Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hank Snow

It was on December 20, 1999 that Grand Ole Opry member, and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Hank Snow passed away at the age of 85. In January of 2000, Hank would have celebrated 50 years as an Opry member. He had been in declining health for a number of years, and his last Opry appearance was in August of 1996 when he returned to the Opry stage after being gone for almost nine months due to illness.

His autobiography, "The Hank Snow Story", is one of the best country music books ever written. Hank is pretty honest in his book about some of the major events in his life. The book is high on my list.

In country music history, Hank will go down as one of the all time greats. Johnny Cash considered Hank one of his favorite singers, and in fact, he had a picture of Hank hanging in his office at home, which I believe was the only picture of an entertainer that he had up.

On my own personal list of country music performers, Hank is on my top 5 list. I have always enjoyed his singing style and his guitar work. His guitar playing was precise and I never heard of him making a mistake. I know that one of my favorite items about Hank being on the Opry was that after he sang his song to start his segment, he always went over to the podium and introduced his guests from there, never going back to center stage until it was time for him to perform his next number. I think his last televised Opry appearance was on the birthday show when they honored the living Opry members who were members of the Hall of Fame. I forget what year it was, but I think it was in the mid-1990's and I remember Jeannie Seely doing the honors for him.

On the Opry in his later years, he always hosted the 8:30 and 11:00 segments. He had his favorites, and I know if Dottie West was on the Opry, she always did his segments.

It was within a few short years that the Opry lost Grandpa Jones, Bill Monroe and Hank Snow. All were icons of the show and all were Hall of Famers.

I just wanted to take a moment to remember Hank Snow on the 10 year anniversary of his death.


  1. On Facebook, I posted a link to "I've Been Everywhere," and a couple of friends who don't normally cotton to country music were amazed by his performance.

    I have his book and love it, though I also think he was a bit careful in there about his personal life. There were a couple of sections he wrote in such a way that he was not confessing to anything, but letting you realize he had misbehaved a bit. Which, in 80+ years, is understandable!

    I loved his singing and his guitar playing--he was a tremendous guitarist--but when he hosted, things got a bit wacky. My favorites:

    1. I don't think he could have said "Lonzo" at gunpoint. He would introduce the act as "Alonzo and Oscar," then finally as "Longuuhhhh and Oscar."

    2. One night, he waved in applause for Sonny James, who thought he was getting an encore and ran back out and ran smack into Snow, who was about a foot shorter.

    3. Garth Brooks appeared on his segment, and when he finished and Snow came out to center stage, Garth kissed him on the cheek. Snow just froze for a second, then he recovered and said, "I'll never wash my face again."

    I'd also add that the birthday celebration where he was just a guest as part of a tribute was, I think, in 1994, and when Jeannie Seely sang, he got up and joined her. He had hurt his knee in an auto accident and was limping a bit, but he looked fine. It's sad that he had such health problems in his later years.

  2. The Opry Live TV show where Snow last appeared was October 16, 1994.

    Regarding #3 above, I was fortunate to be on the front row that night when Garth kissed him. Unfortunately it happened so fast I didn't get a picture. It was on May 30,1992. Just reviewed that show on video tape, and back when they used to show the common "non pretty" people on the Opry Live shows, my family(Little brother, Mom, Dad,Sister and myself) is on TV for a few seconds after Garth did "Too Damn Old".

    I had forgotten just what Snow said after he was kissed, but he actually said "Ain't going to wash my face for a week." That being said, it was a classic moment and, one of many Garth provided back when used to make fairly regular appearances at the Opry.

    Glad I can say I was there that night!!! Also, Hank Snow had on a striking blue and white cross-striped suit that night, which I do have pictures of him in.

    Regarding Hank Snow, I have a friend in Nashville who got pretty close to Hank thru Kayton Roberts back in the 80s and 90s and have heard some interesting stories about Hank and some of his issues. I still would have loved to have met him personally, but he died before I began getting backstage occassionally. Still, I would have to say he was my favorite Opry performer and I don't know if I ever saw him wear the same suit twice.

  3. Great stuff! Thanks for posting that. Kayton later said he was a strange, sometimes difficult man but a good boss. And if you read that autobiography, you get an understanding of why he could be a bit of a character.

