Hank Snow had come a long way from his traumatic childhood life to becoming one of the celebrated country music stars of the 1950’s. Life has been tough for him but he persevered and never gave up until he succeeded. True enough, he was someone truly amazing and worthy of emulation. Many of his fans and fellow artists in the country music world look up to him not only because of his musical achievements and contributions but also for his personal triumphs. Snow has courageously and fantastically overcame poverty and child abuse. He went on to put his name to international fame through music.
Born Clarence Eugene Snow, the singer who hailed from Canada was undeniably one of the most successful country music stars of his generation. He helped shape the country music landscape
significantly and his legacies formed part of what the industry is today. Snow was not only a gifted singer but also a musician with multiple talents. He emerged as one of the most prolific songwriters, great recording artists, and one of the best guitarists. Aside from that, the modern industry recognized him as one of the most accomplished businessmen.
On this day in 1999, country music lost one of its pillars. At the age of 85, Snow passed away due to heart failure. It has been a mourning Monday morning for the entire country music community after reports confirming Snow’s death had surfaced. And to honor Snow’s 19th death anniversary today, let’s muse over his incredible musical legacy. We’ll also look into some of his notable recordings that would make us remember him quickly at the first note.
His Musical Influence and Legacy
Dubbed as ‘The Singing Ranger’, Hank Snow had been a major influence to many country music artists. But during the formative years of his singing and throughout his career, Snow remained a Jimmie Rogers loyalist. He took The Father of Country Music as his greatest inspiration in pursuing his dream of becoming a well-known performer. Thus, he worked hard following in his idol’s footsteps and his efforts paid off in the end. The classic Jimmie Rodgers style was what made Snow famous and he never turned his back to it. However, the singer proved that he can be versatile too and he didn’t limit his music to a single style only. Instead, he explored other music genres including Latin rhythms, jazz, blues, Hawaiian styles, recitations, the mambo, and gospel songs. Being the talented artist that he was, Snow became equally adept with these types of music.
Throughout his career spanning over 50 years, ‘The Singing Ranger’ had recorded more than 800 songs. At least 85 of his singles entered the country charts including his seven chart-toppers. The huge repertoire of his recordings is a concrete proof of how great his influence and contributions were to the music business. It’s no wonder he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, a recognition that he so deserved.
Most Notable Recordings of Hank Snow
Here are seven unforgettable songs that ‘The Singing Ranger’ recorded and made famous.
I’m Moving On (1950)
The song “I’m Moving On” was a remarkable record for Hank Snow. It did not only earn him his first top country hit, but also a record for a single with the most weeks atop the chart. It stayed at No. 1 on the country chart for 21 weeks tying with Eddy Arnold’s “I’ll Hold You in My Heart” (1947-1948) and Webb Pierce’s “In the Jailhouse Now” (1955). After which, Snow scored six more No.1 country singles. Snow wrote the song which was released in May 1950. Its huge commercial success has paved the way for ‘The Singing Ranger’ to become a Grand Ole Opry member on that same year.
Before the song burst into popularity, Snow claimed that it almost lost the chance to get recorded. When he proposed it for his first recording session for RCA in 1949, it was turned down by recording director Stephen H. Sholes. However, Snow insisted on recording it the following year, thinking that Mr. Sholes had not remembered the song. Great decision, indeed. If the singer did not record the song, things might have been so different in his career.
A 12-bar blues, “I’m Moving On” resembles that of a train song with its chugging beat. Use of instruments like the steel was also prominent in the song. Moreover, there’s a noticeably harder push of the instruments which was not usual on Nashville records during this period. Music critic John Morthland wrote in his 1984 book, The Best of Country Music about Snow’s recording,
“There’s real anger and determination in Snow’s voice, which sometimes sounds too smooth for this type of song.”
Other Remarkable Versions
Inspired by how far the song has reached commercially, other artists began covering it. Ray Charles recorded a famous version of the song in 1959. His rendition incorporated the elements of congas and maracas. The record reached the Top 40 of the pop singles chart and likewise peaked at No. 11 on the R&B singles chart. In 1969, Elvis Presley also covered the song for his album From Elvis in Memphis. Emmylou Harris performed an up-tempo live version of the song which was able to secure a 5th spot on the Billboard singles chart in 1983. That same year, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings recorded together a rowdy interpretation of “I’m Moving On.” This recording was included on Cash’s 2014 posthumous album Out Among The Stars.
The Golden Rocket (1950)
Snow followed up his first big hit with another chart-topper. His song entitled “The Golden Rocket” became his second No. 1 on the country chart. Unlike “I’m Moving On” though, this song spent only two weeks atop the Country & Western Best Seller list. Regardless of the time it stayed at No. 1, the song was still one of Snow’s notable records. With that said, many could easily remember the singer upon listening to it.
Penned by Snow, “The Golden Rocket” was one of his records with the theme of traveling. Here, he is narrating his previous trips from Montana to Alabama and that he’ll be traveling again. This time, he won’t be alone as his Golden Rocket will be with him. And the good engine is going to ease the pain caused by his former lover. Also, he’s quite excited to leave thinking that another true lover is waiting for him in his destination.
This Golden Rocket’s gonna roll my blues awayLyrics of “The Golden Rocket” by Hank Snow
Hear that lonesome whistle blow that’s your cue and by now you know
That I got another true lover waitin’ in Tennessee
This midnight special is a burnin’ the rail so woman don’t try to follow my trail
The Rhumba Boogie (1951)
This fast-paced dance tune gave Hank Snow his third No. 1 single in a row. For eight weeks, the song remained on top of the Country & Western Best Seller chart. All in all, its chart reign lasted for twenty-seven weeks. In the song, Snow tells the children about a new boogie beat that’s sweeping the entire nation. The Boogie is played in the South American way.
While Madame Lozonga was teachin’ La Conga in her little cabana in old HabanaLyrics from The Rhumba Boogie
The folks in old Mexico where doin’ the tango
And we were steppin’ to the rhythm of an old guitar
Till across the water came Cuban Pete he started to boogie to the Rhumba beat
It’s the Rhumba Boogie let’s dance it a while
To the boogie woogie done the Rhumba Cuban all style
The American Western swing musician Spade Cooley recorded a version of the song in 1951. His cover with his Fiddlin’ Friends featured the vocals of Ginny Jackson.
I Don’t Hurt Anymore (1954)
Hank Snow was the first ever to record this Don Robertson and Jack Rollins penned song. Again, ‘The Singing Ranger’ earned a top country hit with this record in 1954. The song almost tied with his first chart-topper in terms of the length of time it spent atop the chart. “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” stayed at No. 1 for twenty long weeks. Later in 1954, the R&B singer Dinah Washington covered the song.
Perhaps the second most successful version of “I’m Moving On” was the one that the Canadian country music group Prairie Oyster recorded. Released in May 1990, the group’s cover was a Top 5 hit in Canada peaking at No. 5 on the Canada Country Tracks. It was also a minor hit in the US reaching No. 70 on the Hot Country Songs chart. After half a century, the song became one of the last songs that Johnny Cash recorded. However, his version came after he passed away, appearing on his 2010 posthumous album American VI: Ain’t No Grave.
Many other artists from various music genres recorded the song through the years. Among them were Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Fisher, Hank Thompson, Faron Young, and Martina McBride.
Let Me Go, Lover! (1955)
Another top country single for Snow was the song “Let Me Go, Lover!” which he recorded in 1955. The popular song was penned by Jenny Lou Carson and Al Hill. An earlier song about alcoholism called “Let Me Go, Devil” inspired this tune. The song caught the fancy of the public when the television program Studio One featured it on November 15, 1954. Following its exposure on national television, thousands of disc jockeys began playing the song on their radio stations. The version used in the movie was that of the pop music singer Joan Weber. Her record topped all the Billboard’s charts (the Disk Jockey chart, the Best Seller chart, and the Juke Box chart).
I’ve Been Everywhere (1962)
Originally, this song was from the Australian songwriter and country music singer Geoff Mack. Leslie Morrison who was popularly known for his stage name Lucky Starr was the first to record it in 1962. Later that year, Mack re-wrote the lyrics to add places in America. This version of the song was what Hank Snow recorded and took to the chart. Reaching No. 1, “I’ve Been Everywhere” earned Snow another chart-topping country single. As the singer was known for his fondness toward traveling, Snow liked singing the song whenever he travels.
Snow was able to bring the song to the top of the chart. Yet, his fellow country music icon Johnny Cash also created a famous version of it. In particular, Cash’s rendition was used in commercials for Comfort Inn. Also, his record was featured on the remake of the film Flight of the Phoenix released in 2004. Aside from Snow and Cash, other country music stars who recorded the song include The Statler Brothers, Lynn Anderson, and Willie Nelson.
Hello Love (1974)
After his record “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Snow took some time off from topping the charts. In fact, it took him twelve years to not score a No. 1 single, until “Hello Love.” This Aileen Mnich and Betty Jean Robinson penned song was Snow’s seventh and final top country record. And of course, his first No. 1 in twelve years. Similar to the singer’s first chart-topper, his final big hit was equally momentous. At the time “Hello Love” was gaining international reputation, Snow was about to turn 60 years old. This made him the oldest singer to score a No. 1 song on Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. And take note, Snow made another record as this stayed for 26 years, until Kenny Rogers snatched the crown. Rogers was 61 years and 9 months when his “Buy Me A Rose” song reached No. 1. “Hello Love” served as the theme song to the weekly variety show A Prairie Home Companion which run between 1974 to 1987.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, Snow has more than 800 songs we could listen to. We aren’t supposed to be limiting ourselves to the selected songs as listed above. Those are just quick reminiscence of the late singer considering their strong impact on the listeners. Given the enormous number of Snow’s recordings, we will not run out of his tunes to indulge ourselves in. Since today marks the 19th year since his passing, we could listen to his songs all day in his honor. It has been almost two decades since he left us, but Hank Snow’s musical legacy is here to stay.
Death Anniversary, Hank Snow, I'm Moving On, I've Been Everywhere, The Singing Ranger