by Sandy Williams
Departed Family and Friends",
Atriad Press, 2005
daddy loved country music. He used to tell me stories about his family
gathering around their old Zenith radio back in the early 1930s and
listening to the latest bluegrass tunes each Saturday night on the
live Grand Ole Opry broadcast.
The late 1940s brought the haunting voice over the airways of the
man my daddy always proclaimed to be "the best country music singer
of all time" -- Hank Williams. As far as I know, the legendary performer
was no relation to my father, Dalton Williams, even though both men
were tall and thin with beautiful eyes.
As a child, I often sat beside Daddy as he listened with a hint of
a smile to one of the many Hank Williams' 45 records he owned. I remember
watching the small black circle spin on the turntable and listening
respectfully to the enduring voice tinged with a slow, Southern drawl
and a touch of static.
Over the years, Daddy replaced his LPs with eight-track tapes and
then a little later with small cassette tapes. He always bought every
Hank Williams selection he could find. In the mid-1990s, my sister
bought a CD player for Dad. He liked it immensely and of course, the
first CD he bought was 20 of Hank Williams' Greatest Hits. He thought
it was grand that he could push a button and immediately hear a specific
song anywhere on the disk. Daddy loved all the songs recorded by Hank
Williams, including "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Kaw-Liga," but his
favorite tune was "Hey, Good Lookin'," which was number 13 on the
CD. He would sit and listen to it over and over again.
few weeks after my daddy died of cancer on May 28, 1999, my mother
brought a trunk full of boxes over to my house. She had kept a few
of Dad's personal belongings, but had decided to give me some of my
father's memorabilia. We sat down in the floor of my den and began
sifting through the memories of his life. In the bottom of a large
box, underneath a stack of neatly pressed handkerchiefs, I found an
old, faded and yellowed newspaper article dated 1953. It was clipped
from a tabloid in Montgomery, Alabama, and told the distressing news
of the death of the beloved country music singer Hank Williams at
the young age of twenty-nine. Mother had no idea where Daddy had gotten
the newspaper or why he had kept it. But because he thought it was
important enough to keep, I folded it carefully and placed it in my
scrapbook for future generations to read.
In another box, I found the Hank Williams greatest hits CD my dad
had listened to so many times. I smiled and asked Mom why she didn't
want to keep it for herself. "That CD player stopped working a few
months before your daddy died and I haven't gotten around to buying
another one," she told me. I had no idea it was broken and thought
it was sad that Daddy didn't get to listen to his favorite CD during
the weeks before his death. After Mom left, I put everything back
in the boxes and left them in the den. It was getting late and my
breaking heart just couldn't hold up to opening another container
of reminders of Daddy that day.
I went to bed around 10 p.m. and fell into a deep sleep. At exactly
midnight, my husband and I were abruptly awakened by the blaring sound
of our stereo in the living room. We jumped out of bed and raced down
the hall, expecting to see one of our young sons up on a stool messing
with the knobs on our sound system, which was on the top shelf of
our entertainment center. The darkness of the living room greeted
us and sent us scrambling to find the light switch. The bright glow
revealed no playful children, just an empty room. My husband rushed
over to the stereo and reached up to turn the power off when I stopped
A chill ran down my spine as I pointed to the open CD case lying on
a middle shelf of the entertainment center. I picked it up and gasped
aloud when I closed it to reveal the title-20 of Hank Williams' Greatest
Hits. I stared open-mouthed at my husband as number 13, "Hey, Good
Lookin'," played over and over again.
The children had been awakened by the loud music also and stumbled
into the living room with sleep-filled eyes. "What's going on?" they
I really had no idea how to answer their question. I knew, as the
last person to go to bed that night, that Daddy's CD had been left
in a box downstairs in the den. Two hours later, it was in the living
room, in the CD player, and set to play a specific song repeatedly.
My husband gave me a warm smile before kneeling in front of the children.
"It's just your Paw Paw listening to his favorite song."
Today, three years later, I still have the Hank Williams CD sitting
beside my stereo. I carefully take it out of the case and play it
in its entirety at least once or twice a month. I always stop on number
13 and play it an extra couple of times -- just for Daddy.