Nashville vs. Austin vs. Bakersfield CA (The Hank Williams Influence)

“After World War II, country music grew into a big business, and exciting new stars such as Lefty Frizzell and Kitty Wells burst forth. But the artist who made the most dramatic impact was the great Hank Williams.”

–Nolan Porterfield, Will The Circle Be Unbroken.

If you have made it to this dark corner of the internet, you have likely seen this banner:

Or maybe you have signed the petition, or maybe you have the banner on your page. A lot of you might know the man and the music, but here’s a short history lesson of why some people find Reinstating Hank so important:

After World War II, what had been known in a lot of circles as ‘Hillbilly Music’ was beginning to be called ‘Country & Western,’ and Country was making its moves from being played in rural VFW halls and on small local radio stations, to the big radio stations and concert halls of big cities.

Three towns were poised to become the epicenter of this new country music movement: Austin, TX–Bakersfield, CA–& Nashville, TN. All three cities had concentrations of musicians, venues & recording studios, and each had a unique sound: Nashville with its more rootsy poetic sound, Austin with its Western Swing influences, and Bakersfield with it’s sound that would later be revitalized by the great Dwight Yoakam.

By most accounts, the reason Nashville won this battle was because of the influence of the Grand Ole Opry, buoyed by Nashville’s 50,000 watt WSM radio station. The Grand Ole Opry had been a big influence on country music for a while, but what really put it over the top, thus fortifying it as a country music institution, was the addition of Hank Williams to the lineup in June of 1949. This is also when Nashville won the battle of the home of country music, setting up Austin, TX as the future home for the outlaw influences of country.

Is there any question that the Opry, and even the city of Nashville itself, owe a lot of their success to Hank Williams?

It takes a hardcore old school country music fan to recognize the names of Opry performers such as Roy Acuff, Earnest Tubb, and Eddy Arnold. But who in America, country music fan or not, cannot recognize the name Hank Williams?

As you all know, Hank Williams was thrown out of the Grand Ole Opry for missing rehearsals and performances. I’ve signed the petition and all that, but I’ve always been conflicted about the whole ‘Reinstate Hank’ movement. I feel like deciding that it is important that he be reinstated into an institution that seems to be so out of touch with its roots and such a puppet for modern pop country gives that institution some sort of unnecessary legitimacy. However, the more I though about it, the more I decided that if the Opry is going to use or even exploit the words, songs, and image of Hank Williams, then he should at the very least be reinstated as a member.

The Grand Ole Opry’s stance seems to be that they have never added (or reinstated) a member posthumously, or necessarily kept members after their deaths.

All I have to say to that is, then its time to fucking start.

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