Salute continues family traditions

Published 3:38 pm Sunday, June 4, 2023

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Hank Williams, Jr. made his one and only appearance at the Annual Salute to a Legend – a tribute to his father, Hank Williams, Sr. – in 1976.

Bocephus was 27-years-old when he headlines the annual Georgiana event, and I was just five when my mother took my sister and I to hear the young man, in hopes he would sing a few Hank Sr. songs.

Momma grew up in the New Ebenezer community of Crenshaw County. Hank. Sr. toured small circuits in his early days as a country music singer. He played once at her school, Sardis Elementary, and from that time forward she was his biggest fan.

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She raised us on classic country music – Hank Sr., Earnest Tub, and Patsy Cline – and that May day in 1976, we waited in the Alabama heat, longing to hear a few bars of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” or “Mansion on a Hill.”

Around 5 p.m. Hank Jr. took the stage and opened the show with a few of his own early hits. And then, just as we decided he wasn’t in the mood to carry on the family tradition, we heard these words, “Hear that lonesome whippoorwill. He sounds to0 blue to fly. The midnight train is whining’ low. I’m so lonesome I could cry.”

Hank Sr. has been dead now for 47 years. Momma passed away in 2021 and I no longer listen to country music. Hank Jr. has never returned to the festival, but fans travel from all around the world to attend the annual honoring his daddy at the Hank Williams Music Park in Georgiana.

Locals and citizens from neighboring Crenshaw and Lowndes County come out to remember the country music legend, enjoying the familiar tunes which keep his memory alive in the hearts of generations, like me, who have personal connections to the man who grew up in Butler County.

Such festivals provide holiday weekend entertainment, but they also function to foster community connections by bringing together people whose roots share the same soil as those of the man the event celebrates.

Hank Sr. would have been 100 this past January. Momma would have loved attending his birthday party. Perhaps they celebrate together now, along with all the music legends and music lovers gone before them.

I enjoy knowing communities still honor their legends, teaching their children about the sounds of past generations and learning from younger generations who may one day be legends themselves.