Sharing Demons With Hank Williams

A short visit to the place where a music legend met his end.

Comments: 22

  1. Beautiful, sweet article that expresses something very important things about life in such an effective way. A sister long recovering alcoholic and Hank Williams fan thanks you for writing it.

  2. Martha - you need to listen to "The Ride" by David Alan Coe. It could have been the soundtrack for your road trip.

  3. This piece just sneaked up on me and knocked me out. The final line is especially wonderful. Thank you, Martha

  4. I like how you bactracked to Hank Williams. A process of musical discovery. I first heard Hank Williams when I was a girl living in tobacco country in Ontario. He was a musical ephiphany. I knew I had heard something special. Later, when I read about what happened to him I couldn't believe that this wonderfully talented man had died at such an early age. I've had my own problems with alcohol over the years.
    I don't know that you could die from alcohol poisoning. I understand now that I can't handle it and I stay away. West Virginia is an incredible place. Driving through the mountains and stopping at local restaurants (like the Seven Sisters) was a great experience; good food with friendly, unpretentious people. John Denver was right-take me home, country roads...West Virginia, mountain momma.

  5. Thanks to Ms. Woodroof for the best gas station visit I have seen. I read Stevens, I listen to Williams, and I have been to Hartford, but I have not seen that vacant lot. I would like to. Oh, yes, I have my AA 24-hour chip too.

  6. Wonderful essay!

  7. MARTHA! NO PICTURE?! Thanks, great article.

  8. Thanks for writing your article. I grew up on Hank Williams (my father adored him), and it wasn't until I read your piece that I realized that he (Hank) died several years before I was born! That's how much of a living presence he had in our household! My father was an even-keeled soul who loved Hank for that lonesome sound and the evocation, in music, of the things he knew--the bayou, the honky tonk, the sense of humor. (Because Hank did have a sense of humor, too, even when writing about despair. Consider, as evidence, this line: "I'm going down in it three times [a river], but lord I'm only coming up twice.")

    Anyway, although I've driven through West Virginia a couple of times, I never knew that was where Hank wound up dead. (Always thought it was further south.) I envy you your blue tile. I'll have to pay Oak Hill a visit.

  9. Just wanted to say: "thanks, for a good story", on a Sunday morning. I appreciate Ms. Woodroof's open willingness to weave her own story into this segment of "life's road-trip". "Nothing left now at the Pure Oil station."
    Thanks for the mingling of her story with Hank's which once again demonstrates that in a life--where consequences, sooner or later, are certain--redemption is an ever-present, merciful possibility.

  10. I think even "old Hank" would have found this article sad. Sure, there is the tail-end about one person who gets to keep on keepin'on but, somehow, it doesn't sound all that great. Too many ghosts and cobwebs.

  11. Thanks for you homage to Hank. His songs were in us even before they were written. My friends & I frequently sing them when when the guitars come out.

  12. My compliments to Martha Woodroof for a good story, but a word of caution and advice to the editors: I suggest that when the Times publishes stories about obscure rural places, editors should include a locator map or a more specific reference to the location. According to MapQuest, here are four places named Oak Hill in West Virginia, and the closest one to the Shenandoah Valley (the only other place named in the story) is not the Oak Hill where Hank Williams was found to be dead (the one a few miles north of Beckley). I hope Times readers who drive to the first Oak Hill they see on the map guess the right one. The newspaper should have served them better.

  13. Have you read the A.A. Traditions?

  14. How in the world could a thing like this have been selected for publication? How?

  15. I have 25 yrs of sobriety...to read this wonderful look-see at Hank Williams and the effect he had upon the untold millions of people years after his death - quite a testament to the moxie of living a life well lived.
    To the addicts and alcoholics still flirting with disaster - I say it's well within your power to say yes to the larger cause. Thank you so much Ms. Woodward. You brought it all home - to the real right here right now. I pray intentionally that the greater goodness comes thru loud and clear to everyone everywhere and especially my dear DD - Go for it. Love you all. Blon.d

  16. I need to read more of what this writer has written. She has a way with words that makes me savor each one. A rare talent. Other publications?

  17. Thank you for the honest insight.

  18. Nicely done. Thanks for not laying it on Hank. Booze and drugs killed him, but that was only part of the problem. Part of the problem, though, resulted in a lot of great songs. I'm glad you got to go on--I got to go on. Guys like Hank Williams cram a lot of living into their short lives. Tragic, yes, but maybe it's just the way it's supposed to be. Thanks for writing the piece.

  19. Working a summer job in a screening room this summer, I projected a rough cut of a film called The Last Ride.
    It seemed to cover the last few days of Willims life and it was beyond good even as a rough cut.

    Henry Thomas starred as Williams and if he and whoever directed it don't get nominated for every award then there is no justice!

  20. Thanks for your excellent writing and bringing back memories of West Virginia, where I was born and spent family time well into my 20s, and of Hank Williams, whose music I grew up on in my teens and still love and listen to. Other than AA, which I respect mightily, there seemed to be nothing in his day to help him conquer his devils. Friends and mentors would simply stick him in a "sanatorium" to dry out, which helped only until the next time. Too sad.

  21. I should note that Hank took the pills for the back pain that he suffered his entire life. Army even considered him 4F. I've always thought he was self-medicating with his booze and meds for years to ease his very real physical pain. Maybe he wrote his best stuff when he was smashed?

  22. I appreciated the story much however I did not appreciate the disregard of the 11th tradition.