The Garden Spot Programs 1950 by Hank Williams

June 13, 2014

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Hank Williams remains one of the semifinal figures in country and American music over 60 years after his death at the age of 29 in 1953. His voice, style, original material, and personality all combined to make him one of the stars of the post-World War II – pre-rock and roll era. Songs such as “Cold Cold Heart,” “Hey Good Lookin,’” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” have becomes an accepted part of the musical landscape.

Every so often some previously unreleased material surfaces, which brings is to Naughton Nurseries in Waxahachie, Texas.  Part of their advertising was Naughten Farms Garden Spot programs that featured Hank Williams singing five songs in a 15 minute program. Naughton bought time on dozens of radio stations and distributed the show for airplay and hopefully increased sales. No known copies of these shows were thought to exist until the recent discovery of four shows originally aired on KSIB-AM, Creston, Iowa.

Given the age of the original transcription discs, the producers have done an excellent job of re-mastering the sound and bringing it into the modern age. The release is augmented by some rare photos and liner notes by Williams’s biographer Colin Escott.

The Garden Spot Programs consist of 20 songs and four “Garden Spot jingles.”  The shows, #4. #9, #10, and #11 in the series, are presented in order. Given the close proximity of their original release dates, there is some repetition of material.

At the time these shows were presented every week so he would sing a number of songs that were not usually a part of his repertoire.  While “Lovesick Blues” remains one of his classic compositions; songs such as “Oh Susanna,” “Wedding Bells,” “Jesus Remembered Me,” “Mind Your Own Business,” and “At the First Fall of Snow” travel a different road than much of his well-known material.

The programs also present a laid-back Hank Williams. His presentation and patter show a relaxed musician at the height of his popularity.

I don’t know how much more unreleased Hank Williams material is out there but The Garden Spot Programs, 1950 is a fine example of his style and sound outside of the studio. It is a treasure for any fan of Williams or of the history of country music.


Half As Much by Roaemary Clooney

May 29, 2012

Hank Williams had a number two country hit with “Half As Much.” Columbia’s Mitch Miller was watching and he had Rosemary Clooney record a pop version of the song.

It did not top the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Best Sellers In Stores Chart or The Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart but it did spend three weeks at number one on the Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart beginning July 26, 1972.

Clooney was a star during the 1950s but her commercial popularirity waned as the rock ‘n’ roll era pregressed. She continued to perferm on the club curcuit until just before her death in 2002.


Cold Cold Heart by Tony Bennett

April 28, 2012

Tony Bennett had his first number one hit during September, 1951, when his “Because Of You,” topped all three of the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Charts.

It didn’t take him long to have his second number one as his release of “Cold Cold Heart” replaced “Because Of You,” which gave him two in a row.

“Cold Cold Heart” will always be associated with Hank Williams who took it to the top of the Country Charts and it remains one of the signature songs of not only Williams career but of country music as well.

Tony Bennett recorded a straight pop rendition of this country classic. It reached the top of two BILLBOARD Pop Charts.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – November 3, 1951 – 6 weeks at #1.
Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart – December 8, 1951 – 3 weeks at #1.

Bennett’s version sounds very different from Williams and a little dated today. It may not be the memerable version but it was one of the biggest hits of his distinguihed career.


Jambalaya 45 By The Blue Ridge Rangers

February 6, 2012

John Fogerty has reached The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with Creedence Clearwater and has also had a long and successful solo career. At the beginning of his solo career he recorded as the Blue Ridge Rangers, which had him playing all the instruments.

He released a cover of the classic Hank Williams songs, “Jambalaya,” December 2, 1972, and it reached number 16 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

“Jambalaya” may have been a county song but Fogerty gave it a rocking rendition. It remains one of his best solo effots.


The Legend Begins: Rare And Unreleased Recordings by Hank Williams

January 11, 2012

Hank Williams, 1923-1953, remains one of the most respected and influential artists in American music history. During his short career he released a series of songs that helped to define country music and contributed to the foundation of early rock ‘n’ roll.

His music has been reissued multiple times and in many formats down through the years. Time-Life has now released The Legend Begins: Rare & Unreleased Recordings. It is a sprawling three disc and 61 song set. It includes eight 15 minute Health & Happiness Programs, which was his first syndicated radio show, several unreleased songs from 1940, and an acetate from 1938, which purports to be his first recorded song.

Whether this is an album for you or not depends on your definition of rare. The two discs worth of the Health & Happiness Programs have been released a number of times through the years and, while they have been out of print for long periods of time, they have been available for fans who wanted to spend the time searching them out.

The good news is that the programs have been cleaned up about as well as modern technology will allow. The informal nature of the shows can now be heard with a clarity that has been missing in the past. If you are a fan of Williams or the history of country music and do not own this material, then this would be an essential purchase. The live nature of the songs and the conversation that connects many of them is priceless. Also playing prominent parts in these shows were his wife Audrey and fiddler Jerry Rivers.

The third disc in the set is where the true unreleased material resides. He recorded an acetate of “Fan It” during 1938 when he was 15 years old and to date it remains his earliest surviving vocal. The song is a history lesson of an American icon at the beginning of his career. The traditional “Alexander’s Rag Time Band” demonstrated his early style. On the other side of the coin, the unreleased “Greenback Dollar” and “St. Louis Blues” are both short instrumentals and add little to his legacy.

The Legend Begins: Rare & Unreleased Recordings presents a far different Hank Williams as it is not just a regurgitation of his well-known studio material. While the title may be a little misleading, the material is an interesting and essential part of the Williams legacy.

Article first published as Music Review: Hank Williams – The Legend Begins: Rare & Unreleased Recordings on Blogcritics.


The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams by Various Artists

September 17, 2011

Hank Williams, with the possible exception of Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933), was the most important artist in country music history. His classic songs and vocal phrasing were instrumental in exposing country music to a national audience. While the American country sound has now traveled a great distance since his death January 1, 1953, at the age of 29, the elements of his style and sound can still be found and his influences are very alive and well nearly 60 years later. He was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as an Early Influence during 1987.

When Hank Williams died in the backseat of his Cadillac in Oak Hill, West Virginia, while on his way to a concert in Canton, Ohio, it brought to a close one of the more successful and prolific careers of the era.

One of legendary and controversial aspects of his death was his notebooks, which contained ideas and lyrics to unfinished songs. The lost notebooks and their contents have lain dormant for the past 60 years – until now.

The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams will be released October 4, 2011. The concept is interesting as it takes these left-behind lyrics and sets them to music, courtesy of some of the leading artists of today. The music varies from average to excellent, as 13 different artists use their own ideas and talents to provide the music for his left behind lyrics.

The original idea was to have this as a Bob Dylan project, but it quickly evolved into a multi-artist affair. Still, one cannot help but wonder what gems would have appeared had Dylan provided all the music. We are left with one track by Dylan. He has gone in a country direction many times in the past and “The Love That Faded” catches him impersonating Williams’ country twang, with the music being fueled by a pedal steel guitar.

The tracks that work the best are those by classic country artists, which seems logical. Hank Williams was always a superb lyricist, and artists like Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, and Merle Haggard are able to create music that brings those lyrics to life.

Alan Jackson’s “You’ve Been Lonesome, Too” is one of the albums best tracks. The imagery tell a story of pain, plus the lonesome fiddle and the vocal are right out of the Williams songbook, all of which adds up to a classic country track. Merle Haggard provides the other outstanding highlight. His weary vocal to the religious “Sermon On The Mount” is the just right. The only problem is that the song has a somewhat unfinished feel, which may be due to what was available to Haggard.

Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell join together on “I Hope I Shed A Million Tears.” They make use of a steel guitar to move the song along but their use of singing and spoken word is different from all the other performances. “You’re Through Loving Me” by Patty Loveless was melodic and makes good use of her pure country voice.

Not everything works as well. Sheryl Crow’s “Angel Mine” is too subdued and “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart” by Norah Jones is too simple. Jack White creates country music but does not deliver a country vocal. The likes of Lucinda Williams, Holly Williams, and Levon Helm cover the middle ground in terms of quality on this album.

As with any project of this nature, it was bound to be a scattered affair due the differences in the artists involved and the material they were given for interpretation and inspiration. In the final analysis, The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams gives a long-lost look into the mind of an American musical icon and for that the album is an interesting and, in places, a very good listen.