Sept. 17: He died on January 1, 1953 when he was only 29 years-old. While the official cause of his death was heart failure, many believe it resulted from a mixture of alcohol and drugs, including morphine he took for back pain.
Born Hiram King Williams in Mount Olive, Alabama, Hank is considered one of the greatest country music stars of all time. Though unable to read or write music, Williams had 11 number one hits in his career between 1948 and 1953. His hits including "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey Good Lookin'" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
In 1937, Hiram decided to informally change his name to Hank, a name which he said was better suited for a career in country music. After school and on weekends, Williams sang and played his Silvertone guitar on the sidewalk in front of the WSFA radio studios in Montgomery, Alabama. He quickly caught the attention of WSFA producers, who occasionally invited him to come inside and perform on air.
So many listeners contacted the radio station asking for more of the "Singing Kid" that the producers hired him to host his own 15-minute show twice a week for $15 a week. Williams' successful radio show persuaded him to start his own band, which he dubbed the Drifting Cowboys.
Press links below to view You Tube video performances (These are AMAZING!):
The Drifting Cowboys traveled throughout central and southern Alabama, performing in clubs and at private parties. Hank dropped out of school in October, 1939, so that the Drifting Cowboys could work full time. Hank returned to Montgomery every weekday to host his radio show.
Hank Williams' songs have been recorded by hundreds of other artists, many of whom have also had hits with the tunes, in a range of pop, gospel, blues and rock styles. Williams has been covered by performers including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen , Johnny Cash, Tony Bennett, The Residents, Patsy Cline, Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong.
Hank's son Hank Williams, Jr., daughter Jett Williams, and grandchildren Hank Williams III, Holly Williams, and Hilary Williams are also professional singers.
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him number 74 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Also, Williams ranked number two in CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music in 2003, behind Johnny Cash. His son, Hank Jr., ranked number 20 on the same list.