In 1951, Hank Williams reigned as the king of country music. A popular star of the Grand Ole Opry, he was in the midst of a series of amazing, albeit short-lived, hit songs. That year he had his own 15-minute radio show sponsored by Mother’s Best Flour. Airing from 7:15 to 7:30 a.m. on Nashville’s powerful WSM radio station, this program captured Hank at the height of his career. Because the morning shows usually ended with a hymn, it gave the country music star the chance to share her lifelong love of religious songs. I Will Sing: Mother’s Best Gospel Radio Recordings contains rare performances of 40 gospel songs taken from these radio broadcasts; many of which he never officially recorded.
On March 11, 2022, BMG is releasing this specially assembled collection as a two-CD digipak and three-LP triple gatefold album pressed on 140g vinyl, marking the first time these recordings have been released on hardcover. vinyl. Produced by Cheryl Pawelski, the compilation features new liner notes written by Hank Williams biographer Colin Escott, while the recordings have been restored and mastered by Michael Graves. This esteemed trio all won Grammys for their earlier work on Hank Williams’ archival project The Garden Spot Programs, 1950.
Gospel music has always been a part of Hank Williams’ life. He grew up listening to hymns in church, which had a profound impact on him. As Escott explains in his liner notes, the spirituals he heard gave young Hank lessons in songwriting, and his love for this music stayed with him after he became a musician. In fact, in 1950 he assumed alter ego Luke the Drifter as an outlet for his religiously themed material.
I’m Gonna Sing reveals the impressive depth of Williams’ knowledge of gospel music. The 40 songs, as the liner notes detail, span centuries. Tracks like “At the Cross” and “I Am Bound for the Promised Land” date back to the 1700s, while “From Jerusalem to Jericho”, “Lonely Tombs” (later covered by Dylan) and “Softly and Tenderly” ( taken up by Elvis, Johnny Cash and Alan Jackson) come from the 19th century. Many selections, however, are more contemporary numbers, from the well-known (“When the Saints Go Marching In” and “I’ll Fly Away”) to the more obscure (“Something Got Hold of Me”).
Several songs, such as “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and “When God Dips His Love in My Heart”, are hymns originating in the black church. Others, like “The Prodigal Son”, “I Dreamed About Mom Last Night”, and “Wait for the Light to Shine”, were written by her producer and music publisher, Fred Rose, himself a songwriter. of the Hall of Fame. Hank also wrote gospel songs; the compilation’s title track is one, as are ‘Jesus Died for Me’, ‘How Can You Refuse Him Now’ and the classic ‘I Saw the Light’ as well as two tracks – ‘Jesus Remembered Me’ and ‘Dear Brother ” – he performed with his then wife Audrey.
The recordings of the Mother’s Best radio show have their own intriguing story. They are from the acetate discs that Hank pre-recorded to be episodes when he was on tour and couldn’t be in the WSM studio. In the 1970s, the radio station threw away the acetates, but they were saved from trash and destruction. After Hank’s daughter Jett Williams finally secured the rights to the records, the complete Mother’s Best recordings were released in 2011 as a massive 15-CD box set that received a Grammy nomination for the best historical album. There were a few later releases taken from these recordings (2019’s Pictures From Life’s Other Side and 2020’s Only Mother’s Best); however, I’m Gonna Sing is the first to focus solely on Hank’s gospel songs from the Mother’s Best shows.
Hank Williams had some incredible ups and downs in 1951. He racked up six Top Five songs, including future standards “Cold, Cold Heart” and “Hey Good Lookin’.” He was part of the star-studded Hadacol Tour with Bob Hope, Minnie Pearl, Milton Berle and Jack Benny and made his first national television appearance on The Perry Como Show. That year he was also hospitalized due to his alcoholism, injured in a hunting accident, and undergoing spinal fusion surgery. He had two more No. 1 country hits (“Jambalaya” and “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”) in 1952, but Hank slipped further into alcohol and drug abuse, was fired from the Grand Ole Opry and passed away early. January 1, 1953 from a heart attack.
I’m Gonna Sing, however, offers a compelling musical snapshot of Hank Williams at the peak of his game, the gospel songs hinting at the troubled road he had traveled and still lay ahead.
Pre-order link: https://hankwilliams.lnk.to/imgonna