Today marks the seventy-fourth anniversary of one of the most significant recording sessions in the history of American music. On this day, Hank Williams stepped into Castle Studio in Nashville and solidified his place in the history books. In that session, his first for MGM Hank recorded his first hit as well as a couple of fan favorites.
The forties weren’t an easy time for Hank Williams. The US entered WWII. Hank got a deferment for his bad back. His band, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. After losing his band to the draft, he tried to put together a new one. That would have been fine if Williams wouldn’t have been drunk all the time. His new band got fed up with his drinking quickly. So, Hank was left to perform solo. At that time, he still had a radio show at WSFA. But, in 1942, they fired him because he always showed up drunk. For the rest of the war, Williams lived in Mobile, Alabama, worked as a shipbuilder, and would sing in bars when he could.
Hank Williams’ life started to turn around in 1943. This happened the same way that it has happened for millions of men around the globe. Hank met a woman, Audrey Sheppard. They fell in love and she pushed him to get back into music. It was Audrey’s urging that got Hank back to Montgomery. Alabama and start performing again.
Before long, Hank Williams was back on the radio. Then, he signed a six-song deal with Acuff-Rose Publishing. The songs he recorded there caught the attention of MGM Records. They signed him in early 1947.
Hank Williams Records ‘Move It On Over’
That brings us up to the recording session. Hank Williams went to Castle Studio with a handful of songs. One of which was “Move It On Over.” He released it in June of the same year and it was his first major hit. It reached #4 on the Billboard Most Played Juke Box Folk Records chart. Pretty soon, the revenue and recognition started rolling in.
Hank Williams landed a coveted spot on the Louisiana Hay Ride on the strength of the single. The Hayride was considered the training ground for the Grand Ole Opry. After years of work, drinking away opportunities, and disappointment Hank was finally on his way.
That same recording session also produced some other great Hank Williams songs. He cut “I Saw the Light,” “I Heard You Crying in Your Sleep,” and “Six More Miles to the Graveyard.” All of those songs have gone on to be classics. On the other hand, some would say that Hank never cut a bad song.
Is Hank the Grandpappy of Rock and Roll? Probably.
“Move It On Over,” wasn’t just Hank Williams’ first hit record, according to This Day in Country Music. It is also widely considered one of the earliest examples of rock and roll. Many music historians say that Bill Haley and His Comets released the first rock and roll record with 1953’s “Rock Around the Clock.” They cut the song again in 1955 and it went to the top of the charts.
However, if you listen to both songs, you can hear the similarities. Both are built around a punched-up twelve-bar blues pattern and the melodies are nearly the same. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just listen to the back-to-back and you’ll hear it for yourself. The real difference is that Hank Williams was a country singer while Bill Haley and His Comets were a rock band.
You can hear this rocking sound in several of Hank Williams’ recordings from this time. For instance, “Honky Tonkin'” and “Hey Good Lookin‘” are both Hank Williams classics that have much the same feel. However, it is definitely more pronounced in “Move It On Over.”
So, Hank Williams is one of the most influential country singers in history. At the same time, he just might be the grandpappy of rock and roll.