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Lovesick Blues


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A captivating biography of one of America's greatest songwriters who died alone in the back of a Cadillac, aged only twenty-nine.

About the Author

Paul Hemphill was born and raised in Alabama. He is a prolific journalist, sportswriter, and novelist. He is the author of fifteen books, including four novels. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.


At least ten biographies have been written about country music superstar Hank Williams. This slim volume springs from the pen of a fan who remembers being exposed to Williams's music as a teenager riding in his father's big rig. Unfortunately, it does not add much to the facts known about the life of the tragic, self-destructive singer/songwriter, barring a tidbit that he learned some of his trade from a black street musician named Rufus Payne. Hemphill, an accomplished novelist and nonfiction writer (Leaving Birmingham: Notes of a Native Son), occasionally paints a vivid picture-e.g., "Out there in a harder America, they would open the doors of a barn or a Quonset hut or a roller-skating rink out on the edge of town on a weekend night, hire a country band, toss some sawdust on the dance floor, crank up the fiddles and the steel guitars, announce that the bar was open, and you had a bubbling volcano." But too often he dryly recounts the details of various musical events or describes Williams's endless bouts with alcoholism. Still, any fans new to the Hank Williams story will get most of the high and low points of his remarkable, meteoric career. Suitable for all popular and country music collections.-Bill Walker, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

This concise, startling biography starts not with its subject, Hank Williams, but with its author sitting in the cab of his father's truck one day in 1949, hearing Williams sing "like a hurt animal." The brief incident immediately binds Hemphill and Williams (1923-1952) together as children of the rural South, united by the places and circumstances from which they came (Hemphill has written four novels and 11 nonfiction works dealing with the blue-collar South). Hemphill shifts from his own childhood to Williams's vagabond youth with scintillating descriptions of Depression-era Alabama. Against this backdrop, Hemphill tells the story of Williams's boyhood, which involved constant movement from town to town, infrequent school attendance and jobs as a shoe-shine boy and street performer. Williams's subsequent rise, from "Singing Kid" novelty to headliner at the Grand Ole Opry, could seem like a cliche, but Hemphill's descriptions of the "places where a chicken-wire fence separated the band from the crowd" lend a gritty reality. This frankness extends to the depiction of Williams's chronic alcoholism, violent marital troubles and lonely, sudden death at age 29. With the end of Williams's life, the book turns back to its author, as an older, wiser Hemphill recounts some of the sorrows of his own life. The connection between author and subject is what makes this book so rewarding. Agent, Sterling Lord. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Hank Williams wrote the rock'n'roll rulebook. Moving...absorbing biography of 'the hillbilly Shakespeare' * Daily Express *
A fabulous and tragic tale and Hemphill tells it well. Excellent * Scotsman *
Moving and informative...Lovesick Blues is lean, distilled Hank * Herald *
This biography does tough justice to a wrecked icon * The Times *
[A] concise, startling biography...The connection between author and subject is what makes this book so rewarding * Publishers Weekly *

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