In 1937 Williams moved with his mother to Montgomery. That same year Williams would begin performing on WSFA radio station and formed his band the Drifitn’ Cowboys. During World War II, Williams wanted to serve but was denied military service because of his chronic back issues. He bounced around working a series of war-related jobs. Just before the end of WWII Williams returned to Montgomery and resumed his musical pursuits. This is when Williams began to play at “honky tonks,” also known as rough bars, that were spread across the South.
Williams was very popular in Alabama and soon he set his sights on national recognition receiving a recording deal in 1946. He recorded a few songs for Sterling (a label in New York) and based off the strength of his song “Honky Tonkin” was able to secure a much larger recording contract with MGM. After this Williams would have the hits “Lovesick Blues” and “Wedding Bells” that ultimately earned him a spot on the Grand Ole Opry.
Williams had a lifelong struggle with substance abuse. The substance abuse destroyed his first marriage to Audrey Sheppard, and Williams work often permeated with the themes of heart break and heartache that had filled up his personal life. Part of Williams appeal is his sincerity. His voice, simple lyrics, and poignant phrasing gave credibility to his music. For all the success Hank Williams had musically it was constantly undermined by his troubled personal life. In 1932 Williams’ substance abuse issue began to get worse. His chronic back pain caused him to up his drinking and he started taking pills that caused his heart health to decline. He was fired from the Grand Ole Opry for absenteeism and in less than year Williams would be dead, falling unconscious and passing away on New Year’s Day at the age of 29. He was put to rest in Montgomery’s Oakwood Annex Cemetery.
After his death sales of his records skyrocketed, and Montgomery, Alabama honored him with Hank Williams Day in September. His music remains popular to this day. The simplicity of his lyrics and the complexity of the emotions behind them makes his music timeless. Nearly seventy years after his death Hank Williams Sr. has become enshrined as a country music legend an innovator of the genre whose music stands the test of time.