Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Remembering Hank Snow

Today I want to take a moment as I do each year and remember one of the greatest Opry stars of all time, Hank Snow. Hank was born on May 9, 1914 and today would have been his 98th birthday. I am not going to go through the whole biography of Hank, as that has been done many times before and if you really would like a good review of Hank's life, I would highly recommend Hank's autobiography while is an excellent book. All of us have funny Hank Snow stories and many of us have questioned things that Hank did in his life, but the bottom line is that he was one of the Opry's main artists for almost 50 years. He supported the show and was proud to be an Opry member.

What I have done today is gone back to one of my old Opry history books, this one from 1952 and have copied what was written about Hank at that time. Remember when this was written that Hank had only been an Opry member for 2 years and was in the early stages of his great American career. Sometimes it is interesting to go back and review what was written about someone many years ago, so that is what I have done with Hank Snow. This is from "Grand Ole Opry" by William McDaniel:

"The songs of Hank Snow have delighted many audiences, especially in Canada, for a dozen years, but it was only after he joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1950 that he reached the peak of his success. Hank was born in Canada. He began his musical career at the age of thirteen, when he shipped to sea as a cabin boy with his guitar and began entertaining his shipmates with songs, dances, and guitar interludes. After three years at sea, Hank decided to become a professional entertainer. He worked his way to Halifax to audition for a radio job. He made the grade, and from then on radio was his career.

He organized a five-piece country band and played and sang regularly for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. He also made personal appearances throughout Canada and broad sections of the United States, all the while writing songs and making records. Hank joined WSM in 1950, and it was later that year that his recording of his own song, "I'm Movin' On" hit the top of the country song popularity charts. When it was followed closely by "Golden Rocket" and "Rhumba Boogie", he had definitely established himself as a country singing star. Most of the time since then, he has been represented on the top ten list by at least one song, the latest of which is "The Gold Rush Is Over." Among his other recorded hits on the RCA Victor label are "Marriage Vow", "With This Ring I Thee Wed", "I Cried But My Tears Were Too Late", "Drunkard's Son", "Nobody's Child" and "I'm Paving The Highway With Tears."

Hank's recording of "I'm Movin' On" was the top selling country record of 1950, and Hank himself was listed among the top ten country singers according to both retail sales and juke box plays in the annual recapitulation of top tunes, records and artists conducted by Billboard, trade paper of the entertainment industry. He was also named top folk singer in a poll conducted by the Southern Farmer Magazine, for which he received a special scroll. Early in 1952, he was named the favorite country singer in the area of Washington, D.C. as a result of a radio poll conducted by disc jockey Ray Armand of WARL in Arlington, Virginia. The poll drew thirty thousand letters and cards.

Hank is smll in stature, with blue eyes and brown hair. He wears Western type costumes, with white, blue and brown as the predominant colors. The songs he sings usually have many  more words in them than those written and sung by other performers. Hank lives with his wife and fourteen-year-old son in the Nashville suburbs, where he has room for his trained horse."

Hank joined the Grand Ole Opry on January 7, 1950. This was also his 1st appearance on the Opry. He would remain an Opry member until his death on December 20, 1999, just a couple of weeks short of celebrating 50 years on the Grand Ole Opry. Hank was in declining health for a number of years prior to his death and his last Saturday night Opry appearance was on August 31, 1996. He played the Friday Night Opry a week later and that was Hank's last appearance at the Opry House.

I have printed the line-up from Hank's final Grand Ole Opry appearance before, so what I thought I would do today in honor of what would have been Hank Snow's 98th birthday is to print the Opry line-up from Saturday December 23, 1950. This is the earliest line-up that I have from a night that Hank Snow performed on the Opry.

