No-Show Hank: When The Grand Ole Opry Fired Hank Williams

The great country institution finally lost patience with the wayward star after his no-show of 9 August 1952.

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Hank Williams UMG Nashville 1000
Photo: UMG Nashville

Hank Williams had been on thin ice with the organizers of Nashville’s already-fabled concert and broadcast institution, The Grand Ole Opry, when he pushed his luck too far on August 9, 1952.

Williams was still a major recording star, but his wayward personal life and unreliable behavior were now leading to serious career recriminations. With his alcohol abuse sometimes getting the better of him, he had missed many appearances at the Opry before, as well as other concert engagements. In June, his movie contract with MGM was cancelled; a few weeks later, he and his wife Audrey were divorced, for the second time, bringing their turbulent relationship to an end.

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Hank’s no-show for his August 9 engagement was one too many for Opry manager Jim Denny. Two days later, he fired Williams, bringing a sad end to a run on the show that had begin in such glory only three years earlier, when he became the first performer in Opry history to receive six encores. The termination was potentially all the more damaging because the show booked performers for engagements all over the country.

Nevertheless, Hank’s popularity with record-buyers continued unabated, as did his creativity, at least for now. A week after the incident, he entered Billboard’s country chart with what would be his next No.1, “Jambalaya (On The Bayou).” Almost simultaneously, he was writing another future favorite, “Kaw-Liga,” which became a further chart-topper — but by then, Williams had expired, at just 29 years of age.

The Opry has often stated that it had never intended his cancellation to be permanent; poignantly, it had been intended as a wake-up call which, sadly, he could not heed. For many years, his devoted fans have been campaigning to have Hank reinstated as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, in recognition of his enduring contribution to country music as a whole.

Listen to the best of Hank Williams on Apple Music and Spotify.

 

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Pete Worthy

    November 18, 2016 at 1:19 am

    Still singing his great songs around Europe and they are as popular as ever. Timless quality. He had his faults and his weaknesses, as we all do but his legacy lingers on and I am very grateful for giving us (The Worthys) some wonderful numbers for our show. We hope, and try very hard to do him justice.

  2. Jenny Schroeder

    August 10, 2017 at 12:01 am

    Love everything HANK WILLIAMS sings
    He had more talent than anyone else….
    He was all COUNTRY

  3. Vic

    August 10, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Listed to him everyday

  4. Charlie Brown

    August 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    IN HIS FIELD THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER. PEOPLE SUCH AS HANK ONLY COME ALONG ONCE.
    NO ONE HAS EVER, OR WILL EVER, HAVE THE RAW TALENT TO WRITE “AND” DELIVER THE WORDS IN A SONG LIKE THIS MAN. ABSOLUTELT THE BEST EVER!

  5. eric s. sheridan

    August 11, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    uh, so what was the incident?

  6. Derek Hawkins

    May 20, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    I sing ol hank songs at kareokee all the time in burney ca , ever since my great grandmother taught my grandma and dad to play jambalaya his music is in my blood and changed my life for good i hope to one day meet hank jr. And sing jambalaya with hank and my family in heaven one day , thank you hank williams

  7. mark diamond

    August 13, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    i was born with the same back defect he had had surgery at 35 with much more technology and understanding of sciatica the fact he was doing what he did after his surgery as soon as he was speaks volumes…that fact seems to be forgotten now and extremely misunderstood then…alcohol was the only thing that worked for his pain that combined with pain killers half of these pop country faggots today would have cancelled touring for a year..fuck the grand ole opry!!!

  8. Innocent III

    August 13, 2020 at 12:24 am

    The Grand Ole Opry’s denial of Hank Williams as a member is like the RRHOF without Elvis – idiotic and unthinkable. Come to think of it, though, the RRHOF IS idiotic and unthinkable even with Elvis’ presence.

    • John C. Anderson

      March 26, 2021 at 11:00 am

      Hank was a musical hero of mine.
      The Opry proved itself to be a Giant Idiot when they kicked him off.
      I was posting a lot of poems on Quora and I got kicked off recently.
      To borrow from a line in a Johnny Cash song, “I don’t like it but I guess things happen that way.
      While I dig a little deeper and write a little better I’ll think of my hero Hank and what happened to him at the Opry.
      Then maybe I can forgive Quora for the Fool it’s being—
      But I doubt it.
      John C.
      aka JCA of the USA

  9. John C. Anderson

    March 26, 2021 at 11:01 am

    Hank was a musical hero of mine.
    The Opry proved itself to be a Giant Idiot when they kicked him off.
    I was posting a lot of poems on Quora and I got kicked off recently.
    To borrow from a line in a Johnny Cash song, “I don’t like it but I guess things happen that way.
    While I dig a little deeper and write a little better I’ll think of my hero Hank and what happened to him at the Opry.
    Then maybe I can forgive Quora for the Fool it’s being—
    But I doubt it.
    John C.
    aka JCA of the USA

  10. Tammie

    August 10, 2021 at 12:47 am

    I obviously can’t know what Hank was thinking back in 52, but with all his medical and personal problems its no wonder he was abusing alcohol and pain killers. if I was married to a woman like Audrey Williams I would be in torment too. As for the Grand Ole Opry firing him, It just shows how stupid Jim Denny really was. Hank Williams is way larger and a much bigger influence to the world of country music than the radio show that very few even listens to any more. the Grand Ole Opry is long past its heyday but Hank Williams is timeless..

  11. Jessie

    September 4, 2021 at 11:09 pm

    Started listening to Hank Williams, Sr, when I was 6 years old, love all of his music, Hank was an excellent singer / songwriter / performer. Hank’s songs hit the spot , still do, no one like him (well, his kin all sing great) but Hank is the King of Country, and even the grand OLD opry cannot deny the fact he is still the king! Reinstate this country singer!!

    f

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