Hiram King Williams, also known as Hank Williams, was born on September 17, 1923 in Mount Olive, Alabama. His dad was Lon Williams, a locomotive engineer. His mom was Lillie Williams, a church organist. Hank spent most of his childhood in Georgiana and Greenville, Alabama.
Hank Williams was a key person in the development of modern country music. He caused a shift in country music from a regional, rural phenomenon to a nationwide, urban acceptance in the late 1940’s. He turned “hillbilly” music into country music.
He became interested in music at a very early age. He learned to play the organ from his mother. He could also play the harmonica. His mother gave him his first guitar when he was eight. His father walked out on the family when Hank was a young child. It became the responsibility of his mother to raise Hank and his siblings. She was a very strong willed woman. He attended Sidney Hanier High School in Montgomery. He quit school when he was 16 years old. He was raised as a fundamentalist Baptist. The music and sermons from his childhood had influenced him. “My earliest memory” Rolling Stone writer Ralph J. Gleason (as quoted by William’s biographer Colin Escott) “is sittin’ on that organ stool by her and hollerin’. I must have been five, six years old and louder’n anybody else.” In 1937, Hank’s mother opened a boarding house in Montgomery. Hank helped the family income by shining shoes, selling newspapers, and peanuts on the street. This is where he met Rufus Payne, a black man, known as Tee-Tot. He taught Hank to play the guitar. He would follow him around on the street begging him to teach him to play. He would pay him 15 cents or whatever he had for a lesson. Payne also helped him overcome his shyness. He is the one that the blues influence came from. He made his very first radio performance at the age of thirteen. He formed his first band when he was fourteen years old. I was called Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys....
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