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Hank Williams: The Biography

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  510 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
- Long considered the last word on Hank Williams, this biography has remained continuously in print since its first publication in 1994.- This new edition has been completely updated and includes many previously unpublished photographs, as well as a complete catalog detailing all the songs Hank Williams ever wrote, even those he never recorded.- Colin Escott is codirector ...more
Paperback, 388 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Back Bay Books (first published 1994)
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Doug DePew
Nov 20, 2012 Doug DePew rated it it was amazing
As a child, I listened to old 78s of Hank Williams that I carefully pulled out of my dad's old cedar chest. Later, I got my very own 8-track player and fell asleep listening to Hank every night. All I can say after reading this book is,"Wow." I bought it at the Ryman Auditorium during a recent trip to Nashville and started reading it immediately. This is a very thorough look at Hank's short, sad life. Mr. Escott has included direct quotes from many of the people who knew Hank personally or were ...more
Tedsandi2000 Kinghorn
Not as interesting as I had hoped.
May 18, 2017 Stephen rated it really liked it
Hank Williams is the legend of country music. I'd heard of him long before I ever heard him; my father (who stopped listening to country in the 1970s) took me to visit his grave in Montgomery back in the early nineties, and Williams was a constant Presence in the music I grew up on, haunting the singers of pieces like "Midnight in Montgomery" and "The Ride". Hank Williams: The Biography renders a thorough and sober account of Williams' life, one that appraises the man without romanticism. It is ...more
Sep 11, 2015 Khara rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I'm going to admit it up front. I only read this book because it was the inspiration behind the upcoming movie "I Saw the Light." I'm a Hiddlestoner, I won't deny it. But before you roll your eyes and decide my review isn't worth reading, hear me out.

I found myself engrossed in this book. I hate country music and country culture, but somehow this book grabbed ahold of me and kept me interested until the very last page. I knew of Hank Williams, I know a handful of his songs just from being involv
Mar 17, 2014 Jake rated it it was amazing
"Vanilla, boys," Hank Williams would say to his band members if they ever tried to get too fancy in their performances. Ol' Hank liked to keep it simple, and so, too, does Colin Escott and his co-authors in this riveting biography.

No other figure in country music, not even its self-proclaimed "father", Jimmie Rodgers, is the source of so much attention and myth. Hank Williams was only on the national country music scene for about three years before that legendary last ride on New Year's Eve 195
anthony e.
Mar 26, 2012 anthony e. rated it really liked it
I'll say this for Hank Williams: he gives new meaning to the word 'alcoholism'. Anytime one of your friends, in that off-handed, vaguely joking way, comments that they drink too much, calmly inform them that until the begin to literally shred their body, dig under chairs like a dog, run down hotel hallways screaming of rescuing old women, and manage, in three years, to ruin his credibility, two marriages, his career, and his life.


Escott's book is really quite marvelous in its account
Jan 21, 2016 Simone rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting, well and fairly researched, approachable biography, with lots of charming if salty opinions ("Jessie Lillybelle Skipper was a delicate name for a woman who, had she been a canary, would have sung bass." Right off the bat - hilarious.). Hank's story is one of tremendous talent combined with tragic addiction - his story shares so many parallels to the Winehouse story. It's well worth reading and understanding (and yes, I'm looks forward to the movie).
Mary Jeanne
Mar 16, 2017 Mary Jeanne rated it really liked it
Great Story so sad but so good. He was a genius.
Jordan Sopinsky
Feb 19, 2017 Jordan Sopinsky rated it it was amazing
Colin Escott is thorough in detailing the sad short life of "Luke the Drifter."
Rebecca Haslam
Oct 14, 2015 Rebecca Haslam rated it liked it
I've gone on a bit of a Tom Hiddleston related reading spree in recent weeks and I picked this up ahead of seeing him take on the role of the American singer in upcoming biopic 'I Saw The Light'. I had already listened to more than 20 of Hank's songs so was familiar with his music, but as for his personal life, aside from his rocky first marriage and death at the age of 29 in the back of a car, I found this book hugely informative, detailed and well written. Escott has clearly put a lot of time ...more
Simeon Readingape
p. 285 " "He wanted to destroy the Hank Williams that was making the money that fair-weather friends and relatives were getting," said Marshall. "Although he had a multiplicity of personal problems, basically he was a very lonely person, and couldn't stand being alone . . . He had a host of fair-weather friends, most of whom were parasites, who fawned on him, played up to him, and kept him supplied with liquor." Several of those who worked with Hank during his last year lend credence to Marshall ...more
Jul 06, 2016 Ellen rated it liked it
Shelves: finished
Sickly, prone to drink, volatile temper, determined to make a name for himself Williams cleans up, falls and goes on writing songs, performing in small venues, showing up drunk and disappointing audiences, only to do it all again. It was in the last two years of his life that he experienced his highest of highs (Grand Ol' Opry) and lowest of lows leading to his death.

As his father was raised without a father's presence, so was Williams' fate and eventually his own son's.

