Hank Williams, who was inducted as one of the first artists into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961, stands tall as one of country music’s giants. The Alabama native was more than just a troubled Grand Ole Opry star; he turned out to be one of the great composers in country music history.
This list of the Top 10 Hank Williams songs is quite impressive when you realize how many of them have been covered by artists from all genres, and that all but one was written by Hank Williams himself. Our list represents the best of Hank Williams' songs, from his first hit, 1947’s "Move It on Over," to his posthumous 1989 hit "There’s a Tear in My Beer."
"There’s a Tear in My Beer"
"There’s a Tear in My Beer" was not a hit while Hank Williams was alive. However, in 1989, through modern technology, his vocals were paired with his son (Hank Williams Jr.)'s for a Grammy-winning collaboration and CMA Vocal Event of the Year. This was quite a historic event in the Williams' dynasty, as the young Hank Williams Jr. was just 3 years old when his father died in the back seat of a Cadillac.
Originally penned by Hank Williams as a serious story about two Native Americans, publisher Fred Rose convinced him to re-write "Kaw-Liga" as a novelty hit. Inspired by a fishing trip to the Indian town of Kowaliga in Williams' native Alabama, "Kaw-Liga" became a legendary story about a pair of wooden cigar store Indians. The song hit No. 1 just one month after Hank Williams' death in January 1953. This fun story tune is a must-have on our list of the Top 10 Hank Williams Songs.
In 1947, "Move It on Over" became the first national release for Hank Williams on MGM Records. The track became his first Top 5 hit and helped him earn his way to the Louisiana Hayride radio show. The silly Hank Williams song about a man staying in the "doghouse" has been covered by George Thorogood, Bill Haley and Travis Tritt.
"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)"
"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" was a hit in the final year of Hank Williams’ life. In 1952, the song went to No. 1 in Billboard, where it remained at the top for 14 weeks. The uptempo Cajun flavored hit was eventually inducted into the Grammy Song Hall of Fame. "Jambalaya" is an essential title on our list of the Top 10 Hank Williams Songs.
"Lovesick Blues" was originally written as a show tune by Cliff Friend and Irving Mills. Hank Williams ‘twanged’ up the record, and the song became his first No. 1 hit in 1949. The composition was later entered into the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. The success of this song helped Hank Williams land a spot at the Grand Ole Opry, where he received six encores the night he made his debut with this monster hit.
Early hits like "Honky Tonkin’" and "Move It on Over" showcased the rockabilly influence in the sound of Hank Williams. "Mind Your Own Business" was another rockabilly-country hit that peaked at No. 5 in 1949. These songs are a great example as to why Hank Williams was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. The sassy tune was later a No. 1 hit for Hank Williams Jr. and a few of his rowdy friends that made a cameo on the single in 1986.
Hank Williams was already an established country music star when "Cold, Cold Heart" was released as a single. However, he was introduced to a much bigger audience when Tony Bennett released his own version of this song in 1951. The pop success of the song gained Williams greater respect as a songwriter. The song is not only a part of the Great American Songbook - it easily fits on our list of the Top 10 Hank Williams Songs.
"I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry"
Thanks to the movies and musicals made to honor the life and legend of Hank Williams, "I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry" became a better-known song in his catalog of hits. Originally released in 1949, the song didn’t chart according to Billboard, but it eventually became a country music standard and was inducted into the Grammy Song Hall of Fame.
Many stories have been told through the years about why Hank Williams wrote so many brokenhearted songs. However, according to his daughter, Jett Williams, 1953’s "Your Cheatin’ Heart" did not have anything to do with his tumultuous marriage to Audrey Williams that ended in 1952. Whether or not this song had a connection to his ex-wife, you can hear Hank’s broken heart in every word he sings.
"Hey, Good Lookin'" was another timeless classic penned by Hank Williams. The song was a No. 1 hit in 1951, but it has come back to life over and over again. Several artists - from Jimmy Buffett to Ray Charles - have covered the song, and it has joined some of his other classics in the Grammy Song Hall of Fame. Although the troubled Hall of Famer sang many songs about love gone wrong, we selected this uptempo, positive love song as our leader of the Top 10 Hank Williams Songs.