Braxton Schuffert dies at 97
Braxton Schuffert, one of the original members of country music legend Hank Williams Sr.’s band, died Friday night following an extended illness.
Schuffert, a native of Prattville, Ala., was 97.
The former Drifting Cowboy was one of Williams’ closest friends and joked that he discovered the man who would go on to become one of the most well-know country musicians in history.
It was in 1938, when Schuffert, a delivery truck driver for Hormel Meats Company, made a stop at Lilly Williams’ boarding house in Montgomery. After he unloaded the meat, he spotted a “boy-sized” guitar in the corner of the room and decided to pick a few songs before continuing his route.
“I heard Miss Williams holler, ‘Hiram, he’s got you beat,’” Schuffert said with a smile during an interview with the Greenville Advocate in June of 2012. “And I did. I already had my own band, and I was playing on WSFA from 6 to 6:30 every morning just me and my guitar.”
Schuffert finished his song, put the guitar back where he found it and started out the door. That’s when he heard the voice that would become one of the most famous voices in all of country music.
“School was out, and Hank was in the back room there listening,” Schuffert said. “As I was walking out I heard this voice that was just as strong and clear. It was a man’s voice in a boy’s body. Hank was only 15 at the time, but he could sure sing. Even then I knew he had a one-of-a-kind voice.”
Schuffert, who jokes that he discovered the country music legend, invited Williams to ride along on his route the next day.
“I told him we’d sing all day,” Schuffert said. “That’s all he needed to hear. He was for anything to do with music.”
Schuffert may not get the credit for discovering Williams, but he was certainly instrumental in helping Williams get his start in the music business.
It was on Schuffert’s radio show on WSFA that central Alabama was introduced to Williams’ “one-of-a-kind” voice.
Schuffert, who co-wrote “Rockin’ Chair Daddy” with Williams, also helped the future country music star form his first band, and played guitar with Williams during his first appearance at Georgiana High School and later at his first performance in an auditorium, The Ritz Theatre in Greenville.
Margaret Gaston, the curator of the Hank Williams Boyhood Home & Museum, remembers Schuffert as a kind man. She recalled how the songwriter paid tribute to Mary Wallace, a Georgiana resident and former president of the Hank Williams Fan Club, following an accidental shooting that left Wallace dead.
“The first year of the Festival after Mary Wallace’s tragic death, Braxton called the Museum,” Gaston said. “I think this was just before the memorial service for Mary at the Ga-Ana Theatre. Braxton had written a song, ‘Mary,’ and said he would be singing the song at the memorial service per Mary’s request. Braxton explained when he had played the song for her shortly after it was published Mary exclaimed, ‘Oh Braxton, I want you to sing that song at my funeral.’ While we were chatting on the phone he offered to play and sing this song – which he did. He said ‘just a minute,’ got his guitar, put the phone on speaker and sang ‘Mary.’”
Schuffert was a regular at Georgiana’s annual Hank Williams Festival, and delighted the crowd by performing several songs during last year’s event.