Drinking like his father
Nov 19, 2014 Phillip rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history, music
a well detailed account of the life and music of hank williams, one of the finest songwriters of the 20th century. hank was just off the charts prolific from 1950 - 1953, when he died at the ripe old age of 29.

plagued by a disastrous marriage, chronic back pain, drinking problems and a record industry that didn't know how to let the man do his thing, mr williams was still able to record hundreds of songs during the short tenure of his three year contract with mca records.

one of the better musi
Feb 19, 2016 Pete rated it really liked it
clear-eyed bio of the dude, with nice depth on the musical side (not that i know good music talk from bad, but i still enjoyed hearing which melodies were stolen from whom and the stuff about how hank insisted that his band play low when he went high and vice versa). the biographer flashes some teeth here and there in discussing hank's inability to do right/audrey's singing/the motivations of other parties, but it's not over the top and tempers the inevitable adoration. good music bio. i am not ...more
Garrett Cash
This is without a doubt the best biography that could possibly be done on country music's second greatest artist, and it's well worth reading for any fans of music. Don't even think about reading Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams, this is the good (and accurate) stuff. We'll probably never really know Hank Williams the man from the scant information we possess (his own friends felt like they didn't know him), but this is the closet you can get.
Jan 30, 2016 Klega50 rated it liked it
I never realized that Williams' 'star' status lasted only a couple years. And he was bigger in death than he was at the time of his death. An interesting story well written. I guess it's true of many celebrities that their star shines brighter after death when people seem to forget their flaws and frailties. I don't know if I would have liked Hank Williams personally but I do like some of his songs.
Sarah Johnson
Sep 28, 2010 Sarah Johnson rated it really liked it
Shelves: extreme-survival
I read this biography after going to the Country Music Hall of Fame and becoming intrigued by the salacious details of Hank Williams's life. Reading this meticulous biography, I felt a little like an imposter since I'm not as familiar with his music as I should be. For true fans, this bio can't be beat. For me, well I skipped around to piece together the soap opera parts. And even those parts alone made for a great book.
Feb 26, 2010 Bobbi rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Even if you don't like Hank Williams, his songs made an enormous impact on rock and roll, country music and gospel. People thought he was a tortured soul, a vagabond and an alcoholic. He was all of those things, but the pain from undiagnosed spina bifida which caused him lifelong pain. He probably used drugs and alcohol to ease the constant pain. His legacy can't be understated and this is a good biography.
Jan 11, 2008 Leah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
What a fascinating and tragic life! Like many musicians, Hank Williams' life is shrouded in legend, rumors, and assumptions made to fill in unknown gaps. This book takes every story and gives all versions of each one, giving a sometimes clearer, sometimes murkier, image of Hank's life, and it made me sad to think that there are still so many unknowns about him. Already knowing something about Hank, I still feel like I learned more about him.
Jul 12, 2015 Ann rated it really liked it
Awesome job referencing the myths and detailing where they do (and don't) stand up to scrutiny. In the end, the book dismantles more myths than it adds reality, leaving you with the impression that even in his lifetime, the character of Ol' Hank that he and those around him promoted eclipsed whatever was left inside.
Jul 11, 2016 Jodell rated it liked it
The only way Hank Williams could communicate was in song. The fact that he was so broken and lost and no one did much about it say's alot about Hank and also nothing new about addiction and life.
He did a whole lot of livin in his short year's on earth and even though He said frequently, "let's do this vanilla", He did vanilla with a soulful twist.
Bosco Farr
Sep 26, 2010 Bosco Farr rated it really liked it
If you're looking for a book on Hank, this is THE ONE. Well researched and engagingly written. The life of country music's biggest star and biggest enigma is in many ways a mystery. Escott takes the enormously difficult task of finding the real man and does a bang up job. There's a great companion piece produced by the Author for the American Masters series on PBS called "Honky Tonk Blues."
Mike Bloom
Jan 21, 2014 Mike Bloom rated it really liked it
The story of Hank Williams illustrates what happens when the life of a bona fide world-changing artist intersects with the trappings of fame and celebrity. A very compelling read for anyone interested in the history of blues- and/or folk-based popular music.
Apr 29, 2010 Danielle rated it liked it
this book quickly dispels many myths about the life and death and family of Hank Williams. I am only on the second chapter and am up to age 17, so I wonder how the rest of the book will discuss his remaining 12 years. well written.
Feb 23, 2014 Christopher rated it really liked it
Excellent writing and, from what I understand, accurate facts. I knew virtually nothing about Williams' life (aside from his music) before reading this, and it provided exactly what I want out of a good biography.
Jun 26, 2011 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book might be better if so much of the information about Hank wasn't so incomplete and/or sketchy. The writing, however, would likely be dry and lifeless no matter how much verifiable data existed.
Sep 05, 2009 Cade rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Hank Williams Sr. Fans, Country music fans
A great look into Hank's life. It gave me an even better appreciation of his music and the roots of Country music. Very interesting to see how the record companies owned and controled so much of the industry.
Sean O'Brien
Oct 20, 2015 Sean O'Brien rated it it was amazing
Very thorough and enjoyable.
Miss Kitty
May 25, 2013 Miss Kitty rated it it was amazing
Love Hank's music! Very tragic life. Author does a fine job detailing Hank's travels from nothing- to one of the most influential musicians ever.
Jun 17, 2009 Randy rated it really liked it
A must-read if you want to know about country musics most famous hitmaker.
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Colin Escott is the foremost authority on Sun Records. He first wrote the company’s history in 1975 and has revised and expanded it several times since. He has published several other volumes on the early days of country music, including a biography of Hank Williams and The Grand Ole Opry: The Making of an American Icon. He won a Grammy for his work on Mercury Records’ The Complete Hank Williams, ...more
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