Every year in the sadly curtailed recording career of Hank Williams produced any number of timeless pieces of music, but 1949 was an especially memorable period for the country pioneer.
He made Billboard’s country charts with such irrefutable classics as “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It,” his No.1 version of the 1920s number “Lovesick Blues” and the song that later lent its name to a record label, “Lost Highway.” On October 1 that year, Williams entered the listings with another gem, the typically plain-speaking “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave).”
The abrasive lyric was inspired in no small part by the singer’s fiery relationship with his wife, Audrey. Nevertheless, it was played at a jaunty tempo with excellent cameos by Don Davis on steel guitar and Dale Potter on fiddle. Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Fred Rose handled production of the track, which was cut at Castle Studio in Nashville some six months before it hit the charts.
Six hits in a year
That same week, Williams was booked to play at the Tri-State Fair in Amarillo, Texas, with other stars such as Ernest Tubb and Minnie Pearl. “You’re Gonna Change” was Williams’ fifth of six country chart singles of a busy year, climbing to No.4, with the B-side “Lost Highway,” listed in its own right, hitting No.12. So great was the success of one of those hits from earlier in 1949, “Lovesick Blues,” that it was still listed as the nation’s Best Selling Retail Country & Western Record when the new entry arrived.
After Hank’s death, “You’re Gonna Change” was covered by a later country maverick, George Jones, then by Williams’ son Hank Jr. In 2001, Tom Petty recorded it for the Grammy-winning tribute album Timeless, appropriately released on Lost Highway. Other contributors to that tasteful tip of the hat included Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Mark Knopfler, Keith Richards, and Emmylou Harris.
Buy or stream “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave)” on Hank Williams’ 40 Greatest Hits.