On This Day: Hank Williams Was Fired from the Grand Ole Opry

by Jonathan Howard

There are few artists that can say they have had the same kind of career as Hank Williams. That goes for the good and the bad. Although he only lived to the age of 29, Williams has gone down in history as one of the most influential acts ever in country music. Of course, his son, Hank Jr. went on to have his own legendary career, and his grandson Hank III is a talented musician in his own right.

Unfortunately for Hank Williams, he lived out the songs that he wrote. The appeal of Hank came from the genuine feel of his songs. When he sang Your Cheatin’ Heart the emotion in his voice was real and came out so well. Williams had a shooting-star career. Just a quick bright light, gone far too soon. Part of that amazing career included a stint as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry was the premier institution for live country music and radio syndication.

As far as the Opry goes, Hank Williams was a member for around three years. Starting in June of 1949, his Opry career would be unprecedented albeit short. Despite being the first performer ever to receive six encores, his Opry career didn’t last long. After missing several shows, including a show scheduled for August 9, 1952, the management at the Opry had enough. They terminated his membership, which was just part of a long spiral for the country star.

Hank Williams Untimely End

Part of the reason Hank Williams had been missing shows and other engagements stemmed from his alcohol addiction. The termination from the Opry was supposed to be a wake-up call for Williams. However, by August 1952, he had already lost his MGM movie contract and his wife had divorced him for the second and final time. Heading into the end of 1952 with his career seemingly falling apart around him, Williams was able to have a couple more wins amid the losses.

While his Opry membership, movie career, and marriage were coming to an end, Hank Williams remained popular among consumers. Fans kept buying his records without pause. Just a week after being fired by the Opry, Williams released Jambalaya (On The Bayou) which would go on to top the Billboard country music chart. He would also be in the process of writing Kaw-Liga which did go on to top charts as well. However, Williams would pass before that song would go on to its chart success.

On January 1, 1953, Hank Williams passed away at the age of 29. The country music legend lives on with his songs and his family. Williams has had his songs covered by countless artists and is regarded as one of the fathers of modern country music. While some want him to be reinstated as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the Opry insists that only living artists are included in the membership of the historic institution.