For the longest time I could never understand how anybody could like country music. The problem was that it took me nearly forever to realize there was a huge difference between the music that's performed by people like Shania Twain, and country music. Growing up in urban centers, the only type of country music I heard for the longest time was the former. Someone must have decided that city audiences were too sophisticated to want to hear any of the old time, or more traditionally styled, examples of the genre.
Not having any incentive to search out country music, it took a series of accidents for me to stumble across the good stuff: walking into a record store and hearing my first Graham Parsons duet with Emmylou Harris, listening to my brother's Jerry Jeff Walker and Kris Kristofferson albums, and learning about Hank Williams by hearing a guy named Sneezy Waters singing his music.
Waters had been cast in the role of Hank in the original production of the play Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave, when it played the bars and theatres in and around Ontario, Canada, back in the late 1970s. Hank Williams died in the back of his Cadillac on the way to a New Year's Day performance in 1953 from a combination of booze and drugs, and the premise of the play was that he made it to that show.
During the course of the play Hank became progressively drunker and more morose, until by the end he was barely standing. What really made the play work though was Sneezy Waters' ability to reproduce Hank's songs down to that distinctive catch in his throat when the emotions of what he was singing about began to overwhelm him. Having heard another performer singing Hank's music made me want to hear the original, and in spite of Sneezy Water's remarkable performance, nothing he did had prepared me for the raw emotional intensity of Hank Williams.
Hank Williams wasn't around very long to enjoy the spotlight, as he didn't come to the public's attention in a big way until 1949 and was dead four years later, so there has never been a huge library of his recordings available for fans to listen too. However, back in 1950-51 he recorded a series of radio shows that were sponsored by Mother's Best Flour, and because of his extensive touring schedule he was forced to pre-record the shows on acetate discs. It's these recordings that Time Life have used as the source for their new release Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings.