologize,” which was covered by Aretha Franklin in 1962. His son Ed Nelson, Jr. co-wrote the 1949 Eddy Arnold #1 country hit “I’m Throwing Rice (At the Girl I Love).” His younger son Steve Nelson had the most success with credits on “Bouquet of Roses,” a 1948 #1 hit for Eddy Arnold and the children classics “Peter Cottontail” and “Frosty the Snowman.” It was father Ed who co-wrote “Settin’ the Woods on Fire” with Fred Rose. Nashville guitarist Chet Atkins is believed to have performed on this paint the town red, party song. Regarding Hank’s physical status at that time, Atkins would later say, “he was so weak that all he could do was just sing a few lines, and then just fall in the chair.”
4. “The Wild Side of Life,” Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys. Hank Thompson is a name largely unknown to modern country fans, although he scored over fifty Top 40 country songs from 1948 to 1980. A native of Waco, Texas, Hank served in World War II, then started his musical career. An assist from Tex Ritter landed him a contract with Capitol Records in 1947. He first in 1948 was the #2 novelty number “Humpty Dumpty Heart.” After hitting the charts eight times in 1948 and 1949, he didn’t have another hit until 1952’s smash “The Wild Side of Life,” which spent 15 weeks at #1. Country music historian Paul Klingsbury once noted that the song appealed to people who “thought the world was going to hell and that faithless women deserved a good deal of the blame.” It was a perfect set up for a counterpunch and Kitty Wells delivered the knockout blow.
5. “You Win Again,” Hank Williams. The tumultuous marriage between Hank and Audrey Williams ended in divorce on July 10, 1952. On July 11, 1952, Hank Williams recorded “You Win Again” (the song was originally titled “I Lose Again,” but Fred Rose changed the lyric). Hank’s declaration of defeat/disgust (“You have no heart/You have no shame”) and pain dripping vocal was placed on a b-side that became a Top Ten hit. Jerry Lee Lewis scored an even bigger hit with “You Win Again” in 1957, which was only a mere five years according to the calendar but a completely different pop culture universe had been created by that time.
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