On this day in 1949, Hank Williams released “Lovesick Blues”
Every fan of country music and music in general knows Hank Williams’ name but it wasn’t always that way.
In the late 1940s, Williams was in his mid-20s still trying to navigate the music scene. He had begun performing again in 1945 after a long layoff and in 1947, he signed a contract with MGM Records. That same year, he released “Move it on Over” and the song became a hit.
However, his biggest hit didn’t come until two years later, when “Lovesick Blues” was released, but it was almost never recorded.
The first version of the song had been written in the early 1920s and in 1948, Williams began performing a “countrified” version featuring more guitar and piano on the “Louisiana Hayride,” a popular radio show in the Southeast.
Williams learned that the song had received tons of praise after he performed it on the radio which inspired him to record his own version, despite his producer saying the song did not merit a recording.
The song was eventually recorded in just two takes. And then fans couldn’t get enough of it.
“Lovesick Blues” was paired with “Never Again” and the single sold 50,000 copies in the first two weeks. It later reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Western charts, a spot it held for 16 weeks straight, and was named the Best Hillbilly Record of the Year by Cashbox Magazine.
“Hank’s razz-mah-tazz approach and ear-catching yodelling should keep this side spinning,” Billboard said in its review.
In June of 1949, Williams was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry for the first time following the success of the song. He had been rejected when he tried out three years earlier. He famously played six encores and received a standing ovation.
For the final four years of his life, “Lovesick Blues” was the song used by Williams to close a majority of his shows. The song went on to sell more than 11 million copies and it was added to the Library of Congress in 2004.
“Remarkably, at over 50 years of age, and even with its yodel, “Lovesick Blues,” when played or performed today, sounds as modern and hip now as it did in 1949,” the Library said upon the song’s addition.
Williams had a total of 11 No. 1 hits throughout his relatively brief career and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961. He is credited as one of the major influences of country music. It is unknown if any of that would have happened without “Lovesick Blues.”