Hank Williams

Induction Year: 1970

Birth Name: Hiram King Williams

Birth Date: 09-17-1923

Place of Birth: Mount Olive, Alabama

Death Date: 01-01-1953

Place of Death: Oak Hill, West Virginia

The man many people view as country music's greatest and most important performer was born Hiram Williams in Mount Olive, Alabama. Hank Williams died at age 29, after only five years in the country music spotlight, but during those five years he created many lifetimes' worth of timeless songs, including now-standards "I Saw the Light," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," "Mind Your Own Business," "You Win Again" and "Cold, Cold Heart." In his short life, Williams was famously reckless, self-destructive and haunted, but he was also restlessly creative, and he changed country music songwriting by employing poetic language in service of honky-tonk truths.

"The silence of a falling star lights up a purple sky," he wrote. "And as I wonder where you are, I'm so lonesome I could cry."

Williams began playing guitar as a child. He was influenced by country forerunners Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb, and also by an Alabama bluesman named Rufus "Tee Tot" Payne, who taught him guitar. Williams dropped out of high school in order to play music on small stages and on Alabama radio stations. In 1946, he met Nashville songwriter and music publisher Fred Rose, who became a key mentor, shepherding Williams to a recording career and helping him fine-tune his songs. After a short-lived recording deal with Sterling Records, Williams signed with MGM Records in 1948 and scored a national hit with "Move It on Over." He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1949 and quickly became a major figure in country music. In 1949 alone, he released eight country hits, and he entered the 1950s as a major force in music.

In 1951, Williams' music crossed into the pop world, as Tony Bennett's version of "Cold, Cold Heart" was a #1 pop hit. And he continued to release numerous country smashes. He also became increasingly hooked on painkillers and alcohol, and in 1952 he was fired from the Grand Ole Opry because of his erratic and addicted behavior.

Williams died in the early morning hours of January 1, 1953, in the back seat of a car that was taking him towards a scheduled concert in Canton, Ohio. His music and his talent endured after his death, through countless cover versions of his songs and through a musical bloodline that extends from Williams through son Hank Williams Jr., daughter Jett Williams and grandchildren Shelton Hank Williams (known onstage as Hank Williams III) and Holly Williams.
 

"A Mansion on the Hill"

(written with Fred Rose)

Hank Williams1948 #12 country
Kitty Wells1957 
Ray Price1957 
June Webb1958 #29 country
Margaret Whiting1958 
George Jones1962 
Ernest Tubb1968 
Roy Orbison1970 
Michael Martin Murphey1976 #36 country
Ray Price1977 #14 country
Charley Pride1980 
 

"Baby, We're Really in Love"

Hank Williams1951 #4 country
Don Gibson1962 

"Cold, Cold Heart"

Hank Williams1951 #1 country, #27 pop
Tony Bennett1951 #1 pop
The Fontane Sisters1951 #16 pop
Eileen Wilson1951 #19 pop
Tony Fontane1951 #28 pop
Kitty Wells1961 
Jerry Lee Lewis1961 #22 country
Dinah Washington1962 #96 pop
Aretha Franklin1964 
Nat King Cole1964 
Brook Benton1966 
Johnny Cash1970 
Jerry Lee Lewis1979 #84 country
Lucinda Williams2001 
Norah Jones2002 
Patty Loveless2008 

"Hey, Good Lookin'"

Hank Williams1951 #1 country, #29 pop
Jo Stafford & Frankie Lane1951 #9 pop
Gene Vincent1958 
Mose Allison1961 
Ray Charles1962 
Roger Miller1967 
Dave Edmunds1977 
The Replacements1984 
Buckwheat Zydeco1990 
The Mavericks1992 #74 country
Jimmy Buffett2004 #8 country
 

"Honky Tonk Blues"

Hank Williams1952 #2 country
Charlie Walker1965 
Hank Williams Jr. & Hank Williams1965 
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band1972 
The Flatlanders1972 
Charley Pride1980 #1 country
Richard Thompson1982 
Huey Lewis & the News1983 
Pirates of the Mississippi1990 #26 country
 

"Honky Tonkin"

Hank Williams1948 #14 country
George Jones1960 
Jim Ed Brown1968 
Townes Van Zandt1973 
Joe Ely1978 
Hank Williams Jr.1982 #1 country
The The1995 
 

"Howlin' at the Moon"

Hank Williams1951 #3 country
George Jones1960 
 

"I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)"

Hank Williams1951 #2 country
Ray Price1957 
Gene Vincent1958 
Margaret Whiting1958 #74 pop
Adam Wade1960 #64 pop
Johnny Tillotson1962 #24 pop
Patsy Cline1962 
Skeeter Davis1965 
Esther Phillips1966 
Linda Ronstadt1975 #2 country
 

"I Just Don't Like This Kind of Livin' "

Hank Williams1950 #5 country
 

"I Saw the Light"

