Original Poster from Last Hank Williams Concert Pulls Record Bid

Hank Williams was booked to play a pair of performances in Canton, Ohio on New Years Day in 1953, but he never made the shows. Instead, he perished in the back of his Cadillac at the age of 29 near Oak Hill, West Virginia while traveling to the gig, later memorialized in country music history as “The Last Ride.” Now an actual poster printed to promote Hank’s final show has sold at auction for $150,000—the highest price ever paid for a concert poster at auction.

The authenticated and restored poster on cardboard was put on the auction block by Heritage Auction Galleries out of Dallas, TX on Saturday, May 1st where it brought the record bid. Consignment director Pete Howard of Heritage says the piece is the “top of Mount Everest” when it comes to concert posters. There are only two others from the concert known in existence, and the one that sold is by far in the best of shape, despite some creases from being folded and other minor blemishes. It was discovered in a barn in Canton decades ago, and has changed hands numerous times over the years. It was also featured in the recent Ken Burns documentary on country music.

The seller of the poster was a collector named Andrew Hawley from San Francisco. He also sold a poster promoting the “Winter Dance Party” that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper we’re supposed to play in Minnesota, but never made it to after perishing in a plane crash in 1959. In 2019, that poster brought $125,000, marking the record at that time. “We’re all just temporary custodians,” Hawley says of the posters.

Hank Williams was supposed to fly to his show in Canton as well, but due to bad weather, he hired freshman college student Charles Carr to drive him to the gig in his powder blue Cadillac. Hank suffered from chronic back problems, and had injected himself with morphine during the trip from Knoxville, TN and also was drinking alcohol. Hank Williams died of heart failure sometime that night with varying accounts of exactly where and when, though a gas station in Oak Hill, WV is given credit as Hank’s final destination.

Hank’s last ride has been memorialized in numerous accounts, including the 2013 film, The Last Ride: A Story of Hank Williams in 2013, and the I Saw The Light movie in 2015. Numerous songs also reference the historical country music moment.

Even though Hank Williams died on his way to the performance, the show went on as a tribute to the “Hillbilly Shakespeare,” with Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Hank’s Drifting Cowboys backing band performing his music.

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