Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Remembering Hank Locklin

I wanted to take a moment and remember one of the finest singers in the history of the Grand Ole Opry and that is Lawrence Hankins Locklin, known to all of us as Hank Locklin, who would have celebrated his 94th birthday today, February 15. Hank Locklin had one of the most pleasing and popular country music voices of the 1960s. Not only was he very popular in the United States, but he had a strong career in England and Ireland.

Hank was born on February 15, 1918 in McClellan, Florida. He grew up and attended school in Munson and was singing in amateur contests by the age of 10. He worked various jobs until accepting his first radio job in 1942, at WCOA in Pensacola. He also did radio shows in Panama City and Mobile.

After serving in the military he moved west and appeared on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas and then the Louisiana Hayride. He did some early recording on Decca Records before signing with Bill McCall's 4 Star label. His first hit was in 1949 with "The Same Sweet Girl" which made the top 10 in the country charts. His first number one record came in 1953 with "Let Me Be The One", after which he signed with RCA Records.

His first RCA hit was "Why Baby, Why" followed by "Geisha Girl", which became a top 5 hit. From that point on, Hank would show up on the charts on a regular basis. In 1958, he had the first of his 2 major hits, "Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On", which was a top 5 hit. His biggest hit came in 1960 with, "Please Help Me, I'm Falling", which spent 14 weeks at #1 and was also a top 5 pop hit.

The success continued as Hank had 70 singles that made it onto the country charts, and he recorded 65 albums. He stayed with RCA until 1972, when he left to go to MGM. He stayed there for 3 years, finally moving to Plantation Records.

Hank joined the Grand Ole Opry on November 9, 1960. He would remain an Opry member until his death. While Hank was a regular performer on the Opry for most of his career, he prefered not to live in Nashville, but in Florida. In fact, his title was the honorary mayor of McClellan, Florida, and he was introduced that way many times on the Opry.

Hank's voice stayed strong right up until his death on March 8, 2009. Even in his later years, he was still recording new material. When he passed away at the age of 91, he was the Opry's oldest living member. Over the last decade of his life, Hank spent most of his time living in Brewton, Alabama, which is where he passed away. He would come up and do the Opry several times each yer, making his last scheduled appearance on Saturday September 8, 2007.

To remember Hank Locklin, here is the Opry line up from the night of his last scheduled appearance on the Grand Ole Opry:

6:30: Steve Wariner (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Wade Hayes
7:00: The Whites (host); Catherine Britt; Blue County
7:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); Dale Ann Bradley; Jennifer Hanson
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); HANK LOCKLIN; Jeff Bates; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: John Conlee (host); Mel McDaniel; Buddy Jewel

Hank was one of those Opry members that had such a great voice and he had a fine career in country music.


  1. I enjoyed this Byron. One of my biggest highlights of my only trip to the Opry (so far), was seeing Hank. He sang, "Danny Boy" that night.

    I remember Jean Shepard (in her funny way of saying things) after Hank was done, "Now, how can I follow that".

  2. I always loved how he'd ask, "You love me, don't you?" He seemed like just a happy, wonderful man.

  3. I sent Hank a letter once asking if I could mail some of my LPs for him to autograph. One day I was sitting in my office at my desk and the phone rang. I picked it up and it was Hank Locklin calling to tell me he'd be glad to sign my albums and to visit. Classic. One of the reasons I'm an under 40 Opry Fan -- back when the Opry stars were real people and not some made-up wanna be rock stars who feel like fans are just an imposition. BTW/ I was the in balcony the night the Opry went back to the Ryan for the first time in 1999 -- I used to go the Opry a lot and have a lot of wonderful memories but I can honestly say when Hank Locklin sang "Danny Boy" that night, it gave me chills. (OldtimeOpry)

  4. Fred in Bismarck here:

    Thanks, Byron. I loved Hank, and you're right about him never losing that wonderful voice. He was blessed that way, as are only a few. (Porter is another who comes to mind.) I like his Plantation re-cuts even better than the RCA originals: the same knockout teardrop tenor, but arrangements that are more country.

  5. I heard and read in several interviews the reason why he had that wonderful tenor voice was because he never smoked or drank.