Apr
28

How Braxton Schuffert Helped Discover Hank Williams

April 28, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  18 Comments
Braxton Schuffert (Greenville Advocate /Andy Brown)

Braxton Schuffert (Andy Brown/Greenville Adv.)

The year was 1938, and a delivery truck driver for Hormel Meats named Braxton Schuffert stopped by the boarding house of Lilly Williams in Montgomery, Alabama to make a drop off. After unloading the parcels, Braxton Schuffert noticed a 1/2-sized guitar sitting in the corner, and took a moment to pick out a few songs before continuing on his route. “Hiram, he’s got you beat,” Miss Williams called out to the back room to a 15-year-old boy. What transpired next would help result in that 15-year-old boy becoming country music’s first superstar.

“As I was walking out I heard this voice that was just as strong and clear,” Braxton Schuffert recalls.  “It was a man’s voice in a boy’s body. Hank was only 15 at the time, but he could sure sing. Even then I knew he had a one-of-a-kind voice.”

Braxton Schuffert was a local musician in Montgomery that had his own band and a standing gig at local radio station WSFA where he would play and sing, just him and his guitar every morning from 6:00 – 6:30 AM before his Hormel deliveries. Since school was out at the time, Shuffert asked young Hank if he wanted to come with him the next day on his deliveries. “I told him we’d sing all day. That’s all he needed to hear. He was for anything to do with music.”

Whether you want to go as far as to say Braxton Schuffert “discovered” Hank Williams depends on your perspective, but that Hormel delivery driver was certainly seminal to setting Hank Williams on the path to super stardom, shepherding the young man as a musician and songwriter, making critical contributions to the rise of Hank, and helping Hank as a close friend all the way up to his death in 1953. “I’d like to say I helped him out, but I didn’t give him that voice and I didn’t teach him to write those songs. That’s something you get from God.”

hank-williams-wsfa-braxton-schuffertBut Braxton was vital to helping get those songs and that voiced noticed, opening up Hank’s very first opportunities as a professional musician. After swapping songs and licks in that Hormel delivery truck, Schuffert felt comfortable enough with Hank to put him on his WSFA radio show as a guest. This was Hank’s very first appearance on the public airwaves. Schuffert played guitar for Williams at his first ever official performance at the Georgiana High School, and then his first appearance in an auditorium, the Ritz Theatre in Greenville, Alabama. “That show at the Ritz was the first show Hank ever booked. After that we played in pretty much every theatre in Alabama and Florida.”

One of Hank Williams’ first songs “Rockin’ Chair Daddy” was co-written by Schuffert. As Hank began to get bigger, Braxton helped form Hank’s Drifting Cowboy band, and was a revolving member of the band and was part of Hank’s inner circle throughout the country star’s career.

On January 30th, 1952, when Hank needed a ride to play a New Year’s show in Canton, OH, Braxton Schuffert was the first person he asked. But Braxton couldn’t do it. Because even as Hank Williams rose to the very heights of stardom, Schuffert stayed in Alabama, loyal to Hormel where he worked for over 42 years. Hormel was the sponsor of that WSFA radio show Hank Williams made his first appearance on, and another show on WCOV Schuffert performed on. Hank would never make it to Canton, OH. He died in the back of his powder blue Cadillac in Oak Hill, West Virginia. Braxton Schuffert was one of the principal pall bearers at Hank’s funeral.

Braxton Schuffert was his own accomplished country music singer, and worked to help keep the legacy of Hank Williams alive, performing as lately as last year’s 33rd annual Hank Williams Festival in Georgiana at the age of 96. Schuffert has his own display case at the Hank Williams Museum.

Braxton Schuffert passed away on Friday, April 26th, 2013. He was 97.

“Hank loved the Lord, and I loved Hank. He made country music what it was. This alley-cat music they play these days ain’t country music. Country music is simple. It reaches out and touches your heart, touches your soul. Hank was able to touch people better than anyone I’ve ever seen.” — Braxton Schuffert

18 Comments to “How Braxton Schuffert Helped Discover Hank Williams”

  • The fiddle at the beginning of that song made me think of Why Don’t you Love Me by Hank.

       1 likes

  • Great article. Sadly without writings like this one, the passing of this gentleman, who played such a critical role in the the career of Hank would go largely unnoticed. Thanks.

       8 likes

    • And it doesn’t help that his death was so overshadowed by the passing of George Jones. I didn’t find out about this until today, and so far it is only being covered by local outlets in Alabama.

