Hank Williams’ “Kaw-Liga”: The Story of The Lonely Indian 1

“Kaw-Liga” is a story of unrequited love. It is the love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such by the beloved. The beloved may not be aware of the admirer’s deep and strong romantic affection, or may consciously reject it. Merely, the song is about the lonely man, the lone Indian. But it sounds pacifying with the voice of Hank Williams.

The Story Patched In the Lyrics…

As the song’s content, it’s about a “Wooden Indian” named “Kaw-Liga” who falls in love with an “Indian maiden over in the antique store.” “Kaw-Liga” conceals his affection and doesn’t have the strength to confess his love. As the lyrics say:

Kaw-Liga, too stubborn to ever show a sign,

Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

But the Indian maiden waits for Kaw-Liga to show his affection for her. Kaw-Liga, on the other hand, is unable to talk physically and emotionally. In connection, just like the stereotype of Native Americans, they refuse or somewhat reluctant to show fondness.

Poor ol‘ Kaw-liga, he never got a kiss.

Poor ol‘ Kaw-liga, he don’t know what he missed.

Is it any wonder that his face is red?

Kaw-liga, that poor ol’ wooden head.

The song ends with the Indian maid being bought and taken away from the antique store by a buyer, leaving Kaw-Liga alone.

Kaw-liga just stands there as lonely as can be,

And wishes he was still an old pine tree.

The Complete Lyrics…

Kaw-liga was a wooden Indian standing by the door.

He fell in love with an Indian maiden over in the antique store.

Kaw-liga just stood there and never let it show,

So she could never answer “yes” or “no.”

Poor ol‘ Kaw-liga, he never got a kiss.

Poor ol‘ Kaw-liga, he don’t know what he missed.

Is it any wonder that his face is red?

Kaw-liga, that poor ol‘ wooden head.

He always wore his Sunday feathers and held a tomahawk.

The maiden wore her beads and braids and hoped some day he’d talk.

Kaw-liga, too stubborn to ever show a sign,

Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

Kaw-liga was a lonely Indian, never went nowhere.

His heart was set on the Indian maid with the coal black hair.

Kaw-liga just stood there and never let it show,

So she could never answer “yes” or “no.”

And then one day a wealthy customer bought the Indian maid,

And took her, oh, so far away, but ol‘ Kaw-liga stayed.

Kaw-liga just stands there as lonely as can be,

And wishes he was still an old pine tree.

A Bit ‘Bout The Song…

The song was recorded as part of William’s final recording session on September 23, 1952, at Castle Studio in Nashville. The remarkably productive session also produced “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” one of Williams’ most successful songs.

More than any other song, “Kaw-Liga” bears evidence of the guiding hand of Rose, who molded the song into nothing like Williams had recorded up to that point. It begins in a minor key, which modulates into a primary key on the chorus, and also features big band drummer.

In addition, the song fades out, the only Hank Williams song to do so. Williams was backed by Tommy Jackson (fiddle), Don Helms (steel guitar), Chet Atkins (lead guitar), Jack Shook (rhythm guitar), and Floyd “Lightnin'” Chance (bass).

The single was released posthumously in January 1953 on the MGM Records label, and it remained No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart for 14 weeks. Meanwhile, “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” stayed No.1 on the country charts for six weeks.

A demo version of Williams singing “Kaw-Liga” with just his guitar, likely recorded in 1951.

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