I have stated many times that while there are many Opry performers that I have enjoyed over the years, my favorite Grand Ole Opry member of all time is Hank Snow. And I want to take a moment to remember Hank, on what would have been his 97th birthday.
Hank was born on May 9, 1914 in Nova Scotia, Canada. He is considered the most successful Canadian country music star. Between 1936, when he first started recording, until his recording career ended in 1985, he recorded over 840 songs. During the prime of his recording career in the 1950s, 60s and into the 70s, 85 of his singles would be on the Billboard charts.
Growing up in Canada was not easy on Hank. He was abused and would run away from home, going to work on shipping vessels. His mother had a love of music and would get Hank his first guitar and records to listen to, with Jimmie Rodgers becoming his favorite.
In 1933, he began singing on the radio, on CHNS in Halifax. It was there that he met Minnie Blanch Aalders, who would become his wife. He patterned his singing after his idol, Jimmie Rodgers, and it was through his love of this music that he would meet Ernest Tubb. As a Canadian star, he had troubles getting his records released in the United States. He tried Hollywood and getting into the movies, but failed. Finally, he began to develop a following in Dallas, Texas and it was there that he met Ernest. Ernest thought enough of Hank that he was able to get Hank onto the Grand Ole Opry, where he started in January 1950.
Without a hit record, it looked like it would be a short stint at the Opry as management was not impressed with him. But in 1950, he would hit it big with his career record, "I'm Movin' On". This record would be one of the biggest hits in the history of country music, staying at #1 for months, and staying on the charts well into 1951. Hank called it a miracle. In 1979, Hank was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and would later be elected into the Canadian Hall of Fame. He spent the majority of his career on RCA records and would be one of their top sellers.
Hank took the name, "The Singing Ranger", and called his band the "Rainbow Ranch Boys". But, he was not a ranger and did not own a ranch. His home in Nashville was called "Rainbow Ranch", but in reality was a modest sized home on a several acre lot. Even after he became a huge star, he never moved.
Hank Snow published his autobiography, "The Hank Snow Story" in 1994. As I have said many times before, if you have not read the book, I highly recommend that you do. In the book, Hank is pretty honest about some of the things that he did in his life, and not all were good. He admits in his book that he is a pretty complicated man. And if you would like another view of Hank, I suggest that you read Jimmy Snow's book, "I Cannot Look Back". That one is a little harder to find as it has been out of print for a while, but Jimmy also presents his view of his dad, some good and some not so good.
Up until 1995, Hank enjoyed good health, but starting that year, he began to experience the health and respiratory issues that would bother him the rest of his life. In fact, his final Opry appearance on Saturday August 31, 1996, was his only Saturday Opry appearance of the year. His first Friday Night Opry appearance that year was on August 9, and he appeared on the first show that night. That would be his final Friday Night Opry appearance. He was on the line up for Saturday September 7 and Saturday September 14, but cancelled both nights. Those would be the final Opry shows that he was scheduled for. As he finished out his life, he basically stayed home and out of the public eye as his health continued to decline. He passed away on December 20, 1999, just weeks short of what would have been his 50th year as an Opry member, at his home in Madison, Tennessee.
In honor of the birthday of Hank Snow, here is the actual running order of the 2 Opry shows on Saturday August 31, 1996, Hank Snow's final night appearing on the Opry. One of the things that I found interesting when looking at this line up, was the choice of songs that Hank did on the first show. For someone who was making their first Opry appearance in a year, he stayed away from his #1 legendary country songs and did a song that was not a hit for him, but a song that he often sang on the Opry. Interesting choice.
6:30 GHS Strings
Mike Snider (host): Tennessee Rhapsody/Cotton-Eyed Jo
Bill Carlisle: Rusty Old Halo
Mike Snider: Shuckin the Corn/Foggy Mountain Chimes
6:45 Joggin' In A Jug
Grandpa Jones (host): Ol' Blue
Jan Howard: My Heart Skips A Beat
Grandpa Jones: Gooseberry Pie
Johnny Russell (host): Good Hearted Woman
Charlie Louvin: The Precious Jewel
Jean Shepard: Let's All Go Down to the River/I Saw the LightWill the Circle Be Unbroken/ I'll Fly Away/Somebody Touched Me
Jim Ed Brown: The 3 Bells/ Looking Back to See
Johnny Russell: Act Natually
7:30 Standard Candy
Jeannie Seely (host): Burning that Old Memory
Cumberland Boys: Nothing But Love
Ray Pillow: She's Doing it to Me Again
Margaret Whiting: I Can't Help It
Opry Squardance Band: Durang's Hornpipe
Jeannie Seely: When He Leaves You
8:00 Martha White
Porter Wagoner (host): On A Highway Headed South
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Stonewall Jackson: Muddy Water
Del Reeves: Got A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up on Your Way Down
Porter Wagoner: The Cowboy's Hat
Porter Wagoner & Christie Lynn: Forty Miles From Poplar Bluff
Hank Snow (host): In the Misty Moonlight
Jimmy C Newman: Cajun's Dream
Stu Phillips: Colorado
The Whites: Pins and Needles
Connie Smith: Then and Only Then
Hank Snow: It Kind of Reminds Me of Me
9:30 Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): Tell Her Lies and Feed Her Candy
Brother Oswald: The Girl I Love Don't Pay Me No Mind
Jeanne Pruett: Temporarily Yours
Jimmy C Newman: Big Mamou/Texa-Cajun
Porter Wagoner: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name
Porter Wagoner: Freight Train Boogie
Grandpa Jones (host): Fifteen Cents Is All I Got
Stonewall Jackson: Me and You and a Dog Named Boo
Grandpa Jones: Any Old Time
Jean Shepard (host): I Thought Of You/It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels/You Win Again/A Dear John Letter
Roy Drusky: Waltz of the Angels/One Day at a Time
Jean Shepard: A Phone Call Away
Jim Ed Brown (host): Pop-A-Top
Cumberland Boys: Today I Might Be Going Home
Jim Ed Brown & Kristi Russell: Lyin' In Love With You
Mike Snider (host): Lonesome Road Blues
Opry Squaredance Band: Ragtime Annie
Mike Snider: Battle Cry of Freedom/Get You Hand off My Knee and Load the Cannon
Hank Snow (host): I Don't Hurt Anymore
Del Reeves: I Would Like to See You Again
Connie Smith: Amazing Grace
Charlie Walker: Who'll Buy the Wine
The Whites: I Took Your Place
Hank Snow: I Almost Lost My Mind
Johnny Russell (host): Red Necks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer
Stu Phillips: Blue Canadian Rockies
Jeannie Seely: Bubbles In My Beer
Ray Pillow: Someone Had to Teach You
Colleen Walters: Walkin' After Midnight
Hank Snow was one of the more colorful characters in the history of the Opry. Almost every Saturday night, you could count on Hank hosting the 8:30 and 11:00 portions of the show. As I wrote a while back, the Opry is a better place for having performers such as Hank Snow as a member, but the days of Hank Snow are long gone. Actually, I think the Opry would be better today if more entertainers followed the example set by Hank. He was a true country music legend.