Hank Williams Tribute Set for Spencer Theater Tonight
Blending blues, folk, gospel and cowboy tunes into a short career, Hank Williams left an indelible mark on the American musical scene in both lyric and sound. Having lived a life that was as troubled and reckless as that depicted in his direct, emotional songs, he was a superstar by the age of 25 and gone with the Lord at the age of 29. In those four short years, he established the rules for all the country performers who followed him and, in the process, much of popular music.
"Hank helped invent country music," relates Jason Petty, the award-winning star in "Hank & My Honky Tonk Heroes," an insightful music tribute at 8 p.m. tonight, April 19 at Spencer Theater. With Petty's pitch-perfect Hank Williams' sound - his silky warble and heart-tearing sob - he shares spot-on renditions of Williams' most famous melodies, all of which had a touching simplicity. Between tunes, Petty presents a biographical narrative that gives insight into Williams short life and career. "Hank & My Honky Tonk Heroes blends music and storytelling taken from the 17 years of ongoing research that I have been able to do," Petty relates. "Many of the stories were told to me by Hank's friends, musicians and Grand Ol' Opry stars that played with him. I was told that I should write a book, but I thought writing and performing a show was a much better outlet for me and for the many Hank fans around the world."
This nostalgic look at Williams impact on country music, and the influence many artists had upon him, includes tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, The Carter family, Ernest Tubb, George Jones and others.
"I took the stories I heard into making this show. I use the stage like my front porch and we tell a few stories and sing a few songs and generally have a good ol' time," Petty says. "It's a beautiful, poignant story of a simple man from Alabama who had a genius for making music for the common man. He took the roots of country, western folk, blues and gospel and honed it to what we know as 'country music' today."
Petty, who won national acclaim for his impersonation of Williams and the Obie for "Outstanding Actor" in the New York production of "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," is not only a remarkable singer of Williams' tunes, but also a marvel of an actor who poignantly gets across the alcoholic's devotion to the bottle and the impatience of a young genius.
"At times it seems as if Petty is not just offering an impersonation of Williams, but channeling his ghost," says The New York Post.
That's apt to be due to Petty genuine care for his subject. "While the way that Hank lived is important, it is how he changed the industry and how he affected people with his music that matters. For sure, he was the first contemporary country artist to live hard...but my focus is more on his legacy, his music, the ironies and stories behind the songs and how they got recorded."
Joined at the Spencer by his four-piece band, Williams will recreate the Williams experience with authenticity and insight. He'll perform a dozen chart-topping hits including "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Kawliga," "Hey Good Lookin'," "Half As Much," "Moanin' The Blues," "Wine Me Up," "Why Baby Why," "Legend In My Time," "Lovin' On The Backstreets" and "I Ain't Never," among other Williams' classics.
Excellent seats ($59 & $56) are available for "Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes" at the Spencer April 19! Call the Box Office at 575.336.4800 or go to www.spencertheater.com for tickets. A pre-show spicy fried chicken lobby buffet will be available for $20 at 6 p.m.