It’s almost impossible to imagine that country icon and all-time legend Hank Williams isn’t a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
But it’s quite the opposite, actually.
At just 25 years old, he made his Grand Ole Opry debut on June 11, 1949, and fans were so enamored with his performance that he received an impressive six encores for his classic song and country standard “Lovesick Blues,” but after he missed a scheduled performance at the country institution in 1952 because of his heavy drinking (he was infamously known for bailing on shows), they actually fired him.
It was never supposed to be a permanent ban, however Hank Sr. tragically and mysteriously passed away just six months later on January 1st, 1953 on his was to play shows in West Virginia and Ohio.
And now, some 70 years later, the Opry has no plans to ever posthumously reinstate him…
Though even his family members started a petition back in 2003 to have him reinstated, which received over 65,000 signatures, it didn’t quite have the effect they’d hoped it would.
According to Dan Rogers, the executive producer of the Grand Ole Opry, in a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone, it’s because they want to focus on living artists who can contribute to the show and they can promote in return:
“Hank Williams will always be a treasured past member of the Grand Ole Opry.
The Grand Ole Opry is made of living, breathing artists who can contribute to the show, and to whom the Opry can give back.”
Of course, they have an immense respect for who Hank was and what he meant to the genre of country music, but it sounds like they want to continue to focus on promoting the next generation of country artists.
But even though he isn’t listed as a permanent member of the Opry, Rogers poignantly adds that his spirit and influence is felt every night through the artists and performers who continue to carry on the torch and sing his songs:
“There is not a single Opry night that happens where his influence isn’t felt. And there are many, many, many Opry shows where his music is sung.”
And speaking of those incredible six encores of “Lovesick Blues,” let’s cue it up…
Hank Williams Jr. Returns To The Opry After Over 20 Years
This must’ve been one hell of a show.
Back in 2002, Hank Williams Jr. returned to the Grand Ole Opry stage at the Ryman Auditorium after more than 20 years to pay tribute to his friend, the late, great Waylon Jennings, just after his death three days prior.
Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart were also part of the tribute, and they assisted on the guitar and mandolin, respectively, as Hank Jr. sang his song “Eye’s of Waylon”. A solo write by Hank Jr., it was included on his 1995 46th studio album, Hog Wild.
Of course, the two were friends for years, and Hank Jr. always looked up to Waylon as one of his biggest inspirations and musical heroes.
They even collaborated on a song called “The Conversation” (about Hank Sr.) for his classic 1979 album Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound, which was later rereleased on Waylon’s 1983 album Waylon and Company.
This will easily be the best five minutes of your day:
And while we’re on the subject, check out this three minutes of late-70’s cinematic greatness featuring two country icons: