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HANK WILLIAMS: THE LONESOME TOUR Coming To Citrus County, Florida, May 7

Petty, who grew up on a farm in Tennessee, has loved Hank Williams' music since the age of 3.

HANK WILLIAMS: THE LONESOME TOUR Coming To Citrus County, Florida, May 7

Singer Jason Petty has made a living impersonating and performing the songs of country music legend Hank Williams throughout his adult life. But it was a chance encounter with a different country music icon that made him realize, as never before, the significance of what he was doing.

"It was the second or third week of a show at the Ryman Auditorium, where Hank had performed," Petty said. "I was down on the steps, a few feet from the audience, and there was a man sobbing in the front row. It was George Jones. He came up to me after the show, still in tears, and said my performance was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life. At that moment, it hit me, the impact of what I was doing. It sent my head spinning."

Petty's show at the Ryman was a full-blown theatrical depiction of Hank Williams' life titled "Lost Highway." Nowadays, he is performing a solo show called "Hank Williams: The Lonesome Tour," which he will bring to The Valerie Theatre in Inverness, Florida on Saturday, May 7.

Petty, who grew up on a farm in Tennessee, has loved Hank Williams' music since the age of 3, when his father first cajoled him to sing along with a recording of "Hey Good Lookin'."

"As I got older, I started to become wiser as to who wrote the songs, who sang them, what they meant to music history," Petty said. "I was into all genres of music, but because I was raised on a farm, listening to country and gospel, I realized that's the kind of music that people listened to, who barely got by. Hank sang about the same kinds of things that my people went through. It wasn't just some guy singing some other dude's song. He wrote it because he lived it."

Despite his physical resemblance to Williams, Petty does not consider himself an impersonator, but he understands why others might.

"I'm trying to capture the nuance of Hank's vocal style, his movements, his facial expressions," Petty said. "I try to emulate his voice and personality as much as possible."

Petty's portrayal of Hank Williams was convincing enough to win him an Obie award, the Off-Broadway equivalent of Broadway's Tony award, for his performance in the New York production of "Lost Highway." Petty liked acting, but did not want to stay in New York, so he returned to Tennessee and began writing his own country music-themed shows, including "Hank Williams: The Lonesome Tour."

"People who knew Hank started coming backstage and telling me stories, and I started writing them down," he said. "All the stories you are going to hear in my show came straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak."

Jason Petty will perform "Hank Williams: The Lonesome Tour" on Saturday, May 7, at The Valerie Theatre, 207 Courthouse Square, Inverness, FL 34450, at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. General admission tickets are $30 for the 6:00 p.m. show and $20 for the 8:00 p.m. show. V.I.P. tickets are $99 and include seats in the first two rows, meal and drinks from Oscar Penn's in the fine dining tent, and an autographed photo. For more information, call 352-341-7850 or visit valerietheatre.org. To learn more about Jason Petty, visit JasonPetty.com.


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