If you lived in the 20th Century and was a fan of country music, then chances are that a couple of your favorite songs were Hank Williams’. Hank broke into the mainstream in the 1940s with his song “Lovesick Blues”. For the brief period when he was active in music, Hanks made a great impact. Unfortunately, alcoholism and drug use ended his life rather too soon. He passed on in 1953, aged 29.
His music influenced the careers of music greats such as Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Dinah Washington, and Bob Dylan. His son singer-songwriter, Hank Willams Jr. continues to preserve his legacy. About a decade after his death, Hank Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2010, he was posthumously honored with The Pulitzer Prize, a special award and citation for his pivotal role in transforming country music. The 2015 biopic film, “I Saw the Light” is about Hank Williams’ life.
Hank Williams Biography (Age)
Hank Williams was born on September 17, 1923, in Mount Olive, Butler County, Alabama as the third child to world war I veteran Elonzo Huble “Lon” Williams of English ancestry and his wife Jessie Lillybelle “Lillie” (née Skipper). Their second child had died, making Hank their second child alive alongside his eldest sister Irene.
A Freemasonry, Hank’s father named him Hiram after Hiram I of Tyre, one of three founders of the Mason. However, after the name was misspelled as Hirian on his birth certificate, his parents changed it to Hank. Hank was born with spinal bifida, an incurable defect on a child’s backbone that remained with him until death.
Hank’s dad suffered fatal injuries from a truck accident that would later cause him to develop facial paralysis which saw him spend 8 years at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. Thus, he was absent for the most part of Hanks’ childhood. Hank’s mom Lille had to work several jobs to cater for her two children.
During a time when his family lived in Georgiana, Alabama, Hanks met with a street performer Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne who began giving Hanks guitar lessons in exchange for meals cooked by his mom or money. Hank Williams proved to be a fast learner and began entering talent shows. He then attracted the attention of producers of WSFA radio studio who invited him to play on air. He performed twice a week and was paid a weekly stipend of $15. With the money, Hank founded his won band Drifting Cowboys and the rest is history.
Dubbed The King of Country Music, Hank Williams was great with what he did, but unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his appetite for alcohol together and soon it became his end. Williams who was born with spina bifida was said to have used alcohol to suppress back pain. Unfortunately, his alcohol abuse not only took its toll on his emotions as expressed in a number of his songs but also his health.
Alcoholism led to him being fired from the Grand Ole Opry who deemed him unreliable. In the early 1950s, his waning health became visible. He suffered a minor heart attack in 1951, a period he gained more weight while losing hair. On December 30th, 1952, Williams collapsed in his hotel room at Knoxville, Tennessee.
He was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia the following day. Following the collapse, Williams was cleared to travel but he couldn’t do so by air due to an ice storm that rocked Nashville that day. He then hired a college student named Charles Carr, to drive him in his 1952 powder blue Cadillac to the concert venue.
Upon entering Oak Hill, West Virginia, Carr checked on Williams after he’d become quiet for a prolonged time, only to discover him laying in the back seat unresponsive. Wiliams was later confirmed dead. An autopsy was performed on him and results showed that he died as a result of hemorrhages in the heart and neck.
Hank Williams was buried on Sunday, January 4, 1953, in Montgomery, Alabama. His funeral was said to be the largest event ever held in Montgomery as well as the largest event held for a citizen of Alabama.
Hank Williams’ Family, Wife, and Children
Hank Williams’ family life was tumultuous for the most part of his short life. At the age of 20, he began dating a woman named Audrey Sheppard who had just left a bad marriage that produced one kid. On December 15, 1944, Williams married her while she was yet to be legally divorced from her ex-husband.
With the complications surrounding their union, their relationship was bound to have troubles. They grew further apart by the year with Williams’ alcohol problems only exacerbating the situation. On May 26, 1949, Williams and Sheppard welcomed their first kid, Hank Williams Jr. On May 29, 1952, the couple was divorced.
A month later, Williams began living with his mother and soon began a relationship with Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar who would go on to become a country musician in her own right. They married on October 18, 1952. Like his first wife, Billie was yet to legally finalize her divorce from her previous husband. They had a daughter Jett Williams who was born on January 6, 1953, five days after William’s death.
Both of Hank Williams’ children are actively involved in music. Williams Jr not only sings but is a multi-instrumentalist playing the guitar, keyboard, harmonica, and saxophone. He is married with two kids; Hank Williams III and Holly Williams both of whom are active musicians.
Hanks’ posthumous child Jett Williams was adopted by her paternal grandparents upon her birth. They renamed her Catherine Yvonne Stone and after her grandmom died a year later, she was adopted by an Alabama couple who renamed her Cathy Louise Deupree. Though Jett knew she was an adopted child, she had no knowledge of who her biological parents were until her late twenties.
With the help of an investigative attorney Keith Adkinson, Jett was able to get the court to rule that she was indeed Hank Williams biological daughter. There was bad blood between her and Hank Williams Jr, who opposed the court’s ruling which stipulated that Jett is entitled to half of their father’s estate. Despite his appeal, the ruling stood as the court threw out the appeal in 1990.