I’M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY (1949) by Hank Williams
One of my favourite Hank Williams songs. Hank recorded this track on 30 August 1949 in Ohio. With him were ace studio musicians: Zeke Turner (electric guitar), Louis Innes (rhythm guitar), Jerry Byrd (steel guitar), Ernie Newton (bass), and Tommy Jackson (fiddle). They were not part of the Drifting Cowboys who toured with Hank at that time (although a couple did do stints with them). The Drifting Cowboys did record with Hank on many other sessions.
According to Colin Escott who wrote a biography on Hank “Here is the chill of the void that would become one of the hallmarks of Hank’s writing. It is the most oft cited example of Hank Williams the hillbilly poet, but its poetic form comes from the fact that it was originally intended to be spoken, not sung. Acuff-Rose staff writer Vic McAlpin said that Hank had written it for his first session of recitations slated for January 1950, but at some point he changed his mind. “I think ol’ Hank needs to record this,” he told McAlpin. Hank was concerned that some of the lines might sound self-consciously artsy and alienate his audience, but, as he so often did, he tried out the song on friends, fellow performers, and Fred Rose, and let them convince him that he had excelled”.
Veteran Nashville songwriter Jimmy Rule recalls: “One day I was over at Acuff-Rose, our mutual publisher, and Hank handed me a piece of paper and said, “Do you think people will understand what I’m trying to say when I say this?” The line was ‘Did you ever see a robin weep when leaves begin to die? It’s because he’s lost the will to live; I’m so lonesome I could cry’. Hank had this lonesome streak, and I think it was largely caused by his marital problems. I think he wrote it out of a feeling of loneliness that stayed very much with him. He would be the natural person to write ‘I’m so lonesome I could cry’.”
I have done my own slideshow video of this song, using as many images of Hank singing that I could find. Also included a few images of the musicians who played on this session, Jerry Byrd and Tommy Jackson. I hope that people not into Hank might take the time to explore his music.