Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hank Snow

No, I did not forget. One of the legendary members of the Grand Ole Opry, and my personal favorite (which some people cannot understand), Hank Snow was born on this date 101 years ago today. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in January 1950 and passed away in December 1999, just two weeks before his 50th anniversary as an Opry member.

During his career, he had 88 singles on the country charts and recorded 45 studio albums. 7 of those singles reached #1. He had an amazing career and actually, a pretty amazing life. His autobiography is one of the best out there.

One of Hank's best friends was Marty Robbins. Here is a classic clip that I have posted in honor of Clarence Eugene Snow, the Singing Ranger Hank Snow.


  1. Byron, I just heard that legendary fiddler Johnny Gimble passed away today. Wasn't he a member of the Opry band for a while?

  2. Byron, this is a terrific clip--I'd never seen it before. What I found interesting is that you could see they genuinely were having fun and liked each other. Mr. Snow talked about how he hated doing TV, and I'm sure he was glad to do it for Marty's show, but also his obvious grin when Marty was imitating him.

  3. Fred, Bismarck:

    Thank you, Byron. This was new to me also, and a great thrill. Hank's last, "I've Done at Least One Thing," is one of my all-time favorites. I don't know how I've been around so long without knowing of Hank's and Marty's friendship. It helps explain their sharing of the Glaser Brothers, who worked for Marty and helped Hank make some of his greatest records, beginning with "Beggar to a King."

  4. Fred, I agree as far as "I've Done at Least One Thing." One of my favorites and he nails it in this clip.

    Kyle, I don't think Johnny was part of the Opry Staff Band. I know he did a lot of work in Nashville in his later years, particuarly starting in the late 1960s. If he was with the Opry, it was for a very short amount of time or he was there backing up a particular musician.

  5. Byron thanks for this fantastic clip. Hank, always dignified and well, dressed seldom repeated songs on the Opry, and was truly one of the most faithful performers ever on the show. My favorite steel player of all time, Kayton Roberts, a long-time member of Hanks band is well featured as a bonus. And who can ever forget Marty's takeovers of the final Opry segment for so many years, even after he had come in from driving stock cars that night ? These two artists personified the spirit and sound of the Opry along with many others.
    If Hunter Hayes and artists like him (they?) are what the Opry is going to become down the road, talented though he (they ?) may be, the Opry will lose me as a listener and fan as I have been for almost 60 years.

    Dashmann - Flushing, Michigan

  6. Watching this classic clip is a reminder of the spirit of country music from yesteryear. While a lot of today's artists enjoy more widespread appeal, they fail miserably is replicating the spirit of country music from yesteryear. Hank Snow personified dignity and true class in every performance.

  7. Fred, Bismarck:

    Yes to all above. It is awe-inspiring to think just of the torch that was passed from Jimmie Rodgers to Ernest Tubb (whose appearance I also enjoyed on the clip) and Hank Snow, a span that lasted 70-some years, until Hank's passing. And to reflect on some of the other giants along the way -- Hank Williams probably being foremost -- is to realize how incredibly blessed we have been as fans.

    Just too bad our luck seems to have run out, a situation for which there is enough blame to go around. "Country music fans" could and should have insisted on better.

    On Byron's clip, also nice to see the testimonial from Joe Talbot, Kayton Roberts' predecessor. Between the two of them, what a contribution to Hank's signature sound! (Remember when the stars took their own bands into the studio with them?)

  8. One of my favorite videos at the Country Music Hall of fame features Hank.
    Speeches of various inductees are shown, and Hank's speech is the best.
    He thanks his wife, "Mrs. Hank Snow!"

  9. Something I noticed while watching the video was that BOTH Hank and Marty had their own full bands.
    Those days are gone.
    Mel Tillis and perhaps a few other are the last of that breed.

  10. Nat: I'm waxing nostalgic... I'm relatively young (42) but one fond memory I have from my trips to Nashville in the late 80s was the very distinct sounds of the individual bands at the beginning of each segment of the Opry... I remember very clearly both on radio (since back then we didn't have a printed schedule in advance to tell us who was coming on next) and in person the excitement when the lights would go down and Tommy Vaden would strike that opening to "Moving On" to announce the Singing Ranger was up next, or that yell the Smoky Mountain Boys (was it Os?) would let out as Howdy (and later Dan Kelly) took off on the opening theme, or the guitar riff on Watermelon on the Vine from the Bluegrass Boys when Mr. Monroe was next or Joe Caroll's thumb pick intro on the electric guitar to "Eight More Miles to Louisville" for Grandpa Jones or "Old Joe Clark" telling us Little Jimmy Dickens was next. Good times and one of the little traditions from the Opry that's all but forgotten now. (oldtimeopry)

  11. Oldtimeopry, how about the commercial jingles to start? Martha White is best remembered, but we knew to go get a Goo Goo because "they're gooood." The staff band loved doing the Coke jingle, and there were others like Luzianne and Stephens. Obviously, the Opry shouldn't and wouldn't do jingles the sponsors wouldn't want, but can you imagine Martha White having a segment today and not having the theme playing?

  12. " I'm Elm Hill Bill, I'm big and strong,
    I cut down Elm Trees all day long !!! "
    for Elm Hill meats ---circa 1970

    Dashmann - Flushing, Mich

  13. For a trip down Memory Lane, a couple of the old Opry commercials from the 70's can be found on YouTube. George Morgan voiced the "Elm Hill Bill" jingle that opened those segments of the Opry. A history of that recording can be found here:

    Ira Louvin's "Tennessee Pride country boy" jingled aired for well over 30 years. This entire track was being played on the Opry late into the 80's and it can be found here:

    Some might recall that the Odom Sausage backdrop was sold in pieces in the 80's to raise money for the Hank Snow child abuse prevention foundation. For 10 bucks you got a 10 inch square of the backdrop, a letter of authenticity and and a wallet sized photo of Hank posing in front of the backdrop on the Opry stage.

    A lot of sponsored paid for those full stage backdrops over the years: Jefferson Island, Stephens, Martha White, Coca Cola, Rudy's, Odom Sausage, Sunbeam, Little Debbie, Baltz Bros., Cracker Barrel and Shoney's are the ones that leap to mind. You had to watch your head if you were backstage when those things came in and out. I always thought they added something to the atmosphere myself. I sincerely hope that some of them are stored in the Hall of Fame's warehouse and will be put on display one of these days. I heard that's what happened to the old barn backdrop. That giant wall on the 3rd floor of the museum would be an ideal spot to mount it and some of the others.

    I've looked without success for some of the other jingles that were played (or sung live) on the Opry over the years. I don't know what scale was for doing a commercial jingle but the Willis Brothers had to be cleaning up with their work for Kelloggs, Fender, Acme Boots and Luzianne. Loretta Lynn did a couple of takeoffs on "I Wanna Be Free" and "Home" for SSS Tonic and Faron Young did jingles for Schlitz Malt Liquor. Back then, the commercials were often as entertaining as the show itself.