originally began as a house party, hosted by friends
who loved great music and great food. The format was as
simple as a bucket with a hole in it: To celebrate Hank Williams'
birthday (Sept. 17), they invited a bunch of friends (mostly
musicians and singers) to get together and play "All Hank
- All Nite." What's more, in honor of one of Hank's best
songs, they cooked some of the best jambalaya anyone had ever
tasted (or so everyone claimed).
The party was such a hoot, everyone wanted to do it again
— HankFest 2003 was staged at Schubas
Tavern in Chicago (click
here to see highlights). As the party grew, it also added
more elements, such as a lookalike
contest, "Ghost Writers In
The Sky" songwriting contest and even professional
chefs competing in a Jambalaya Cookoff. 2004 saw HankFest grow
again into a 2-day affair, while finding a new home at Wishbone
Restaurant in Chicago's hot West Loop (1 block east of Oprah
Winfrey's Harpo Studios).
But in between the music and food, a larger
question arose: What exactly explains the lasting magic of Hank
Williams' nearly universal appeal? To quote another quote: He
was a master of the "three chords and the truth" songwriting
style. Simple, honest, with searing raw emotions, laid out in
the most stripped-down, economy-of-words manner conceivable.
Even for those who don't listen much to country music, it's
remarkable how many of his songs they already know —
"Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey Good Lookin',"
"Jambalaya," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry,"
"Move It On Over" and "I Saw The Light"
to name just a very few. (click
here to see complete discography.)
For those who prefer to enjoy the lifestyle of a shooting
star like Hank at more of an arm's length, he truly
lived — and died — like a modern-day rock star:
An electric live performer whose life was framed with liquor,
drugs and womanizing (and yes, with pieces of jailtime, too).
Regardless of his own trials just getting through life, his
legacy of classic hits speak for themselves. Perhaps the most
remarkable thing, though, was the fact that he did it all before
he was 30 (he died in the back of a car
on the way to a gig —
still working on a song, lyrics left behind,
age 29). An amazing life & legacy, by anyone's definition.
See You At HankFest!
"Hank You Very Much"