On episode 68 of the Americana Music Show, we feature a special audio show about the making of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. 13 singer/songwriters were given the opportunity to set lyrics from Hank Williams’ notebooks to music and perform them on the CD. On this show hosted by Alejandro Escovedo, we hear the artists such as Jack White, Rodney Crowell, and Alan Jackson talk about what it was like to “collaborate” with Hank Williams.
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The Americana Music Show is copyright 2012 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com.
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Alejandro Escovedo introduces the show:
Hank Williams wrote a lot of songs he never got to record. He kept notebooks of lyrics and song ideas. When Hank Williams died in 1953, the notebooks were locked away for many years. Now 13 accomplished singers and songwriters have been given the chance to complete a Hank Williams song on the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams CD.
Patty Loveless performs “ Your Through Fooling Me.”
There are more tributes to hank than there are Hank Williams recordings. When he died he had only released a few dozen singles. His notebooks contained lyrics for 66 more songs.
Michael McColl is a writer at the Country Music Hall of Fame. He says the Hank Williams notebooks are treated like the lost scrolls and treated with reverence.
Bob Dylan performs “The Love That Faded.”
Mary Martin is a country music industry exec. She felt that every participant in the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams project must be a songwriter because Hank Williams wrote both lyrics and melodies.
Peggy Lamb is a music publisher says they made sure they protected Hank’s legacy by ensuring that the collaborators didn’t change the idea of the song. They know each of the artists and trusted them but they also put it on paper of the agreement.
Rodney Crowell found a snippet of a gospel that was reminiscent of Hank's gospel alter ego, Luke The Drifter. Rodney found a couplet in the Notebooks called I hope you shed a million tears. He wrote an old style Sunday morning recitation to go with it. He worked with Vince Gil who put it to a Hank Williams waltz. They got Williams’s original steel player Don Helms to play on the session for the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. It was his last session before he died.
Alan Jackson talks about what a thrill it was to be listed as a Hank Williams’ collaborator on the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. He talks about how some of them were cool lyrics but didn’t have the structure of a song. He chose one that had a good lyric structure already.
Alan Jackson performs “You’ve Been Lonesome Too.”
Hank Williams started playing early. Had his first show at 14 with band the Drifting Cowboys until most of them were drafted into World War II. Michael McColl talks about Hank Williams starting out in Montgomery Alabama and publishing his first song with Acuff Rose Publishing. That was the first publishing company in Nashville. A few years later his wife sent several songs to Acuff Rose. Fred Rose saw the songs and recognized the talent Hank Williams had. Fred Rose became a mentor for Hank Williams and the reason we have Hank Williams songs is because of Fred Rost.
“Lovesick Blues” by Hank Williams
Hank Williams had one of his first hits wiith “Lovesick Blues.” That got him an invitation to the Grand Old Opry. On his first performance he got six encores that night. The Grand Old Opry was made more famous by Hank Williams. They sort of had a symbiotic relationship for many years until 1953 when he was fired for habitual drunkenness.
“You’ll Never Again Be Mine” performed by Levon Helm.
Jack White says Hank Williams represents all that is good about country music. Jack White says Hank Williams almost seems alien because everything about him is all so unbelievable. His looks, his delivery, the stories you hear about him all seem so exaggerated. And Hank Williams had a tendency for exaggeration. His alcoholism was probably due to a rare spine condition that kept him in pain a lot.
Rodney Crowell says there was something very worldly about the simplicity of his deep Alabama message. He was a voice that a son of a sharecropper could relate too.
Hank Williams was the soundtrack to poor Southerners’ lives
“You’re Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams
Alan Jackson says it’s hard to sit down and write like Hank Williams did. He kept it simple on his contribution to the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, which is tough to do. Rodney Crowell says Hank Williams invented the “Saturday Night Sinning, Sunday Morning Redemption” style of country music that fit the times.
“Sermon On The Mount” by Merle Haggard
Rodney Crowell says no one is more natural in their delivery, and that Hank’s delivery influenced Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.
Colin Ascott wrote a biography of Hank Williams. He says that when Hank Williams was alive, there were several country singers that were much bigger than Hank Williams was, including Eddie Arnold and Red Foley. They were more popular because they wrote for people who didn’t like country music. They smoothed over their sound to make it more appealing. On the other hand, Hank Williams kept the edge in his sound and that’s why his sound is still popular today while the other guys’ music sounds so dated.
“How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart” by Norah Jones.
Hand Williams’ influence has spread far and wide. Jack White has produced both rock music and country, including albums for Wanda Jackson and Loretta Lynn. Jack White says that when he signed up for the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, he just wanted to be an antenna for Hank Williams. Didn’t want any of himself in the song. He played it first for Bob Dylan who told him that it sounded like it came straight out of the 50′s and that’s how Jack White knew it was done.
“You Know That I Know” by Jack White
Holly Williams is Hank Williams’ granddaughter. She is reminded at how prolific Hank Was at 29 compared to herself and most artists. She found that playing her grandfather’s music on the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams took a lot more than learning the parts. He didn’t do any crazy minor chords, but wrote melodies.
“Blue Is My Heart” by Holly Williams
Hank Williams Jr. says of the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams “It would be like we found more Shakespeare.” He says you could imagine every one of Hank Williams lyrics.
“I’m So Happy That I Found You” by Lucinda Williams
Hank Williams Jr talks about when they took Hank Williams to Hollywood to sign a movie contract. He wasn’t impressed by the movie stars he saw at the studios and he made some disparaging remarks about the owner of the studios and that was the end of the movie contract.
“Angel Mine” by Sheryl Crow