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FLASHBACK: Dec. 22, 1948

Hank Sings The "Blues"

An old show tune from the 1920s called "Lovesick Blues" had been recorded by several artists, but never became a hit. Then Hank Williams got hold of it and turned it into an instant classic.

Hank supposedly learned "Lovesick Blues" from his musical mentor Rufus Payne, an itinerant black musician from Alabama who went by the nickname "Tee Tot." The song was ideal for Hank. "It requires a soulful sob in the voice and expert yodeling," says his daughter, Jett Williams, "yet must stay twangy and upbeat. Nobody combined those qualities better than Hank Williams."

Hank put those requirements to the test when he recorded "Lovesick Blues" in Cincinnati on Dec. 22, 1948. In May of 1949, "Lovesick Blues" became Hank's first No. 1 record, effectively launching his superstar career. The song's overwhelming popularity led to Hank's first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry on June 11, 1949, a performance that made Opry history.

When Hank cut loose with "Lovesick Blues," the crowd went wild and called him back for six encores. Says Jett Williams, "It was a reception never witnessed at the Opry, before or since."