|On December 28, 1952, Hank Williams, Sr.,
gave the last performance of his life at the Elite Cafe in Montgomery, Ala. Three days
later, he died. Fifty years after his last performance, on December 28, 2002, Terry Huval,
the Jambalaya Cajun Band, and invited guest musicians staged their third annual tribute to
a unique American who continues to have a powerful effect on 21st century audiences
because everything he wrote and sang came from the heart.
D.L. Menard opened the show with Jack Cardwell's "Death of Hank Williams," and then, for more than two hours, the Liberty Theater was filled with the sounds of songs that, for most of us, have always been part of our lives, along with a few less familiar songs that deserve to be recovered from the past.
Among the songs performed by D. L. Menard were "Mansion on the Hill," "Lonesome Whistle," and "Wedding Bells," and the lesser known "Thy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine" and "Why Should We Try Anymore."
Hugh Harris sang "Settin' the Woods on Fire," "Cold, Cold Heart," and "I Can't Help It (if I'm still in love with you)," plus songs like "A House Without Love" and "Men with Broken Hearts," one of Williams' story recordings as Luke the Drifter. Terry Huval performed another story song, "Be Careful of Stones That You Throw," a few less familiar songs like "I Won't Be Home No More," and hit songs like "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and "Your Cheatin' Heart." The latter song and "Kaw Liga," one of the songs performed by Pope Huval, both went to the top of the charts after Williams' death.
Altogether, the program included 32 songs.
Host Barry Ancelet told stories about Williams and offered his insights about the music. Ancelet pointed out that, while Williams wanted to convey powerful messages to his audiences through his music, he could never gain control of his own life. Yet, through his music, he offered sympathy and hope. He could sing "I Saw the Light," the closing number in the tribute at the Liberty, but, in his own life, as he told Minnie Pearl, "There ain't no light."
The encore, performed before an overcapacity crowd, was "Jambalaya," Williams' own tribute to Louisiana, based on a Cajun tune. Hank Williams loved Louisiana, and, 50 years after his death, it's obvious that Louisiana still returns the favor.
In the right column, going down from the top, are Terry Huval, D. L. Menard (who, as depicted in the third photo from the top, had a few points to make between numbers), Hugh Harris, and Gina Forsyth. In the left column are Pope Huval (shown mimicking Gina's fiddling in a gesture of admiration), Ross Lee Shellard (guest steel guitarist from England), and, Reggie Matte (shown with Terry Huval, who added his Cajun accordion to the last two numbers. Hugh Harris and D. L. Menard are shown singing "I Saw the Light."
The last photo at the bottom of the page includes, from left, Reggie Matte, Bobby Dumatrait, Terry Huval (with Randy Champagne behind him), Gina Forsyth, Hugh Harris, Tony Huval (in back on drums), D. L. Menard, Pope Huval, Kyle Harris (in back: he's the brother of Hugh Harris), and Kenneth David.
All photographs and text by David Simpson.