Regarded as the father of contemporary country music, Hank Williams is without a doubt one of the most legendary music superstars to ever live. Despite his short career, which met an early halt due to his premature death at the age of 29, Williams has been awarded Grammys, Country Music Awards, and even a Pulitzer Prize for his pivotal role in transforming country music. Though his music reached music lovers across the globe, he got his start right here in the great state of Alabama.
Born in the rural community of Mount Olive, 50 miles south of Montgomery, Williams was the third born to Elonzo and Lillie Williams. During childhood, Williams lived all over Alabama while his mother opened boarding houses in Greenville, Garland, and Montgomery. It was in Georgiana where he first learned to play the guitar from blues street performer Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne. Much of what Williams learned from Payne would become the basis for his signature sound and style. After his death on New Year’s Day 1953, Williams was buried in Montgomery’s Oakwood Annex Cemetery.
Today, you can celebrate the incredible life of Hank Williams at the 6,000-square-foot Hank Williams Museum in downtown Montgomery. Longtime fan Cecil Jackson opened the museum in 1999, housing a complete collection of Hank Williams memorabilia. Here are three things you can see at the museum.
- 1952 Baby Blue Cadillac
See the car Williams was riding in on the way to a show in Canton, Ohio when he passed away on January 1, 1953. Williams was scheduled to fly to West Virginia for a concert but could not do so due to ice storms in Nashville. Instead, he hired college student Charles Carr to drive him to Ohio for an alternative show. After receiving medical treatment in Knoxville for the combination of chloral hydrate and alcohol he had taken, then stopping again in Bristol, Virginia for food, Carr made a final stop in Oak Hill, West Virginia where he realized Williams had passed somewhere along the way.
- Stage Suits
Williams was known for his signature suave style, and you can see some his sharpest looks at the Hank Williams Museum. There you’ll find 17 stage suits made specifically for Williams by an array of designers from multiple shops including Joseph Frank & Sons in Nashville and The HUB in Montgomery. In addition to the suits, you’ll also find custom-made boots, cowboy hats, and an impressive tie collection.
- Rare Photos and Personal Film Footage
Get a true feel for how the legend lived with a large collection of photos and videos contributed by the Williams family. The materials, alongside memorabilia ranging from pianos and guitars to awards and horse saddles, all come together to tell the full story of who Hank Williams was in life and commemorate the legacy he’s left in death.
See more on a visit to the museum, open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $5 for ages 15-17, and $3 for ages 5-14. Find more information at thehankwilliamsmuseum.net.