5 Songs You Didn’t Know Hank Williams Wrote for Other Artists

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Born September 17, 1923, in Mount Olive, Alabama, Hank Williams was determined to be a country music star as a kid. Settled with his family in Montgomery, by 1937, a 14-year-old Williams had already dropped out of school to pursue his career, even informally changing his birth name of “Hiram” to “Hank” as it would be a better stage name.

Though he never knew how to read music, Williams wrote songs based on personal experiences and storytelling, using the chords and chord progressions from early guitar lessons he received, in exchange for meals or money, from blues musician Rufus “Tee Tot” Payne. Calling Payne his “only teacher,” Williams later recorded one of the first songs the bluesman taught him how to play, the 1933 Clarence Williams-penned “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It.

Often performing on the streets with his Silvertone guitar, as a teen Williams won $15 in a talent contest at The Empire Theater for singing one of his first original songs called “WPA Blues”—writing the lyrics around the melody from country music pioneer Riley Puckett’s “Dissatisfied.” Soon after, Williams was asked to host a 15-minute show at the Montgomery radio station WSFA for $15 a week and formed his band The Drifting Cowboys.

Already making his mark on the road, Williams was also getting recognition as a songwriter, publishing his first songbook, Original Songs of Hank Williams and his first hit “Move It on Over.” By 1949, he joined the Grand Ole Opry and was the first performer to receive six encores in the house.

Dying just three years later from a heart attack at the age of 29, within his nearly three decades of life, Williams wrote and left behind a catalog of country classics from “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Ramblin’ Man,” “Hey Good Lookin,'” “My Heart Would Know,” “Move It On Over,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Lovesick Blues,” “Honky Tonk Blues,” “There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight,” “Take These Chains From My Heart,” and dozens more.

Throughout his career, Williams released 31 singles (and recorded as many as 55), 11 of which became No. 1 country hits. On Nov. 21, 1952, Williams released his last single “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive,” co-written with Fred Rose. The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country Singles chart following Williams’ death on New Year’s Day, 1953.

He was also posthumously elected a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, and in 2001, his 1951 hit “Hey Good Lookin'” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Throughout his brief career, Williams also wrote a handful of songs that were recorded by other artists.

Here are five of those songs.

1. “Mind Your Own Business,” Jesse Rogers and His ’49ers (1948)
Written by Hank Williams

Though Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys were the first to release “Mind Your Own Business” in 1949, Jesse Rogers and His ’49ers were technically the first to record the Williams-penned tune a year earlier, releasing it just months after Williams in 1949.

“Mind Your Own Business” has been covered by dozens of artists, including Charley Pride, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Travis, and more, over the past 70 years. In 1986, Hank Williams Jr. also recorded his father’s hit with Tom Petty, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, and Reverend Ike, which remained at No. 1 on the country chart for two weeks.

Willie Nelson, who has covered other Williams classics like “Cold Cold Heart” and “I Saw the Light” among others, also released his own version of “Mind Your Own Business” on his 2017 album Willie and the Boys: Willie’s Stash, Vol. 2.

If the wife and I are fussin’, brother that’s our right
‘Cause me and that sweet woman’s got a license to fight
Why don’t you mind your own business?
(Mind your own business)
‘Cause if you mind your business, then you won’t be mindin’ mine

Oh, the woman on our party line’s the nosiest thing
She picks up her receiver when she knows it’s my ring
Why don’t you mind your own business?
(Mind your own business)
Well, if you mind your business, then you won’t be mindin’ mine

2. “On the Evening Train,” Molly O’Day (1949)
Written by Hank Williams and Audrey Williams

Written by Hank Williams and his first wife Audrey, mother of Hank Williams Jr., “On The Evening Train” was first recorded by Molly O’Day and The Cumberland Mountain Folks, the vocal duo of O-Day and Lynn Davis.

Though Williams never recorded the song himself, several artists would cover the song over the decades, including Johnny Cash with his version appearing on the 2006 album American V: A Hundred Highways, which was released three years after his death.

The baby’s eyes are red from weeping
It’s little heart is filled with pain
And Daddy cried they’re taking Mama
Away from us on the evening train

I heard the laughter at the depot
But my tears fell like the rain
When I saw them place that long white casket
In the baggage coach of the evening train

3. “A Teardrop on a Rose,” Braxton Shooford (1950)
Written by Hank Williams

Williams made his first radio appearance on Braxton Schuffert’s WSFA radio show. Schuffert would later join Williams Drifting Cowboys in the late 1930s. At one point, Williams had been playing around with a few songs that he wasn’t ready to record. He shared “A Teardrop on a Rose” with Schuffert, who went under the name “Shooford.” When Williams asked him what he thought of the song, Schuffert said “I told him it was one of the most beautiful songs I ever heard, and Hank said I could have it if I wanted.” Schuffert recorded the song and released it in 1950.

“I heard this voice that was just as strong and clear,” said Schuffert, who died at the age of 97 in 2013, of the first time he heard Williams singing. “It was a man’s voice in a boy’s body. Hank was only 15 at the time, but he could sure sing. Even then I knew he had a one-of-a-kind voice.”

The two would also co-write Schuffert’s “Rockin’ Chair Daddy.” Williams only recorded a demo version of the song, which was released on a posthumous compilation of early demos and rarities, Alone with His Guitar.

While strolling thru a lovely garden
As day was drawing to a close…
My eyes beheld a tragic story
I saw a teardrop on a rose.
It should have been a tear of gladness
But deep inside the sorrow shows
A trusting heart had just been broken
I saw a teardrop on a rose.

4. “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome,” Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys (1951)
Written by Hank Williams and Bill Monroe

The only song ever written by Hank Williams and the “father of bluegrass” Bill Monroe (1911-1996), “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome” became a bluegrass classic and has been covered dozens of times. First recorded in 1950 by Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys, it was one Williams never recorded himself.

In the still of the night in the pale moonlight
The wind, it moans and cry
These lonesome blues I just can’t lose
I’m blue, I’m lonesome too

When I hear that whistle blow
I want to pack my clothes and go
The lonesome sound of a train going by
Makes me want to stop and cry

5. “When the Book of Life is Read,” Jimmy Skinner (1952)
Written by Hank Williams

Hank Williams’ own version of “When the Book of Life is Read” was released after his death, but country and bluegrass artist Jimmie Skinner (1909-1979), also known for his mail-order record business in Ohio, first recorded the God-fearing song in 1952. Recording for a number of labels in the 1950s, Skinner got a Top 10 hit with “I Found My Girl in the USA” in 1957, which was later covered by country singer Connie Smith in 1975.

In life’s many battles that you will have to fight
Just stay close to Jesus and journey in His light
Then on that judgment morning when all pain has fled
You’ll stand in God’s Kingdom when the Book Of Life is read

When the seals are broken and names are read aloud
You’ll see many loved ones standin’ in the crowd
So brother, keep on prayin’ and follow where you’re lead
You’ll stand in God’s Kingdom when the Book Of Life is read

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