"My woman's run away, with another man,
"No matter how I struggle and strive,
"I'll never get out of this world alive."
He was born in a log cabin in Mount Olive, Ala., Sept. 27, 1923, died in the back seat of his Cadillac, Jan. 1, 1953. He was 29 years old and on his way to an afternoon "gig" in Canton, Ohio.
When his death was announced to a packed house, the people, as one, came to their feet and began to sing…
"I saw the light…"
Hiram King Williams… Hank Williams.
The night he died, "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" was number one on the nation's juke boxes. You can look that up.
That was on one of Hank's CDs I overdosed on Friday night, the 57th anniversary of his death.
Even after all these years, I tend to slip a "Hank" in the car stereo just about very week. It is, if nothing else, sort of a tribute to the man who wrote most of his songs about me … during my teen years.
To put it another way, on the juke box at Doc's Café in Ohatchee, whatever the condition of my love life was at the moment, Hank had a song that told my story.
If the young lady I had a current crush on had smiled at me across the room, there was…
"You're my gal, and I'm your feller;
"Dress up in your frock of yeller,
"I'll look swell, but you'll look sweller,
"Setting the woods on fire…"
On the other hand, if the young lady I'd held hands with on Friday night at the "picture show" was holding hands with an older senior the next Friday night, well there was…
"The news is out, all over town,
"That you've been seen, running 'round…"
The heartbreak was exquisite and sometimes lasted as much as a full week … or until another young lady smiled at me across the room.
In those years, back when I was young, there was little doubt in my mind that while I might go through life suffering from unrequited love, I would definitely be the next Hank Williams.
Atop a John Deere tractor, in the long nights of spring plowing, I sang Hank and Eddy Arnold songs. Sounded just like 'em, too. From that tractor seat, I could see all the way to the Ryman Auditorium up there in Nashville, could see the footlights of the Grand Ole Opry.
And in looking into the black night, always I did a few verses of what Elvis Presley once called "the greatest country song ever written:"
"The silence of a falling star,
"Lights up a purple sky,
"And as I wonder where you are,
"I'm so lonesome I could cry…"
An apology if you've heard all of this before, but Hank's still telling my story of way back when… of sweet memories.
Hank, I'll see you again in about a year … count on it.
George Smith can be reached at 239-5286 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org