“Long Gone Lonesome Blues” and Hank Williams’s Early Death
At age 26, less than three years before dying, Hank Williams released “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” in March 1950 and became a #1 Hot Country Single. “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” (another Hank original) was pressed as the B-side, also finding success: #9 on the C&W charts.
“I’m gonna find me a river, one that’s cold as ice,” Hank sings. “And when I find me the river, lord I’m gonna pay the price. / Going down in it three times, but lord I’m only coming up twice.” Some pretty dark stuff. No redemption in the singer’s description of that kind of baptism.
But make sure to check out the home videostoo–particularly Hank walking out of that huge suburban house right around O:48. A son of a railroad man who spent his childhood in southern Alabama is at that moment a rich man and a bona fide celebrity. Like Elvis Presley, a near perfect image of the poor white man’s vision of the American dream incarnate.
He died less than three years later in the back of a cab on New Years Day, suffering from acute pain under spina bifida his whole life, Hank died on a West Virginian road on the way to perform with an unknown mixture of alcohol, morphine, B-12, and choral hydrate in in his system. He had stopped to see a physician on the way to be treated, but from my understanding was intending to give the New Years’ show that night. On the way, “Carr stopped at a restaurant and asked Williams if he wanted to eat. Williams said he did not, and those are believed to be his last words.”*
Here comes the 1950 Hank composition, “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy,” the track you would have received from 1950 and for several years after as the B side of “Long Gone.” Also great. Too good to be a B side, but Hank Williams had so many good songs; some had to be B sides.
*Plenty more details surrounding Hank’s death on Wikipedia. This last, asterisked sentence is taken directly from the “Hank Williams” wikipedia entry. I couldn’t think of any more poetic way to narrate those course of events in a single sentence. To the good and generous people who put time into running and updating Wikipedia: A Missing America humbly thanks you.
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