         0 likes

  • I had never heard this story thanks for sharing it!

       2 likes

  • Cool!

       0 likes

  • Thanks for starting my Monday off with a smile and a bit of a nostalgic happy/sadness missing my wonderful father in law who sang and picked like an angel and dearly loved Hank and I bet he knew about Mr. Schuffert. Shades of that soul wrenching music we always felt with Hank in this song.

       0 likes

  • Thanks for this post.

    Hank was the best ever, period.

    I’m not surprised that he had some help along the way.

    Hank spent his last night on this earth (December 31, 1952, I believe) at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in downtown Knoxville, about 2 blocks from where I work.

    It’s just another edifice to most people, but, to me, it’s hallowed ground.

    I hope to make it to Hank’s grave one day.

       0 likes

  • This was new information to me thanks for the post.

       0 likes

  • I remember hearing somewhere that Lilly Williams boarding house was rumored to be a part time brothel. So yeah, Brax met Hank while delivering meat to a whorehouse…

       0 likes

    • Hi Davey, Could you please have a little respect? Leave your garbage comments in your pea brain of a head. Hank’s mother’s house wasn’t what you have “heard” and Braxton was an honorable man. Thanks, Manager, Hank Williams Museum

         0 likes

      • Beth, take a joke. Its the internet.

        Also, consider looking at history without those rose colored glasses you’re wearing. I took that rumor straight from Hiram’s cousin Lewis Fitzgerald. Here’s the direct quote from Lewis: “Do you know what kinda house Lilly run? [She housed]…Call-girls…Prostitutes…”

        I wasn’t even giving credence to this rumor, just making a cheap joke. Nevertheless, I’m sorry my joke offended you, but I am more sorry that a manager of a Hank Williams Museum doesn’t know about this. At least refute it with evidence, evidence that you should have. Have a nice day. Long live HANK!!!!

           0 likes

        • Davey, I understand it was a joke, and many of the readers of SCM I’m sure saw it as a joke. But you have to understand that certain articles, especially one like this are going to attract certain readers who may not either 1) Be so well-versed on the internet as you or I. 2) My be much older, or much younger, where that type of language is not appropriate. 3) May have a different value system than you.

          So though I appreciate your apology and I think we all need to realize we are all Hank Williams fans here, it’s not really Beth Petty’s obligation to “take a joke.” It is ALL of our obligations to show respect to each other, especially surrounding a somber subject such as this.

             0 likes

          • I completely understand, it was a little disrespectful considering the timing and subject matter. Braxton deserves all the respect in the world! As soon as I heard the news from Keith Neltner, [because of the respect I have for Schuffert] I spent a couple hours reading articles, listened to two long form interviews, and delved into his music (the little I could find) contemplated Don Helms steel being used in a few songs I heard.

            I also agree; she doesn’t have to ‘take the joke.’ Sure, that was a little heavy handed…but really??? What are we doing here? I used the term brothel and whorehouse, things you can say on the radio for Christ’s sake … Though, I have to admit, ‘pea-brained’ is a great diss!!! (gonna add that one to the list)

            Interestingly this hints at a larger problem…
            Yes, I was making a joke and No, I don’t actually think Braxton Schuffert was picking up hookers at the Williams’ house. But, do we really just want to just romanticize these men (Schuffert aside) and honor them as saints while turning a blind eye to their mistakes? Hank, Jones, Cash etc… It was largely the mistakes and aberrations that fueled their creativity and our perception of their persona. Let’s be honest… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FHpCo1bqwc

               0 likes

  • Also, the steel in this song and Rockin Chair Daddy sounds a bit like Don Helms, can anyone confirm?

       0 likes

  • Great article. It’s a shame I’d never heard of this fellow until he passed. Being an Alabamian, I hear lots of tales about hank sr., but it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not. Are there any good books out there on hank sr worth reading?

    RIP Mr. Jones & Mr. Braxton

       0 likes

    • Hi, one of the best stories about Hank and the family man we was is by Lycrecia called “Still In Love With You”. We have them in the museum for $10. 334-262-3600

         1 likes

      • Sounds great, hopefully I can make it up there soon. I passed by it before when I was in town but it was closed. Thanks for the info

           0 likes

  • Braxton Schuffert was my grandfather and he was always a gentleman. He taught me how to play guitar and I sang with him and my grandmother Ola Schuffert as we were growing up. Thanks for keeping the memories alive as he is greatly missed by all.

       2 likes

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