The spirit of Hank Williams still permeates the more traditional corners of the genre. In the past, we’ve heard several country stars cover his tunes or pay tribute to him in one way or another. For instance, there’s Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” and Alan Jackson’s “Midnight in Montgomery.” His influence is still evident in young up-and-comer Charley Crockett as well. However, more than Hank’s influence is still present in Nashville. Some believe that his ghost haunts the Ryman Auditorium, the alley behind it, and other surrounding areas.
We’ll start light. Frank Harris from Nashville Ghost Tours talked to Nashville’s WKRN about the haunting of the Ryman back in 2016. He told them that security guards often hear Hank Williams’ voice echoing down the halls at night. Additionally, people have witnessed Hanks’ ghost slipping out of the back door of the Ryman and into Tootsie’s next door. When he was alive, performers would often slip into the bar across the alley to have a quick drink between sets. Furthermore, Harris notes that Hank was fired from the Opry banned from the Ryman before he passed away. That, he says, is why Williams still haunts the Mother Church.
The Ghost of Hank Williams Inspired ‘The Ride’
Most country music fans have heard David Allen Coe’s song “The Ride” about getting a ride from a ghostly figure. If you haven’t heard it, check it out below. Hell, if you have heard it, play it anyway.
Okay. So, the singer in the song got a ride from the ghost of Hank Williams. That’s pretty cool. However, the writing process behind the song allegedly included a visit from the late country singer. Gary Gentry penned the song and later included his partner J.B. Detterline Jr. in the writing credits. However, Detterline wasn’t in the room, but Hank’s ghost was.
Gentry says he wanted to “write a masterpiece” for Hank Williams. So, to his alcohol-soaked brain, the best way to do that was to summon his ghost. So, he did. According to Wide Open Country, Gentry lit some candles in his living room and taunted Hank’s spirit. “Hank! Why were you so big? Just because you died young?” he shouted into his empty home. Then, he looked down his hall and saw the late singer sitting shirtless on his couch. A short time later, Gentry called Detterline, woke him up, and played him the song.
This does wrap back around to the Mother Church. David Allen Coe was playing “The Ride” at the Opry when it still took place at the Ryman. When he got to the last verse of the song where the big reveal happens, the power in the venue went out.
The next time you’re in Nashville, spend some time in the alley behind the Mother Church or take in a show there. You might just get lucky and spot the roaming spirit of Hank Williams.