Hank Williams’ Jambalaya’: Story Behind the Iconic Song

by Kayla Zadel
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Hank Williams’ version of “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” was released in July 1952. The song that’s named after a Creole and Cajun dish, spawned many cover versions across several different music genres.

The track reached No. 1 on the Country Charts for fourteen, non-consecutive weeks. “Jambalaya” is one of Hank Williams’ most popular songs to this day.

The song has that unique twang of Williams’ voice. Additionally, the steel guitar that’s synonymous with classic country music slides back and forth throughout the song.

The Making of Hank Williams’ Cajun Song

It was six months since Williams had been in the studio, but it was “Jambalaya” that brought him back. Williams recorded the song on June 13, 1952 in Nashville.

There’s been some speculation around who actually wrote the song about the Cajun culture and food. Some reports say that Williams wrote and recorded the song in the early ’50s.

However, others say Moon Mullican co-wrote the song with the legendary singer. Williams’ biographer, Colin Escott, believes that Mullican probably wrote at least some of the song. But it was Williams music publisher, Fred Rose, that stepped in and wanted Hand to get the credit and the money. Rose could’ve possibly paid Mullican so that he wouldn’t have to split the publishing with Moon’s label King Records.

The melody resembles the Cajun song “Grand Texas.” This song is about a woman who left the singer for another man. However, “Jambalaya” is about parties and the stereotypical food of cajun cuisine. The lyrics depict the singer going down to the bayou with his girlfriend for a party. The narrator calls Yvonne his “ma cher amio” which translates into, “my friend,” which some interpret as “girlfriend.”

“Jambalaya, a-crawfish pie and-a file gumbo / ‘Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio / Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-oh / Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou,” the chorus reads.

Many artists covered “Jambalaya” after it’s release. Some of them include Jerry Lee Lewis, Brenda Lee, George Jones, Elvis Presley, Roy Acuff, Conway Twitty, John Fogerty, and Emmy Lou Harris.

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