THE LEGEND BEGINS
A new three-CD collection from Time Life of previously unreleased and rare recordings by Hank Williams presents the classic country singer and songwriter’s first radio program, 1949’s Health and Happiness show, plus his earliest recordings.
The Health and Happiness show - a syndicated program whose sponsors included Louisiana politician Dudley J. LeBlanc’s alcohol-filled tonic, Hadacol - feature Williams and his Drifting Cowboys performing his popular recordings and a hymn during nearly every show as well as Jerry Rivers’ fiddle solos and songs from Williams’ first wife, Audrey.
Unfortunately, being Mrs. Hank Williams didn’t make Audrey Williams a good vocalist. Her husband, no surprise, is never in danger of being upstaged. Hearing Williams in the early years of his fame sing “Lovesick Blues,” “Wedding Bells,” “Lost Highway,” “A Mansion On The Hill,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and more is worth the price of admission. In the space of a few minutes to the accompaniment of a few chords, Williams, the lyricist, always captures the human condition.
The Health and Happiness shows and the previously released The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings also feature Williams’ spoken introductions to songs and parting words. Sounding like an old soul wise beyond his 26 years, he speaks with a mix of warmth and humility plus a seriousness that defies his entertainer status.
The Legend Begins’ third CD contains two recordings from 1938, when Williams was just 15, and four songs recorded in 1940. These primitive recordings are probably of most interest to Williams completists or super fans who must have everything he ever recorded. They do show, however, that this Alabama kid had something special.