“Jambalaya” was such a massive country anthem for Hank Williams that the summer 1952 hit was still on the charts long after his untimely demise the following New Year’s Day. MGM followed it with an autumn single that made its chart debut on October 11, 1952. Both the A-side and the flip have become classic Hank numbers.
The lead song was “Settin’ The Woods On Fire,” a jaunty, lighthearted number underpinned by his vocal performance and cameos for Don Helms on pedal steel and Jerry Rivers on fiddle. As the Billboard survey for that week shows, Williams was still going strong at No.1 with “Jambalaya” as the new song made its debut.
Recorded four months earlier in Nashville, the song was very much in keeping with the country star’s own style, but was actually written by producer Fred Rose and Ed G. Nelson. It featured such delightful lyrics as “You clap hands and I’ll start bowin,’ we’ll do all the law’s allowin,’ tomorrow I’ll be right back plowin,’ settin’ the woods on fire.”
The song had a 12-week run on the country listings, but the B-side, Williams’ own “You Win Again,” also attracted airplay, spending one week on the chart in its own right at No.10 in November. It’s gone on to be another of Hank’s best-known songs, with covers by everyone from Roy Orbison to Glen Campbell, and by Jerry Lee Lewis as the B-side of “Great Balls Of Fire,” no less.
“Settin’ The Woods,” meanwhile, was also a song that lent itself to the duet treatment, as Frankie Laine and Jo Stafford proved with a pop-leaning cover in that same year of 1952. Country greats who came to visit the song included Porter Wagoner, George Jones and Don Gibson, and there were early 1970s versions by both Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.
Buy or stream “Settin’ The Woods On Fire” and “You Win Again” on Hank Williams’ 40 Greatest Hits.