Roy Acuff1948 
Hank Williams1948 
Ernest Tubb1963 
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Roy Acuff1971 #56 country
Earl Scruggs1972 
Connie Smith1975 
Etta James1983 
Leon Russell1984 
Aaron Neville2003 
 

"I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive"

(written with Fred Rose)

Hank Williams1952 #1 country
Asleep at the Wheel1973 
Roy Clark & Joe Pass1995 
The Little Willies2006 

"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"

Hank Williams1949 
Johnny Cash1960 
Dean Martin1963 
B. J. Thomas1966 #8 pop
Linda Plowman1971 #75 country
Charlie McCoy1972 #23 country
Elvis Presley1973 
Leon Russell (as "Hank Wilson")1973 #78 pop
Al Green1973 
Terry Bradshaw1976 #17 country, #91 pop
Jerry Lee Lewis1982 #43 country
Jason & the Scorchers1982 
The Cowboy Junkies1988 
Jimmie Dale Gilmore1993 
Cassandra Wilson1996 
Keb' Mo'2001 
Wynonna2009 
 

"I'm a Long Gone Daddy"

Hank Williams1948 #6 country
Ernest Tubb1959 
George Jones1987 

"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)"

Hank Williams1952 #1 country, #20 pop
Moon Mullican1952 
Jo Stafford1952 #3 pop
Jerry Lee Lewis1958 
Paul Anka1958 
Teresa Brewer1961 
Fats Domino1962 #30 pop
Hoyt Axton1971 
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band1972 #84 pop
John Fogerty (as the "Blue Ridge Rangers")  
The Carpenters1973 
Emmylou Harris1975 
Saskia & Serge1978 #88 country
Lucinda Williams1979 
 

"Kaw-Liga"

(written with Fred Rose)

Hank Williams1953 #1 country, #23 pop
Dolores Gray1953 #23 pop
Hawkshaw Hawkins1953 
Marty Robbins1958 
Charley Pride1969 #3 country
Loretta Lynn1969 
Doc & Merle Watson1974 
Hank Williams Jr.1980 #12 country
 

"Long Gone Lonesome Blues"

Hank Williams1950 #1 country
Marty Robbins1956 
Hank Williams Jr.1964 #5 country, #67 pop
Hank Locklin1964 
Dennis Robbins1987 #63 country
Sheryl Crow2001 
 

"Mind Your Own Business"

Hank Williams1949 #5 country
Jimmy Dean1964 #35 country
Ernest Tubb1968 
Moe Bandy1976 
Hank Williams Jr.1986 #1 country
 

"Moanin' the Blues"

Hank Williams1950 #1 country
Marty Robbins1957 
Marvin Rainwater1958 
Mel Tillis1975 
Merle Haggard1977 
Vicki Bird1989 #87 country
 

"Move It On Over"

Hank Williams1947 #4 country
Maddox Brothers & Rose1948 
Ray Charles1964 
Don Gibson1971 
Buddy Alan1973 #60 country
George Thorogood & the Destroyers1978 
Travis Tritt with George Thorogood1999 #66 country
 

"Ramblin' Man"

Hank Williams1951 
Steve Young1975 
Cat Power2008 
 

"Weary Blues From Waitin'"

Ray Price1951 
Hank Williams1953 #7 country
Tony Bennett1958 
Wanda Jackson1964 
Steve Goodman1977 
Madeleine Peyroux2004 
 

"Why Don't You Love Me"

Hank Williams1950 #1 country
Don Gibson1960 
Jerry Lee Lewis1969 
Connie Smith1975 #15 country
Elvis Costello1981 
Red Hot Chili Peppers1984 
 

"You Win Again"

Hank Williams1952 #10 country
Tommy Edwards1952 #13 pop
Jerry Lee Lewis1958 #4 country, #95 pop
Paul Anka1958 
George Hamilton IV1958 
Jean Shepard1958 
Fats Domino1962 #22 pop
Ray Charles1962 
Les Paul & Mary Ford1962 
Hank Williams Jr.1964 
The Grateful Dead1972 
Charley Pride1980 #1 country
Jeris Ross1980 #75 country
Moe Bandy1983 
Keith Richards2001 
Martina McBride2005 
 

"You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)"

Hank Williams1949 #4 country
Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys1966 
Tom Petty2001 

"Your Cheating Heart"

Hank Williams1953 #1 country, #25 pop
Joni James1953 #2 pop
Frankie Laine1953 #18 pop
Faron Young1957 
Margaret Whiting1958 
George Hamilton IV1958 #72 pop
Connie Francis1959 
Nat King Cole1962 
Patsy Cline1962 
Ray Charles1963 #23 R&B, #29 pop
Elvis Presley1965 
Count Basie & His Orchestra1965 
Leon Redbone1981 
Ted Hawkins1986 
Mandy Barnett1995 
Beck2001 
Van Morrison2006 

Hank Williams

Induction Year: 1970