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Hank Williams was only 25 when he stepped on the most famous stage in country music for the first time. Although he had been performing since he was a young teenager, it took him a while to earn the greatest honor country music has to offer.
After catching the attention of some radio show producers when he was just getting started, Williams ended up hosting his own 15 minute radio show twice a week, which was a huge hit with listeners. His time on the radio helped prepare him for a full-fledged career in country music, and he was eventually able to start his own band and travel on tour.
Williams managed to turn himself into one of the genre’s rising stars, and he caught the attention of the Grand Ole Opry. However, the Opry was hesitant to invite him to join because Williams had developed a reputation as a heavy drinker.
But the Opry couldn’t ignore Williams’ musical talent. After he snagged his first number one hit with “Lovesick Blues”, Williams earned a place as an Opry member and was given the chance to make his debut on its famous stage.
Williams made his Opry debut on June 11, 1949, during which he sang “Lovesick Blues” along with another one of his songs, “Mind Your Own Business”. He made history that night, because he was the first artist to ever receive six encores following a performance.
Over the years, Williams continued to work with the Opry by performing there whenever he got the chance. He also joined the Grand Ole Opry European Tour, during which he performed for soldiers stationed overseas.
Three years after Williams became an Opry member, he was fired as a result of his continued drinking problems. It was a mere matter of months later when the news broke that Williams had passed away on January 1, 1953 at the age of 29.
Decades after his death, some employees at the Ryman Auditorium, which was the Opry’s home from 1943-1974, said they’ve seen Williams’ spirit in the building. One employee even swore they saw someone resembling Williams walking around backstage.
No matter what merit such stories may have, there’s no doubt that Williams’ influence is felt every time an artist steps on that famous stage. You can tune in below to listen to the song that helped him earn his spot in the Opry all those years ago.