7:30 Warren Paint & Color Co.
Roy Acuff (host): Night Train to Memphis
Lew Childre: Jingle Bells
Jug Band: Old McDonald Had a Farm
Gang: Precious Memories
Jimmy Riddle: Casey Jones

7:45 American Ace Coffee
Roy Acuff (host): Leaf of Love
Joe Zinkaas: Four Leaf Clover
Uncle Dave and Doris: Connon Country Hills
Girls: Remember Me
Oswald: Rice on Buddy
Benny: Arkansas Traveler

8:00 Martha White
Ernest Tubb (host): Throw Your Love My Way
Jimmy Dickens: To Be Selected
Chester Atkins: To Be Selected
June Carter: Oh For Crying Out Loud
Hank Snow: Golden Rocket
Crook Brothers: Black Mountain Rag
Ernest Tubb: Christmas
Maybelle: Glory Special
Jimmy Dickens: To Be Selected
Ernest Tubb: Till the End of the World

8:30 Fortune Feeds
Cowboy Copas (host): Filipino Baby
Bill Monroe: To Be Selected
Possum Hunters: To Be Selected
George Morgan: To Be Selected
Wally Fowler: To Be Selected
Anita and Chet: To Be Selected
Carl Smith: I Overlooked an Orchid
Cowboy Copas: From the Manger to the Cross
Bill Monroe: Uncle Pen

9:00 Royal Crown Cola
Jimmy Riddle: Put Your Arms Around Me
Roy Acuff (host): We Planted Flowers on Our Darlings Grave
Lonzo and Oscar: I Lisp When I Say Ethica
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Goodbye Liza Jane
Jamup and Honey: Jokes
Hank Williams: Moaning the Blues
Jug Band: Uncle Noah's Ark
Roy Acuff: Glory Bound Train
Oswald: Late Last Night

9:30 Prince Albert
Red Foley (host): Here Comes Santa Claus
Foley Girls: Winter Wonderland
Dance: Chicken Reel
Jordanaires: The First Noel
Red Foley: Silent Night
Old Hickory Singers: Deck the Halls
Rod Brasfield: Jokes
Minnie Pearl: Jokes
String Beans: Here Rattler
Red Foley: Frosty the Snow Man
Fiddle Tune: Devil's Dream

10:00 Wallrite
Bill Monroe (host): I Saw a Star
Wally Fowler: To Be Selected
George Morgan: To Be Selected
Bill Monroe: A Call From On Hight
Bill Monroe: Blue Grass Stomp

10:15 Dr. Le Gear
Roy Acuff (host): When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold
Uncle Dave: Wish You All Well
Gang: Life's Railway to Heaven
Le Croix: White Christmas
Benny Martin: Katy Hill

10:30 Jefferson Island Salt
Ernest Tubb (host): I Love You Because
Jimmy Dickens: Blondes, Brunettes, Red Heads
Chester Atkins: Canned Heat
Carl Smith: This Side of Heaven
Jordanaires: One Day
Ernest Tubb: Remember I'm the One Who Loves You
June Carter: Bashful Rascal
Gully Jumpers: Hoot Man
Bob Eaton: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Dickens: Out of Business
Ernest Tubb: To Be Selected

11:00 Blevins Popcorn
Hank Williams (host): Why Don't You Love Me
Lew Childre: To Be Selected
Autrey: To Be Selected
Hank Williams: Nobody's Lonesome for Me

11:15 Baby Blues Eyes Doll
Cowboy Copas (host): Steppin Out
Sam and Kirk: Long John Green
Lazy Jim Day: Singing the News
Fiddle: To Be Selected

11:30 Weather House
Hank Snow (host): Will There Be A Santa Claus
Annie Lou and Danny: Hear Dem Bells in Heaven
Crook Brothers: Soldier's Joy
Hank Snow: I'm Movin' On
Crook Brothers: Cumberland Gap

11:45 Rat Poison
George Morgan (host): To Be Selected
Lonzo and Oscar: Cotten Eyed Joe
Fruit Jar: Cracklin Hen
George Morgan: To Be Selected
Fruit Jar: To Be Selected

(Note: I printed the program exactly as it was written that night, even with the mis-spelling of names and with just 1 name for some artists. Also, some of the artists announced their songs ahead of time, while others were undecided. The Prince Albert portion was the national broadcast on NBC radio  and with it being a couple of days before Christmas, there was a large number of Christmas songs).


