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September 17th marked the 100th birthday of Hank Williams, and fans marked the occasion all around the country and world in various events, including at Hank’s grave and memorial in Montgomery, Alabama with a ceremonial wreath laying. Though it was slightly belated, the Country Music Hall of Fame marked the Hank Williams Centennial on Thursday, September 21st as part of the week’s AmericanaFest festivities in Nashville.
Many stars turned out to tribute Hank, including Lyle Lovett, Rodney Crowell, Suzy Bogguss, and Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie McCoy. A healthy dose of independent and up-and-coming stars also couldn’t pass up an opportunity to pay Hank tribute, including Brennen Leigh, Wendy Moten who performed a stirring rendition of “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” as well as the 2023 Americana Emerging Artist of the Year S.G. Goodman who started off the show.
Most all of Hank’s living family were also in attendance, including daughter Jett Williams who helped emcee the festivities, along with granddaughters and performers Holly Williams and Hilary Williams, and grandson Sam Williams. All four took opportunities to speak, and helped introduce performers as they came out to sing Hank songs. Daughter of Audrey Williams and stepdaughter to Hank, Lycrecia Williams, was also in attendance.
Just as impressive as the list of performers and attendees was the house band led by Chris Scruggs, who also performed a song of his own. As one of the premier pedal-less steel guitarists of this generation and a true “Keeper of the Sound” of traditional country, perhaps nobody was better equipped to evoke the sounds of Hank for the show. Scruggs was joined in the house band by “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan who plays in Marty Stuart’s backing band The Fabulous Superlatives, as well as Billy Conteras on fiddle and others.
With the Scruggs backing band, the music at times took on haunting similarity to Hank’s original recordings. The one exception was the Sam Williams performance. He recently released a new version of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” coinciding with his grandfather’s 100th, and performed it for the capacity crowd.
The whole event took on the aspect of a birthday party, with Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band leading everyone in a rendition of “Jambalaya” at the end, the event concluding with a singing of “Happy Birthday.” Cupcakes were served to the crowd at the Hall of Fame’s CMA Theater afterward.
Along with great performances of many of Hank’s songs, some great stories were told as well. Charlie McCoy is from Oak Hill, West Virginia where Hank was tragically declared dead on January 1st, 1953. McCoy explained how he was born in the same hospital where Hank ended up at after he passed away. Rodney Crowell told his semi-famous story of his father taking him to see Hank Williams when he was only two years old. It was Hank’s second-to-last official performance.
Hank Williams Jr. has appeared at the CMA Theater on numerous occasions, including recently to be formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. But he is currently on his honeymoon after his 5th marriage. Grandson Hank Williams III was also absent, though half sister Holly said in Montgomery earlier in the week that he is doing well.
Cameras were rolling during the presentation, so hopefully Hank’s 100th at the Hall of Fame makes it to the public in some form or another in the future.
List Of Performances:
“Lost On The River” – S.G. Goodman
“Mind Your Own Business” – Charlie McCoy
“You Win Again” – Laura Cantrell
“A House of Gold” – Hilary Williams
“Lovesick Blues” – Chuck Mead
“I Can’t Help If I’m Still in Love With You” – Suzy Bogguss
“Hey Good Lookin'” – Lyle Lovett
“I’m Sol Lonesome I Could Cry” – Sam Williams
“Cold Cold Heart” – Della Mae
“I Won’t Be Home No More” – Brennen Leigh
“Settin’ The Woods On Fire” – Delbert McClinton
“I Saw The Light” – Holly Williams
“Your Cheatin’ Heart” – Wendy Moten
“Honky Tonk Blues” – Rodney Crowell
“Jambalaya” – Jeff Hanna
All photos by Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos