65 years ago, the great Hank Williams was convicted in Alexander City, Alabama. It was August 1952 when his life went down. The Hillbilly Shakespeare already suffered from chronic back pain which helped lead to his alcohol addiction. Earlier that year, he also suffered a fall during a hunting trip in Tennessee. On the 11th of August, Hanks’ alcoholism and drug use fired him from the Grand Ole Opry, a devastating blow to him that worsened his personal issues.
Six days after being fired from the Grand Ole Opry, Hank was back to his home state in Alabama, in a town called Alexander City, a.k.a. Alex City. He frequently visited a particular area, Lake Martin. The lake borders the town from the south and the east, it is also where he owned a lakeside cabin. Hank sometimes conducted interviews with local DJ, Bob McKinnon, whenever he was in town. A nearby community called Kowliga, inspired the Hank Williams hit “Kaw-Liga.” The word was derived from a legendary Indian from the area, and a wooden statue commemorating Kaw-Liga (or Kowliga) that was located near the lake.
The same trip to Alexander City and Lake Martin in 1951 was the time that some reports say that Hank would have written the song “Kaw-Liga.” He recorded the hit in September 1952 at the Castle Studio in Nashville. In other reports, he wrote the song in 1951 because if a demo version that is attributed to a year before, either way, Hank didn’t live to see the song’s release. His life would continue his tragedy as illustrated by the events of August 17.
Hank was arrested in Alexander City at Russell Hotel for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Chief Winfred Patterson was the one who arrested Hank and said that he was “more or less having DT’s (delirium tremens). He was running up and down the hall, yelling that someone was whipping old ladies and he was going to stop them.”
According to reports, Hank’s friend Darwin Dobbs, who had hosted at his Lake Martin fishing lodge, posted Hank’s $25 bond and paid $10 fine for Hank to be released. As Hank was exiting the jail, the famous picture of him was snapped.
After that, Hank arrived at his mother’s house in Montgomery, and he later ended up spending time in a St. Jude’s Hospital rehabilitating. According to biographer Colin Escott, the stay “must have helped Hank a little,” because he made an appearance on the Louisiana Hayride on September 20th, 1952, and recorded “Kaw-Liga” and other songs three days later. However, Hank’s deterioration would continue until his tragic death on New Years Day, 1953.”
The picture of Hank leaving the jail cell and the original police report discovered three years ago in the basement of the city jail, hangs in the office of Deputy Chief Jay Turner of the Alexander City police department as a reminder of the famous moment in the life of Hank Williams.
“Kaw-Liga” was released posthumously in January of 1953, and spent 14 weeks at #1 on the Billboard country chart. It was arguably Hank’s biggest commercial hit. Enjoy the song “Kaw-liga” below and remember to share this story to other country fans.[like_button]
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