.

There never was a night so long
When time went crawling by.
The Arctic wind came howling in
Across the Nashville sky.
The planes had all been grounded
With no tickets left to ride.
It was wheels out on the highway
On the night Hank Williams died.

The radio played Country
At the dark end of the day.
To Canton they were rolling
As the old year slipped away.
The pain was ever harder
As he sat alone and cried.
With the hourglass nearly empty
On the night Hank Williams died.

Then somewhere in the distance
You could hear the lonesome whine
Of a freight train out of Knoxville
With the Moon across the pines.
The distant crowd were gathered
At the stroke of Eventide,
But their hero had departed
On the night Hank Williams died.

So, float me on a Pirogue
To the Bayou of my dreams.
I’ll feast on Filé Gumbo,
Though I don’t know what it means
To wind up in a Cadillac,
no loved one by your side,
The victim of a cheating heart,
The night Hank Williams died.

.

.

Jeff Eardley lives in the heart of England near to the Peak District National Park and is a local musician playing guitar, mandolin and piano steeped in the music of America, including the likes of Ry Cooder, Paul Simon, and particularly Hank Williams.


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36 Responses

    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks Joe. I think you have to be of a certain vintage to appreciate Hank. I am, and I know you are.
      He was, and still is so iconic. These young ‘uns don’t know what they’re missing.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        It’s a funny thing, Jeff, but I didn’t know much about Hank until I moved to Blue, Arizona, a small ranching community in the mountains. There, every other adult played guitar or fiddle, and we put together a little band called The Barb-wire Boys. Some of our singers covered Hank Williams songs, and I bought me an album or two. I especially liked “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”

  1. Jess Sleight

    Reminds me of l Cohen and his tower of sound where he comments he could hear Hank williams coughing all night. One of my childhood favorites along with many others now long dead. Love COUNTRY !

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Jess, thanks for the comment. Hank was part of the soundtrack of my childhood too. His songs, after all these years, are still some of the greatest Country music ever. A sad end for such a talent.

      Reply
  2. Peter

    Jeff – I always like poetry where the meter is so faultless and so regular that I can get it right at a first reading, which this is. I didn’t know anything about Hank Williams apart from his being an American singer, but thanks to you I know a little more about him now, about his poor health, and a little bit about the controversy surrounding his death. This poem looks as though it would sound good set to music (although you’ve probably done that already). I like the refrain too.

    Reply
  3. Paul Freeman

    So good, I was reading silently in my head, in my ‘Country’ voice. The musicality is there without putting it to music.

    As Peter said, the meter was faultless making it a straight read through.

    Thanks for the read.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks Paul for your kind words and yes, it is turning into a song. Hank’s music was deceptively simple. Most of it uses three chords, the great Jambalaya only has two. He certainly was a tortured genius.

      Reply
  4. Sally Cook

    The meter rides along; haunting and evocative in a distinctly American way. Has it been put to music?
    I grew up with music like this, and I like it !

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Sally, like you, I grew up with Hank’s music bouncing out of a valve radio. Your nation has produced many greats, and he was sure one of them. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Mike, thanks for your comment. I have discovered (On YouTube) a 1980 Canadian movie, “Hank Williams, the show he never gave” featuring Sneezy Waters (What a great handle) and relating to that last night of Hank’s short life. Rehearsals for the movie were interrupted by the assassination of John Lennon. It is filmed in the style of TV in the 50’s but is certainly worth a look.

      Reply
  5. Jeff Eardley

    Peter, thanks for your kind comment. I always think that on New Years Eve 1952, the whole of America was singing his songs as he was ebbing away alone in the back of his brand new Cadillac. He was only 29.
    It is, as we speak, turning into a song with stanza 4 as a chorus. Thanks again for your interest.

    Reply
    • Joe Tessitore

      I can hear Junior singing it, and changing the last line to “The night my father died.”

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Joe, what a lovely thought. I must send it to him. Thank you so much.

    • Jeff Eardley

      David, he was one of the great icons of America. I love his songs and the painful life that created them. Thank you for your comments.

      Reply
  6. Julian D. Woodruff

    I remember well, Jeff,
    Hank’s music was one of the few highs in the life of 2 housemates from long ago. They’d import him from the Berkeley Public Library and have a blast. Thanks for your plain-spoken tribute (only 3 words of more than 2 syllables) to Hank.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Julian, thank you so much for your memories of Hank. He was one of those tortured, creative artists and was never destined to have a comfy old age. He was certainly part of my childhood in England, and his music lives on in all of us of that generation of post-war boomers. Wasn’t life simpler then?

      Reply
  7. Yael

    Great Country song, I mean poem. I can hear it in my head already. The music lives on; great job!

    Reply
  8. Russel Winick

    Very nice Jeff. Brings to mind the great Johnny Cash song The Night Hank Williams Came to Town.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks Russel, not a song that I’m familiar with but I will be by tomorrow. Hank set the bar very high and very few have come near. Johnny Cash was one.

      Reply
  9. Margaret Coats

    Jeff, I don’t know Hank Williams in particular, but your poem seems crafted out of lines from songs. I may remember some of them from performances by other country singers–and you did inspire me to listen to a few by the man himself. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Margaret, thank you for your comment. Yes, there are references to Hank’s work in there. His songs still have the power to light up a room after all these years, particularly Jambalaya, Setting the woods on fire, Hey good lookin’ and many more. He wrote around 700 altogether.

      Reply
  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Jeff, this is a perfectly crafted, beautiful tribute to a legend. You capture the essence of Hank Williams magnificently. I particularly like; “I’ll feast on Filé Gumbo,/Though I don’t know what it means”. I’m smiling because I love the song “Jambalaya” and I didn’t know what Filé Gumbo was until I came to Texas… it’s now part of my staple diet. Jeff, thank you for a toe-tapping delight of a poem that evokes wonderful memories.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Susan, thank you once again for your kind words. Hank was actually a very good poet. The words to “I’m so lonesome I could cry” are heartbreaking. You are right about “Jambalaya” which has only two chords. When my musical ensemble play it, the room goes wild. Hank junior is a big star in your nation and I am listening to him as I type this. File Gumbo is something I need to research. Thanks again.

      Reply
  11. Jeff Eardley

    Mike, thanks for the link to the recipe for File Gumbo. I checked it out but we are struggling to obtain “Medium blue crabs.” We only have “Large Blue Crabs” here in North Staffordshire, a medical condition that few like to talk about. I will head off tomorrow to our local river to fish for our delicious river Cod which may be a suitable substitute.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Cod would work beautifully. I’d steer clear of the large blue things…

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Thanks Mike, will do. By the way, we had a rock band over here called “Sassafras” in the 70’s. Worth checking out.

  12. David Watt

    Jeff, your tribute to Hank Williams is terrific. The musicality of this poem perfectly suits the subject. Hank positively influenced many subsequent artists, including, of course, the great Johnny Cash.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      David, thank you for your comment. Hank’s Spina Bifida must have had a huge affect on his life and his writing. As well as a great tunesmith, he was certainly a skilled poet. His tortured personal life set a bar for country music that has never been beaten.
      Best wishes to you.

      Reply

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