Poster from Hank Williams’ last concert sells for $150,000

Published 9:04 pm Friday, May 7, 2021

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An original poster promoting a 1953 Hank Williams concert in Canton, Ohio on New Year’s Day sold for a record $150,000 at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions on May 1.  The Hank Williams’ poster tops the Beatles as the world’s most expensive concert poster ever sold at auction. The Beatles “Fab Four” 1966 show at Shea Stadium went for $137,500.

Only three original posters of the Hank Williams 1953 Canton Memorial Auditorium Jamboree are known to exist.

Beth Petty, director of the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, has never doubted that Hank Williams’ music and his legacy would live forever. Even so, Petty found the closing bid for the original 1953 Hank Williams Canton Memorial Auditorium concert poster “mouth dropping.”

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“I knew the bidding for the poster would be high but, $150,000? I was stunned,” Petty said.

The original concert poster was found in a barn in Canton, Ohio and announced Hank Williams in the “biggest Jamboree of 1953.” Reserved seats for the concert for adults were $1.50.

Who could have imagined that a poster for the Hank Williams “Jamboree” concert would, one day, bring 100,000 times the cost of a reserved ticket?

That, Petty said, is an indication of the influence Alabamian Hank Williams and his music had and continues to have in today’s world.

And, Petty said the Canton concert is also significant because it was the concert that never happened.

Hank Williams never made it to perform at Canton Memorial Auditorium on January 1, 1953.

He died of a heart attack in the backseat of his 1952 baby-blue Cadillac convertible somewhere between Bristol, Tennessee and Oak Hill, West Virginia on the way to Canton. Hank Williams was only 29 years old.

Petty said Don Helms, a member of Hank Williams band, The Drifting Cowboys, told her the waiting audience of 4,000 sat in stunned silence in the Canton Memorial Auditorium when it was announced on a microphone that Hank Williams had died.

“But The Drifting Cowboys went on to play the concert,” Petty said. “Don Helms played ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ on steel guitar in tribute to Hank.”

Hank Williams died a young man but he started singing in church as a young boy, Petty said.

“He would sing while his mama played the organ. His mama bought him his first guitar from Sears and Roebuck for about three dollars.”

Williams shined shoes and sold peanuts on the downtown streets of Montgomery and learned to play and sing the blues “Tee Tot” Payne. He played roadside “juke joints” all around the country until he was recognized as not just an everyday singer.

Hank Williams met Audrey Sheppard at a medicine show in Banks in rural Pike County. They were married by a justice of the peace in Andalusia but were not married at the time of his death.

Petty said Hank Williams had a God-given talent.

“Not many people have that kind of talent,” she said. “Someone asked Hank how he wrote those great songs. He said that he just hung on to the pen and paper and ‘God writes them for me.’”

Beth Petty has a front row seat to the continuing popularity and appreciation of Hank Williams and his music. She said his music continues to touch hearts today just as it did 70 years and more ago.

“People of all ages come to the Hank Williams Museum from all over the country,” she said. “A little girl, about six years old, came in with her parents singing ‘Jambalaya.’ I asked her where she learned that song. She said Cracker Barrel. People everywhere enjoy that old-time music. They can relate to it. This new country music, well, you can’t tap your toes to it; you can’t dance to it; you can’t sing with it and it doesn’t tell a story. Hank Williams’ music does all of that. It’s here to stay.”