Crazy, a film inspired by the life of guitar great Hank Garland, begins with a man in bathrobe and pajamas being dragged down the corridor of what appears to be a psychiatric hospital by two orderlies. Flashed on the screen is a quote from Garland, “The music business can be hazardous to your health.” There in a nutshell, so to speak, is the story of Hank Garland. At least, that’s the biopic version.
Rewind to Nashville, 1945—it’s the Grand Ol’ Opry and Hank Garland (Waylon Payne) is making his debut. Hank Williams advises him to play something fast, and he does, quickly winning the audience over. Fast forward to 1955, same stage, an older Hank. He picks up a girl who feeds this session musician’s ego by telling him he’s the best guitarist in Nashville. He denies this, asserting he’s the best guitarist in the world. We then see him playing with Patsy Cline and Ray Orbison, and brawling with record producers. Do we think this is the story of a troubled young man?
Crazy paints Garland as promiscuous, reckless, brawling, full of himself (and a lot of other things), and jealous, yet a remarkably talented egomaniac. He was a session musician who played with the likes of Chet Atkins, Conway Twitty, Elvis Presley, Eddy Arnold, the Everly Brothers, Duane Eddy, and many other Nashville notables. He brought a unique sound into the studio, and evolved into jazz and blues.
Garland can’t seem to get it though his head that he’s hired as a performer and won’t be getting anything out of the compositional contributions he makes during recording sessions. Eventually this comes round to bite him and Bobby Helm on the butt when “Jingle Bell Rock” makes millions and it all goes to the studio. Recording executive Ryan Douglas shows no sympathy and tells Garland there’s nothing he can do—go see the big shots on music row. This is the beginning of a beautifully contentious relationship.
Garland meets a girl named Evelyn (Ali Larter) in a Chicago club, falls in love, cheats on her, then marries her. When they dance at their wedding to “The Tennessee Waltz,” we know the relationship is doomed.
“I will never leave you. I will always come home to you,” Hank tells Ev, but we’re suspicious. When Ev finds his cache of photos of other women she doubts his sincerity, and the audience begins to suspect that Ev is not wrapped all that tight. However, there's not a hint of infidelity on Hank’s part once he and Evelyn are married.
Hank eventually moves from country western to jazz. No matter what genre he plays, Evelyn can’t stand for him to be on the road. Ev becomes furious when Hank brings a black bass player home to sleep on the couch because the man couldn’t get a hotel room. In the very next scene she’s picking up a guy in a bar, but who else is in the bar? The one man Hank told Evelyn never to talk to again, Ryan Douglas. Before you know it, Ev and Ryan are getting down to the real nitty gritty in a not-too-private location while Hank is playing in a jazz club.
Racism rears its ugly head again as Nashville music execs (the Dixie Mafia) crack down on Hank for bringing black musicians into town. Partying with Elvis, Hank is interrupted by a delivery; a messenger brings photos of Ev and Ryan in bed together. Hank has some kind of seizure, tracks Ryan down, punches him in the face, and threatens to kill him if he ever goes near Ev again.