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Hank may have ‘hung the moon,’ but so did Mama

Published 10:51pm Friday, May 18, 2012

“Hank Hung the Moon … and Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts.”

Usually, I wouldn’t pay $24.95 for a book that I can read free from the public library, However, I enjoy reading Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s work and, more than that, I’m a big fan of Hank Williams.  So, I shelled out the money and hurried home to see what she had to say about the greatest country music singer/songwriter of all times.

The jacket said that Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s book is more of a musical memoir than a biography of Hank Williams. It was and it was a good read. But, I did wonder why she didn’t mention Luke the Drifter. To me that’s some of Hank Williams most heart-wrenching “stuff.”

We agreed on our opinion of Hank Jr. However, I found Shelton a.k.a. Hank III polite and pretty good imitator of his granddad.  I liked the boy.  I, too, enjoyed meeting Jett Williams. She was the first  – and last – country music star to invite me into her bus for lemonade. Of course, that was a long time ago and down at the old New Hope schoolhouse. She might not be that inviting now.

I can recommend, “Hank Hung the Moon” to all Hank Williams fans that like to read. Others might want to wait until it comes out on the silver screen.

But what I liked most about Hank hanging the moon was that it took me back to a place in my childhood where country music reigned supreme and it was my mama who hung the moon.

See, Mama loved hillbilly music.

Every morning she would turn on the radio and the first sounds that I would hear would be Mama’s singing, right along with the static and those hillbilly singers.

Her voice would kind of drown out the country music singers and it was her voice that I loved more than theirs.

Daddy didn’t like hillbilly music. Said it sounded like screeching tires and howling cats. We’d laugh “me and Mama” cause to us it was the most wonderful sound in the world.

Back then, the radio didn’t come in too clear. There would be gaps in the music and the music would give way to grinding but Mama never missed a beat. When the music came back, that hillbilly singer and Mama would be right along together.

“Mama, you ought to be on the radio,” I’d say.

“Oh, I can’t sing. I just love to try,” Mama would laugh and say.

Every Saturday night, me and Mama would get around the radio to listen to the Grand Ole Opry. Sometimes Mama would do a little hemming or put a patch on my blue jeans but most of the time, she just sat and listened. She didn’t sing along much with the stars of the Grand Ole Opry. They were coming to us live. Not like the records on the radio programs and she didn’t want to miss a bit of anything live from the Grand Ole Opry.

I’d sit at her feet and play paper dolls. That was my favorite inside thing to do. I’d cut paper dolls out of an old Sears and Roebuck catalog or from a pattern book from Mabel Belcher’s store, if I’d been lucky enough to get one. You had to get on a list for the pattern books and it was a long list.

Daddy would go to bed early on Saturday night. He said all that squawking hurt his ears.

There would be a parade of hillbilly singers – Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, The Carters, Eddy Arnold, Little Jimmy Dickens and Hank Williams. Mama said Hank Williams was the best of the bunch of them. She said Ol’ Hank could say in music what people were feeling in their hearts.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson said that, too. That Hank could say in music what people were feeling in their hearts. She said, too, that these new recordings that have been digitally remastered don’t capture the heart and soul of Hank’s music like those old 78-rpm records and she was right about that.

I have one of those old wind and grind Victrolas and a 78-rpm of Hank singing “Lost Highway.” I gave that ol’ Victrola a good winding, put on the 78, sat back and closed my eyes and listened.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson was right. Hang the digitally remastered sound.

On that old 78 rpm, Hank’s raspy voice crackled and popped with such feeling, such sadness. And, in my mind, for just a few wonderful minutes, I could hear my mama’s voice singing right along with Hank. And it was her voice that I loved more than his. Thanks, Rheta Grimsley Johnson, it was a memory well the $24.95.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger. Contact her at jaine.treadwell@troymessenger.com

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