Monday, June 11, 2007

Hank Williams & Radio

If you do not yet own any Hank williams CDs I recomend one of the collections on Lost Highway records. Click here.

In 1937 a 14-year old Hank Williams, (legally still named Hiram) began playing shows on WSFA-AM in Montgomery as "the Singing kid." He'd won a talent show at the Empire theatre and a few others, and after spending the prize money on booze, he bought a new Gibson. His unpayed gigs on WSFA grew into a twice weekly gig with a house band. - star of hsi own show and not yet allowed to drive. He'd not written any songs either. He was still mostly covering Roy Acuff.

He used his show to promote his concerts, and tours. It was on one of those tours that he met Pappy Neal McCormick who had a show on WCOA-AM in Pensacola. Pappy was a band leader for a Hawaiian-syled band showcasing steel guitar. A huge influence on the later song writing of little Hank.

The WSFA gig grew into a daily gig Monday through Friday. hank formed hsi own band, the Drifting Cowboys and dropped the WSFA house band. But by 1942 he got fired for habitual drunkeness. Yes he was barely 19. Hank stayed drunk, but recorded a "Hank Williams Show" to shop around. Nobody bit. He was a known drunk and he took a gig ship building in WWII.

He took a job backing Pee Wee King the polka star and slowly returned to music. By 1945 he was back on WSFA daily, brodcasting from the Jefferson davis Hotel. He was punctual and soder enough at the time that when he asked for an exclusive deal ( no other country bands) he got it. He even realeased a song book of his lyrics. But the sobriety didn't last. Soon they were airing canned shows when Hank was too liquored to to show.

By the end of the decade hank was trying to move onto the Opry at WSM, it didn't happen for years yet, but his later in troduction to Fred Rose was a step, and Rose shopped hank around Nashville, even to WLAC-AM for a regular gigdown the street from that very barn dance. While thsi was going ton WSFA got tired of drunken absenteeism and fired Hank again. About then Hank started a new habit of getting arrested.. for public drunkeness.

In 1948 he scored a new gig at KWKH-AM in Shreveport. They ran a saturdaynight barn-dance type program just like the opry, the Louisiana hayride. they made him promise to stay sober for 6 whole months before they let him at a mic. the program ran 15 minutes every weekday morning just him and solo guitar. Johnny Fair Syrup was the sponsor. (They later sponsored Red Sovine)
The gig did well by hank, bigger gis came as did some hit singles. But Fred Rose still had to bribe two Opry managers to finally get him a gues spot in 1949. His guest appearance was so huge, the crowd so insanely responsive he ended up doing 6 encores. It was the beginning of his superstardom. When The opry relocated, the bosses at WSM-AM actually had a six-foot circle cut out of the stage where Mr. Williams stood, and took it with them.
WSFA became WHHY, and in 1999 dropped their longtime simulcast with WHHY-FM to go right wing talk as WLWI-AM.