HankFest 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, at age 29). An amazing life & legacy, by anyone's definition.

See You At HankFest!

Marty Larkin
"Hank You Very Much"

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