On This Day: Country Legend Hank Williams Passed Away At Age 29 in 1953

by Clayton Edwards

Hank Williams was one of country music’s first superstars. His life as well as his musical career were short but impactful. His music has inspired fans and musicians for over seventy years. Hank’s classic songs will continue to touch hearts and move toes for years to come.

Hank Williams’ first recording session was on December 14th of 1946, almost exactly six years before his death. In that short period, Hank released two studio albums and 31 singles. Among those singles are classics like “Hey Good Lookin'” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “Lost Highway.”

His music career was already in motion long before that recording session, according to Biography. Hank Williams made his radio debut at the age of 13. A year later Hank formed a band and started entering talent shows as Hank Williams and His Drifting Cowboys. Mrs. Williams drove the boys around to shows around southern Alabama. By the early 40s, Hank had the attention of Music City.

The Death of Hank Williams

Hank Williams’ death is attributed to his steadily declining health. Most blamed that decline on the icon’s consumption of alcohol and painkillers. In late 1951 Williams suffered a heart attack but continued to perform and consume morphine and whiskey.

On his way to a show in Canton, Ohio, Hank Williams passed away in the back seat of his powder-blue Cadillac. He was pronounced dead in the early morning hours of January 1st, 1953. Officially, Hank died of a heart attack. In “Hank Williams: The Biography” Colin Escott concluded that the heart attack was brought on by the combination of alcohol, morphine, and chloral hydrate.

However, Hank wasn’t just getting high and drinking because it was the thing to do. His alcohol and opiate dependency came from a history of self-medicating. The country icon was born with spina bifida, a condition that caused him intense pain throughout his life. Alcohol and painkillers helped him cope with that pain. Soon, it became a debilitating addiction which led to one of the biggest losses in county music history.

Hank Williams’ grave is in the Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Montgomery Alabama.