The Honky Tonk Sound
One of the best known artists of the Honky Tonk sound would have to be Hank Williams, Sr. Hiram Hank Williams was born in Georgiana, Alabama on September 17, 1923. His dad was a railroad engineer and his mother played the organ at the local church. Young Hank grew up learning gospel songs, and at the age of eight received his first guitar, however the guitar didn't come with lessons, so he learned whatever he could from watching others, specifically a black street musician named Rufus "Tee-Tot" Payne play. He also said that Payne had given him "all the music training I ever had."
Hank Williams got his record contract in 1946. From there he started appearing on the Louisiana Hayride, and then later was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. His first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry was on June 11, 1949, when he received several encore requests while singing "Lovesick Blues."
Though his career was way too short, (he died on January 1, 1953) Hank Williams impacted country music with not only his singing, but his songwriting. In 1949 alone, he had the No. 1 song, "Love Sick Blues,"as well as the Top 10 songs "Mind Your Own Business," "You're Gonna Change," "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It," and "Wedding Bells."
The Texas Troubador
Ernest Tubb was born in Crispo, Texas on February 9, 1914. As a young boy he dreamed of being a cowboy movie star. As a teen he got a guitar and by 1932, he married Lois Elaine Cook. The following year he met Carrie Rogers, the widow of Jimmie Rogers. He never did meet Rogers, but he had a huge effect on him, and was the reason he gave up his dreams of being a cowboy star and instead get into music. Carrie and the Tubbs became close friends and she gave Ernest the original Jimmie Rodgers guitar, and helped him get his RCA recording contract. She was even his manager for a short time.
In 1942, Tubb had his first million-seller with "Walking the Floor Over You," which helped him get invited to appear on the Opry. He became a member the following year, and in 1947 opened the first of his now famous record shops and commenced his Midnight Jamboree program over WSM radio.
Ernest Tubb was a tireless tourer. He and his Texas Troubadors toured over 300 dates a year. He passed away on September 6, 1984 from complications from emphysema.
William Orville Frizzell was born on March 31, 1928 in Corsicana, Texas. His father was an oil driller so his family moved from field to field in and around Texas. He had an early love for music, and was part of a children's program when he was a young boy.
In the late 1940s, he decided that music was what he wanted to do, and he worked up some demos and got a Dallas agent, who took them to Nashville to producer, Don Law. Law was impressed and he was signed to a contract with Columbia Records.
His first releases, both which he had written were "I Love You a Thousand Ways" and "If You Got the Money, Honey, I've Got the Time." Both songs made it into the Top 10. In 1951, Lefty had a banner year, mostly with songs he had either written or co-written. That year, two songs reached number one on the country charts: "Always Late"(cowritten with B. Crawford) and "I Want to Be with You Always" (cowritten with J. Beck).
Lefty was an influence for many artists, including Merle Haggard, who remarked, "Hearing Lefty's voice was a turning point in my life. If Lefty had met Colonel Tom Parker back then, there probably would never have been an Elvis." Others who were influenced by Frizzell included Willie Nelson, George Jones, and even Garth Brooks and Randy Travis.
Honky Tonk Music Suggestions:
- 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection
- The Complete Hank Williams (Box)
- Alone With His Guitar
- The Hillbilly Shakespeare