  1. With Mr. Acuff, my all-time Opry favorite. What a great biography of him and what a great lineup! And I have to say ... a segment sponsored by Rat Poison? Those were the days!

  2. Now that's a lineup!!

  3. By the way, IF I am correct--IF--Carl Smith was a guest that night and didn't become a member until the next year?

  4. I remember hearing Hank's final performance on the show. I distinctly recall him making a very low key farewell fact, I wasn't really sure I of what I was hearing. He simply casually mentioned that he had enjoyed his time at the Opry but he was going to take some time to relax....and that was it. He did his final song and he was gone. No fanfare, no big to-do...but very much in keeping with his somewhat reticent style. When you think about it, it's kind of sad that little was said about a 46 year run. But then, we never expect that someone's performance will be the very last and unless, like Carol Lee Cooper, they announce that they are definitely retiring....but that almost never happens.

  5. Barry, I remember that Jean Shepard said at one point that she had spoken with Mr. Snow and he hoped to come back to the Opry. This would have been around 1998 or early 1999. I do know that he was ultimately diagnosed with dementia, which, as we know, unfortunately happens, especially to someone who would have been in his age group. He had had some lung/respiratory trouble, too, so I don't think he necessarily PLANNED to retire. I could be wrong--it wouldn't be the first time.

  6. I guess in my mind, and it is just my thinking, Hank would have come back for the January 1999 shows at the Ryman if he was able. to. I know that he had been gone from the Opry for almost 3 years at that point, but there was always the hope.

    I do agree with Barry that it is a shame that the Opry really doesn't allow anyone to retire gracefully from the show. I know they did it with Carol Lee Cooper, but when you think about it, Opry performers either fade away or stay until they die. I know it wasn't that way in the early half of the Opry's history, with performers coming and going.

    As far as Carl Smith, I do not have his exact Opry membership date, but he came to WSM in 1950, appearing on some early morning radio shows and guest spots on the Opry. In fact, his first Opry appearance was March 1950. It was agreed that he would appear on the Opry every third Saturday. As far as actual membership, the best guess that I have is he joined the show officially in 1951. He left the Opry late in 1956 to headline his own tour with a competing Opry sponsor.

    1. I recall Jean and husband Bennie saying the same thing in July 1998, that they talked to Hank and kept in close touch and Hank indicated he wanted to get back to the Opry. I also had hoped that he would at least make an appearance on January 7, 2000 and I had front row seats at the Ryman. Sadly, it wasn't to be!

      Barry's words about Hank's final appearance is about the way I remember it too. I need to find my tape and listen to it again!

      Jim Rhodes
      Knightsville, IN

  7. As I mentioned above, Hank's last Opry show was the Friday Night Opry on September 6, 1996. His last Grand Ole Opry was on Saturday August 31, 1996. He was scheduled for the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday September 7 and 14, but he cancelled out of those shows. The September 14 show was the last time that Hank was scheduled for any Opry show.

    During 1996, he was scheduled and missed many shows. For example, he was scheduled for the Grand Ole Opry on July 27 and August 3, but did not appear at either show. And from January 6 thru March 2, he was scheduled for each of those Saturday nights, and did not make it either.

  8. I was fortunate enough to see Hank Snow a few times at the Opry during the mid-90s. It seems that each time I saw him he did an instrumental for his second song. I wonder if singing was becoming difficult for him physically. Then again, he was a superb guitar player, so maybe he did the instrumentals just to show that aspect of his talent.

    Thanks for listing the lineup from 1950. Quite a few names that even I'm not familiar with. This may be the first Prince Albert Show lineup I've seen where there was not a major star with Red Foley and the other regulars. It looks like they would have put Carl Smith there as he was a hot new star at the time.