What’s Really Behind The Wal-Mart Hank Williams Yodeling Boy

Yeah, you’ve probably seen the video already, and probably a few times after it popped up in one or many of your social media feeds. Or maybe you saw it from the media frenzy which has subsequently ensued as editors scramble to see if they can soak up some of the attention gravitating toward the video for themselves. It’s cute. It’s kind of funny. It’s a kid named Mason Ramsey in a bow tie singing “Lovesick Blues” by Hank Williams in a Wal-Mart, and it is the latest viral sensation, yet this time with a particularly pertinent country music tie-in.

Truth is these viral videos go crazy on Facebook all of the time, or at least they used to, often of young precocious kids singing cover songs. Frankly, it’s very rarely a marker for remarkable talent, except for the kid’s ability to sing certain songs. In music, it’s exceptional even for world-renown prodigy musicians to be able to make the transition to a full time career in the business. It’s even more exceptional for a viral star to do so.

Traditional roots performer EmiSunshine’s career started with a viral video, and she now has over 500,000 likes on Facebook. But she’s not headlining festivals or selling tens of thousands of records. She can’t even secure a label deal, because even though it’s the potential these kids show in videos that stokes the imagination of what they could develop into, music is a realm of originality. And either you have it, or you don’t.

Maybe as Mason Ramsey ages he will develop into the next Hank Williams. Who’s to say? But there is something very telling about the specific nature of this particular viral event. Yes, part of the appeal is due to the fact that the kid is really great at singing Hank Williams songs, and take nothing away from that. Part of it is the whole Wal-Mart component, which sort of stokes the imagination of being able to find a viral talent anywhere, and gives the story (and the video) something we can all relate to as young Mason Ramsey is backdropped by the same store fixtures and signage all Americans are familiar with in Wal-Marts from sea to shining sea.

But the ultimate lesson from the Wal-Mart yodeling boy is that America truly is starving for traditional country music, and something as simple as a 0:45-second snippet of some kid standing in the aisle of a store near the spill station taken on a cell phone can stoke that underserved appeal so profusely, it results in a viral sensation the likes we haven’t seen on social media in years.

There are millions of music fans in America and beyond who feel a special bond to the songs of Hank Williams, and the legacy of traditional country music. They remember their fathers or grandfathers listening when they were growing up. The hear the “country” music of today, and feel a sense of disdain, and nostalgia for what country music once was. And they may not even self-identify as country music fans, and only know the songs in passing. But they hear a kid singing an old Hank Williams tune, and it awakens something in them that a modern country song never could.

And so they watch, and then they watch again, and they like and favorite and comment and share with their friends because they’ve found something that speaks so deeply to them, they want to tell the world. Hearing a kid sing a Hank Williams song, it means there’s hope for the future of country music, and for the country in general, because hearing Hank’s songs reminds people of a simpler time.

There are millions of fans of traditional country music out there in the populous—a silent majority if you will. That’s the reason a site like Saving Country Music is able to exist. That’s the reason a 0:45 second video can go mega viral. And that’s also why you should never believe them when they say nobody cares about grandpa’s music, or that traditional country is past its time. The truth is people care profoundly. They just need a rallying point, and a reminder.

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The full Mason Ramsey rendition of “Lovesick Blues” by Hank Williams: