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Swedish musician performs at Hankfest

People have traveled from all over the country to enjoy the annual Hank Williams Festival in Georgiana.

However, rarely does someone visiting from as far away as Sweden visit the festival. Edward C. Johansson broke that trend last weekend. Not only did he visit the festival, he also performed.

Johansson reached out to the organizers of Hankfest in January. He credits his musical interest to Hank Williams and felt it would be appropriate to try and join this year’s festivities.

“My furthest memory was probably when I was 5-years-old,” he said. “My father loved Hank Williams and had several of his albums. I can remember listening to them and absolutely loving his voice. I decided at a very young age that I wanted to play and sing country music.”

Johansson’s band in Sweden is called “Edward and The Hayriders.” He has recorded an album with the band, which features several classic country songs including three Hank Williams tunes.

“American Country music really speaks to me on an emotional level,” Johansson said. “It’s a passion to perform classic country songs. I’m so grateful to have gotten the chance to play Hankfest.”

Johansson said the journey from Sweden to Georgiana was a long one, but not one he regrets making.

“I flew from Stockholm, Sweden to Amsterdam, then to Atlanta and then Memphis,” he said. “I drove from Memphis to Georgiana and I’m not ashamed to admit, I had to stop at Montgomery and sleep. The trip was quite tiring.”

Johansson played with the festivals house band, The Flying Buffaloes. His 45-minute set included an assortment of country classics. The songs, along with his accent, pleased the crowd.

“The people of Alabama were just incredibly gracious,” he said. “I was blown away by the hospitality and welcoming attitude that I experienced.”

Bassist for the band Flashback, Edna Thomas, got to know Johansson quite well during his visit.

“The Hank Williams museum group put him up in a house here in Georgiana,” she said. “We had the best time getting to know him. He’s such a wonderful guy.”

Johansson, now 30-years-old, had never tried a couple Alabama food staples. Thomas saw to it that he tried them both.

“He’d never had grits or fried chicken,” she laughed. “Apparently they only bake chicken in Sweden and he’d never even heard of grits. Of course, he loved them both.”

Johansson is planning to stay in Alabama until June 20. Until his departure from the U.S., he’s going to visit some historic landmarks around the state and meet more people.

“The whole experience has been truly amazing,” he concluded. “I’m honored that the people in Georgiana had me come and play Hankfest. Hank is one of my idols. It was humbling to play an event that honors his name.”