Interview: Christopher Rose, Director of HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY at Mill Town Players

Musical biography of the legendary singer-songwriter runs July 22 - August 7 at Pelzer Auditorium

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From the Louisiana Hayride to the Grand Ole Opry to his self-destruction at the age of twenty-nine, Hank Williams' journey is just as legendary as his music.

Hank Williams: LOST HIGHWAY, running July 22 - August 7 at historic Pelzer Auditorium, tells the story of this country music icon.

Christopher Rose, Associate Artistic Director of the Mill Town Players, directs this new production, which features all of Hank's hits, including "Lovesick Blues" and "Hey, Good Lookin'."

Mitchell Smith stars as Hank, with DeAndre Presley as Tee Tot, DeAnna Gregory as The Waitress, Grace Hayes as Audrey Williams, and Kelly Wallace as Mama Lilly. The music director is Joe Wehunt.

We asked Christopher Rose to talk about the production and the continuing appeal of Hank Williams.

Please tell us a little about the show.

Hank Williams: LOST HIGHWAY is a reflective look at the life of one of the creators of the country music genre. When Hank died at only 29 years of age, he left behind 55 recorded singles that made it to Billboard Country and Western Best Sellers chart's top ten. Hank also left behind the tale of a tragic life of a brilliant man.

The show begins with the news of Hank's untimely death and moves on as we watch him reflect upon moments of his life including his relationship with his mother, Lilly; his wife, Audrey; his bandmates and friends, the Drifting Cowboys; and music publisher, Fred Rose. He is guided through this contemplation by Tee Tot, a street blues musician from Hank's childhood who taught him how to sing his own song. In the process we see his rise to stardom, his struggles with his marriage, his alcoholism and drug abuse and his eventual downfall and untimely death.

The show features live musicians, and a painful tale so true that you just can't look away

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Christopher Rose

What was your own history with the music of Hank Williams?

I grew up with country music. My family were big fans. When I was a kid, we attended more country music concerts than I can possibly count. During my high school and college years my parents actually ran a country dance hall called the Liberty Rose. As I got older my preferences in the country genre moved for the pop country music of the 80's and 90's to the classics: Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, and of course Hank Williams.

I think his title as the "Hillbilly Shakespeare" is well deserved. His music runs deep and pure, and his honesty about sorrow and pain allows us to reflect upon our own. I absolutely love his work.

What are some of your favorite moments in the show?

Wow! There are so many!

I love the relationship between Hank and Tee Tot. The way his mentor connects with him as he looks back upon his life is just soul stirring.

There is a hilarious moment when Audrey (who wasn't a great singer) is performing with him on a radio broadcast. Hank and the band are trying to cover her voice with their own. It leaves me in stitches.

There are many many more.

How do you think Hank's music resonates today?

Hank said, "If you're gonna sing, sing 'em something they can understand." I love that. And, I think it is why his music still hits home with people today. Hank gives us something we can understand because he gives us the truth. We all know pain, sorrow, hurt and loneliness. Hank Williams knew these things intimately.

So, when Hank tells us the truth, it is heartbreaking. His music shoots like an arrow directly into our chests and it helps us to recognize our own pain. We find hope in his search for redemption. We find parts of ourselves.

Hank Williams: LOST HIGHWAY, runs July 22 - August 7 at historic Pelzer Auditorium. For tickets and additional information visit

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