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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 Drifting Cowboys
Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys around WSM's Grand Ole Opry microphone.

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

Williams was still a major recording star, but his wayward personal life and unreliable behaviour were now leading to major career recriminations. As his alcohol abuse sometimes got 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.

Hank WilliamsHank’s no-show for his 9 August 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 Opry 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 favourite, ‘Kaw-Liga,’ which became another 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.

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6 Comments

6 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

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