In 1943, Williams met Audrey Mae Sheppard, and the couple were married a year later. Audrey also became his manager, as Williams' career was rising and he became a local celebrity. In 1946, Williams recorded two singles for Sterling Records, Never Again (1946) and Honky Tonkin' (1947), both of which were successful. Williams soon signed with MGM Records, and released Move It On Over, a massive country hit. After a few more moderate hits, Williams released his version of Lovesick Blues (Rex Griffin) in 1949, which became a huge country hit and crossed over to mainstream audiences. That year, Williams sang the song at the Grand Ole Opry, where he became the first performer to receive six encores. That year, Audrey Williams gave birth to Randall Hank, their first son, and Hank Williams brought together Bob McNett (guitar), Hillous Butrum (bass guitar), Jerry Rivers (fiddle) and Don Helms (steel guitar) to form the most famous version of the Drifting Cowboys. 1949 also saw Williams release seven hit songs after Lovesick Blues, including Wedding Bells, Mind Your Own Business, You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave) and My Bucket's Got a Hole in It. In 1950, Williams began recording spirituals as Luke the Drifter and released more hit songs, such as My Son Calls Another Man Daddy, They'll Never Take Her Love from Me, Why Should We Try Anymore, Nobody's Lonesome for Me, Lone Gone Lonesome Blues, Why Don't You Love Me, Moanin' the Blues and I Just Don't Like the Kind of Livin'. In 1951, Dear John became a hit but the B-side, Cold, Cold Heart, has endured as one of his most famous songs, covered by Tony Bennet (who released a hit version in 1951), Guy Mitchell, Teresa Brewer, The Cowboy Junkies, Frankie Laine, Jo Stafford, and Nora Jones. That same year, Williams released other hits, including the enduring classic Crazy Heart.
In spite of his professional success, Williams' life was becoming unmanageable. His marriage was disintegrating, and he developed a serious problem with alcohol, morphine and other painkillers. In 1952, Hank and Audrey separated and he moved in with his mother, even as he released numerous hit songs, such as Half as Much, Jambalaya, Settin' the Woods on Fire, You Win Again and I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Williams' drug problems continued to spiral out of control as he moved to Nashville and officially divorced his wife. He missed numerous concerts, or was too drunk to play, and was fired from the Grand Ole Opry, told not to return until he was sober. The Drifting Cowboys left Williams. In 1953, Williams was due to play in Canton, Ohio, but he was unable to fly due to weather problems. He hired a chauffeur and was injected with B-12 and morphine before leaving in a Cadillac, carrying a bottle of whiskey with him. The chauffeur was pulled over for speeding and the police officer noted that the man in the backseat looked like a dead man. Upon closer examination, he was dead. Hank Williams is interred at the Oakwood Annex in Montgomery, Alabama. Williams' final single was I'll Never Get out of This World Alive.
His son Hank Williams Jr. and grandson Hank Williams III are country musicians as well.
Hank Williams Facts
|Birth Name||Hank Williams Sr.|
|Birthday||September 17, 1923|
|Birthplace||Mount Olive, Alabama, USA|
|Date of death||January 1, 1953 (age 29)|
|I Saw The Light|
|The Last Ride: A Story of Hank Williams|
|Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues|
|Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave|
|Your Cheatin' Heart|
|The Last Ride|