    I remember Jean Shepard being on the warmup show a while back and talking about how she shared a dressing room with Mr. Snow, and that he could be a cranky, royal pain. Being Jean, she told him that, and she continued the phrase after pain, and then added, "And I love you." He said he looked at her with tears in his eyes and said he loved her too. I think he was, in many ways, quite a softie, but his past made it difficult to get past a certain wall, and I don't know, to be psychoanalytical about it, that even his wife--he and Minnie Blanche were married for 64 years--entirely got through it. I also recall reading that he had dementia when he died, and I wonder how long the symptoms might have been affecting him.

  4. Thanks for all the great comments. I will say that Hank Snow was my 2nd favorite Opry performer. I put Roy Acuff first!!! As far as some of the comments about how Hank was, I wanted to post something that Hank had written in his book that I found interesting. He was thanking various people in his lives and he got to his wife, and he wrote: "Most of all, I owe my dear wife a huge debt of gratitude. Min has been my best friend and she always understood my complex personality and my unusual drive to succeed. Without her I never could have accomplished a fraction of what I've achieved. She has endured many hardships with me, but she has never lost her smile and she never complains. We've laughed a lot through the years, when we could have just as easily cried. Min has helped me keep life's frustrations in proper perspective, and she has a wonderful sense of humor. She hs been a hard worker, a fine cook, a good homemaker, and a loving wife".

    My comment is that Min probably put up with a lot from Hank. I don't think that very many spouses would put up with being uprooted constantly and put in strange places while their husband went off to California for months, or would sleep in the front of a horse trailer with their child. I remember reading in one part of the book where Hank set up Min and Jimmie in a trailer in the front yard of a home in Washington, Pennsylvania while he went off to California to check things out. I know my wife wouldn't put up with that!!

    And, did all of you notice that he never mentioned Kelly Foxton in the book. How he got her I do not know, but her being his duet partner was not one of the big moments of his career. I know they first appeared on the Opry on the PBS show that first year.

  5. Yeah, you got me there Byron. I have to retract my comment. I had a brain spasm. I have to put Acuff first too. He was the KING. But Hank Snow was definitely 2nd and he gets the edge over Acuff for the variety of songs he sang. He always mixed it up on the Opry with both his suits and his songs. But Acuff was such an entertainer. . .from the yo-yo antics to balancing the fiddle, to the way he always had an entertaining band and used them etc., and his off-stage personna and interaction with the fans.

  6. About Kelly Foxton. I always thought this was a last ditch attempt that Hank agreed to with RCA to prolong/save his record deal with RCA. He was dropped from the label right after those duet albums with Foxton were released, I beleive in 81. I actually saw them perform live at the Opry in December 1980 and December 1981 and I have one poor picture of them singing together at the Opry in 80. They did look cute, were colored-coordinated, but the fact that he never mentioned her and that phase of his career in his book probably tells you a whole lot about what he thought about it.

    BTW, a few years ago, I was wondering what had happened to Foxton. Go to and find out for yourselves!!!!!!

  7. Also, go to to Kelly page 1,kelly page 2, kelly page 3 on the menu on the left side at sugarbushsquirrel to see how well Kelly has been living it up since her and Hank parted ways!!!

  8. I looked her up online a year or so ago and was pleased to see she seems happy and well. It's obvious from the book that Mr. Snow was not thrilled with the latter stages of his career, or at least the stage in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But as he said in the book, he had done a lot of hard traveling and earned the chance to be at home.

    I will echo you on Mr. Acuff being the greatest entertainer; he used to say he wasn't a great singer but he could sell a song, and his medicine show training showed on stage. I'll also agree on Minnie Blanche being a loyal wife, sticking with Mr. Snow.

    I remember an Opry Live telecast where at the end of the first song, he said he had to be careful because "my world's worst critic" was in the audience with her sister, and he would get in trouble if he looked at "Mrs. Hank" drew attention to her, and then you could see he had seen her out of the corner of his eye and smiled a little. I know that the director put the cameramen to work and, as they went to the commercial, you saw two older women sitting side-by-side. One pointed at the camera. The other turned and looked, and her glare could have extermined a house. My mother and I were watching and burst out laughing because we knew it was Mrs. Hank.

  9. How many married men could get away with calling their wifes Mrs. John or Mrs. Ronnie or whatever!!! Gives you a little insight into Hank and Min there!!!

  10. OK Mr. Snow fans, help me with this: I heard Hank in concert 45 years ago sing a song about "a dark skinned (or brown skinned) girl." Never knew the title, so have been unable to track it down. Can any of you help? Thanks much, if you can.