Legendary Hank Williams Part Six
Well, I always typed (text, but not recently), that I will continue doing my favorite performers and singers on my website and here’s Legendary Hank Williams Part Six, to show you that I never forget about them.
Williams was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia on Wednesday December 31, 1952. Advance ticket sales totaled US $3,500. That day, because of an ice storm in the Nashville area, Williams could not fly,so he hired a college student, Charles Carr, to drive him to the concerts. Carrcalled the Charleston auditorium from Knoxville to say that Williams would not arrive on time owing to the ice storm and was ordered to drive Williams to Canton,Ohio, for the New Year‘s Day concert there.
They arrived at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Carrrequested a doctor for Williams, as he was feeling the combination of the chloralhydrate and alcohol he had drunk on the way from Montgomery to Knoxville. Dr. P.H.Cardwell injected Williams with two shots of vitamin B12 that also contained aquarter-grain of morphine. Carr and Williams checked out of the hotel; the portershad to carry Williams to the car, as he was coughing and hiccuping. At around midnight on Thursday January 1, 1953, when they crossed the Tennessee state line and arrived in Bristol, Virginia, Carr stopped at a small all-night restaurant and asked Williams if he wanted to eat. Williams said he did not, and those arebelieved to be his last words. Carr later drove on until he stopped for fuel at agas station in Oak Hill, West Virginia, where he realized that Williams was dead.The filling station‘s owner called the chief of the local police. In Williams‘ Cadillac the police found some empty beer cans and unfinished handwritten lyrics.
Dr. Ivan Malinin performed the autopsy at the Tyree Funeral House. Malinin found hemorrhages in the heart and neck and pronounced the cause of death as“insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart“. That evening, when theannouncer at Canton announced Williams‘ death to the gathered crowd, they startedlaughing, thinking that it was just another excuse. After Hawkshaw Hawkins andother performers started singing “I Saw the Light“ as a tribute to Williams, thecrowd, now realizing that he was indeed dead, sang along. Dr. Malinin also wrotethat Williams had been severely beaten and kicked in the groin recently. Alsolocal magistrate Virgil F. Lyons ordered an inquest into Williams‘ deathconcerning the welt that was visible on his head.
His body was transported to Montgomery, Alabama, on Friday January 2 and placed ina silver coffin that was first shown at his mother‘s boarding house for two days.His funeral took place on Sunday January 4 at the Montgomery Auditorium, with hiscoffin placed on the flower-covered stage. An estimated 15,000 to 25,000 peoplepassed by the silver coffin, and the auditorium was filled with 2,750 mourners.His funeral was said to have been far larger than any ever held for any othercitizen of Alabama and the largest event ever held in Montgomery. Williams‘remains are interred at the Oakwood Annex in Montgomery. The president of MGM told Billboard magazine that the company got only about five requests for pictures ofWilliams during the weeks before his death, but over three hundred afterwards. Thelocal record shops sold out of all of their records, and customers were asking forall records ever released by Williams. His final single, released in November 1952 while he was still alive, was titled “I‘ll Never Get Out of This World Alive“.“Your Cheatin‘ Heart“ was written and recorded in September 1952 but released in late January 1953 after Williams‘ death. The song, backed by “Kaw-Liga,“ was number one on the country charts for six weeks. It provided the title for the 1964 biographical film of the same name, which starred George Hamilton. “Take These Chains From My Heart“ was released in April 1953 and went to # 1 on the country charts. “I Won’t Be Home No More,“ released in July, went to # 3, and an overdubbed demo, “Weary Blues From Waitin,‘“ written with Ray Price, went to # 7.
On December 15, 1944, Williams married Audrey Sheppard. It was her second marriage and his first. Their son, Randall Hank Williams, who would achieve fame in his ownright as Hank Williams, Jr., was born on May 26, 1949. The marriage, alway sturbulent, rapidly disintegrated, and Williams developed a serious problem with alcohol, morphine, and other painkillers prescribed for him to ease the severe back pain caused by his spina bifida. The couple divorced on May 29, 1952.
In June 1952, Williams moved in with his mother, even as he released numerous hit songs, such as “Half as Much“ in April, “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)“ in July,“Settin‘ the Woods on Fire“/“You Win Again“ in September, and “I‘ll Never Get Out of This World Alive“ in November. His substance abused problems continued tospiral out of control as he moved to Nashville and officially divorced his wife. Arelationship with a woman named Bobbie Jett during this period resulted in adaughter, Jett Williams, who was born five days after Williams‘ death. His motheradopted Jett, who was made a ward of the state and then adopted by another coupleafter her grandmother died. Jett Williams did not learn that she was HankWilliams‘ daughter until the early 1980s.
On October 18, 1952, Williams and Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar were married inMinden, Louisiana by a justice of the peace. It was the second marriage for both(both being divorced with children). The next day two public ceremonies were alsoheld at the New Orleans Civic Auditorium, where 14,000 seats were sold for each.After Williams‘ death, a judge ruled that the wedding was not legal because JonesEshlimar‘s divorce had not become final until eleven days after she marriedWilliams. Williams‘ first wife, Audrey, and his mother, Lillie Williams, were thedriving forces behind having the marriage declared invalid and pursued the matterfor years. Williams had also married Audrey Sheppard before her divorce was final,on the tenth day of a required 60-day reconciliation period.
Williams was a vocal supporter of Dwight D. Eisenhower. According to singer Jo Stafford, he sent Eisenhower a telegram on his birthday prior to the 1952 presidential election informing him that Williams considered it a personal honor to endorse a military figure to lead the nation in its coming future.