Hank Wil­liams Sr. trib­ute artist car­ries on “Fa­ther of Coun­try Mu­sic” tra­di­tion

Moose Jaw Express.com - - News - by Ron Wal­ter Ron Wal­ter can be reached at ron­joy@sask­tel.net

Yours Truly is no mu­sic critic, hav­ing a tin ear, un­able to dis­tin­guish between the keys on the mu­si­cal scale.

But I know what I like and the Ja­son Petty trib­ute show for the great coun­try singer Hank Wil­liams Sr. was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at the Cul­tural Cen­tre.

Petty has been per­form­ing the Hank Wil­liams songs and nar­ra­tion for 22 years since the Grand Ole Opry picked him to con­tinue the Hank Wil­liams tra­di­tion. His knowl­edge of Wil­liams came from close as­so­ci­a­tion with fam­ily and friends of the pro­lific singer/ song­writer who gave us over 400 songs in his brief ca­reer.

While Wil­liams in­flu­enced other great coun­try singers and turned what was called hill­billy folk mu­sic into the coun­try mu­sic genre, a black man taught the eight-year-old to play the gui­tar, how to per­form and write songs.

He told Wil­liams to sing to his au­di­ence, en­gage them, not to sing at them. And he urged Wil­liams to write songs about what he knew be­cause an au­di­ence can spot a fake song from miles away. A thir­teen-year-old Wil­liams started play­ing in Alabama honky-tonks with his mother as chauf­feur and body guard.

The honky-tonks were rough places. Wire fences some­times pro­tected the bands from fly­ing bot­tles dur­ing fist fights.

The tal­ented Wil­liams took to drink­ing too much, ap­pear­ing late or not at all, some nights.

Once he met the love of his life, she weaned him from the bot­tle and sought a record con­tract in Nash­ville.

Three times she pounded on doors of all the record­ing com­pa­nies. No­body would touch him, be­cause of his rep­u­ta­tion as a drunk. Fi­nally, pro­ducer Fred Rose gave him an au­di­tion.

Not be­liev­ing Wil­liams wrote the cool songs he had, Rose gave him an idea about a man walk­ing on the street and en­coun­ter­ing his lost love. Fif­teen min­utes later Wil­liams had writ­ten the hit song – I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You. He was signed on the spot.

Wil­liams en­ter­tained across North Amer­ica and Europe with countless hits. He was dubbed the “Fa­ther of Coun­try Mu­sic,” as he made the hill­billy folk bal- lad style pop­u­lar.

His wife, a wannabe singer, grew rest­less. To re­spond he wrote the hit, Your Cheatin’ Heart. It wasn’t a hit with her.

A 1952 back op­er­a­tion that went awry ad­dicted him to the painkiller mor­phine. The lovesick singer mixed al­co­hol with mor­phine go­ing into a down­ward tail­spin

His wife left him. In 1953, drugs and al­co­hol took a toll with a fa­tal heart at­tack.

When the trib­ute show was over, Petty min­gled with fans for self­ies.

He re­called how the late Lit­tle Jim­mie Dick­ens told him he was the last of that line of singers and that Petty needed to carry on the tra­di­tion.

A fan asked Petty what he thinks of to­day’s coun­try mu­sic.

“I turned my ra­dio off coun­try mu­sic in the early 2000s,” he replied. “I re­spect Tay­lor Swift and that mu­sic; it makes a lot of money. It’s not my mu­sic.” Hank Wil­liams Sr. fans can lis­ten to dozens of his early ra­dio shows on­line. Just search YouTube for Mother’s Best Flour Shows.

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