Hank Williams Lives On in Montgomery, Alabama

by JudithG

The memory and legend of country western megastar, Hank Williams, never fades thanks to his museum known worldwide

Hands down, the Hank Williams Museum is a hoot for his die-hard fans or for the casual visitor. Considering his career lasted only five years and he died at 29 in 1952, his spirit resonates in this funky and entertaining place with dusty-rose-colored walls and 35 tall display cabinets. Located in downtown Montgomery, both the museum's proprietors and trusty volunteer, Terry Faust, seem to channel Williams whose recordings play non-stop throughout the museum.

Montgomery is the seat of the civil rights movement, home to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and steeped with enough entertainment and cultural venues to keep most visitors happy. But for those wanting an offbeat experience, the Hank Williams Museum is a must-see.

A Little About Hank Williams

Although Hank Williams was born in a nearby town in 1923, he won his first talent show in Montgomery and later settled here with his family. He joined the Grand Old Opry, recorded 225 songs in five years and wrote 128 songs. Supposedly he read romance comic books to get most of his ideas, which led to eleven number one hits, despite his brief career. Songs such as Hey Good Looking and I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry never lose their popularity. Williams' son, Hank, Jr., is also a performer as is his son, Hank, III, who reportedly looks like and sounds like his notable grandfather. 

A Fan Like No Other

Terry Faust is the ultimate Hank Williams' devotee. He tends to the singer's grave, which is about a mile away from the museum and where visitors leave 29 cents for the age of his death and guitar picks to honor his legacy. Faust also works some days at the museum.

He's easy to spot with his long blond hair and rolling southern drawl. Mostly, he's selling entrance tickets or honkey-tonk souvenirs in the gift shop. But visitors can learn first-hand Williams' trivia from Faust. 

He's been a die-hard fan since the age of six, sitting in when Williams' life-long friends told insider stories about him. "People say I have some kind of connection with Hank. I feel his spirit on Montgomery streets," Faust said explaining the reason hair stands up on his arms when he's at a new place with a Williams' connection or discovers an overlooked item in the museum.

Terry Faust behind the counter doing what he loves best
Terry Faust behind the counter doing what he loves best

Hank Williams' Cadillac

Cadillac in which Hank Williams died
Cadillac in which Hank Williams died

Untimely Death

"Hank was running a high fever when he got in that car. He never should have went. He should have been in bed," Faust said recently when referencing the night Williams died. The infamous 1952 blue Cadillac convertible in which he died while being driven to a new tour date is the museum's prized exhibit. Faust often sees Nashville songwriters sit beside it waiting for inspiration. 

Museum with Heart Strings

"It's a labor of love," said Beth Petty, the museum's manager talking about the countless hours she puts in to keep things running smoothly. Her father, Cecil Jackson, founded the museum and passed along his dream to honor Williams. 

The guest book is filled with fans, new and old. During spring and fall many come from Scandinavian countries on a 14-day music tour that includes Graceland, Nashville and New Orleans. It's doable to join the museum's lifetime membership program or have a a nameplate made for the railing around the infamous Cadillac, the museum's focal point.

The Hank Williams Museum is located at 118 Commerce Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104. 

Gold

42 classic recordings by the country/roots music legend every one of his best known songs: "Cold, Cold Heart," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Move It On Over," "Lovesick Blues"...

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If You Go

Montgomery is Alabama's capital reaping rewards for a massive renewal from convention center to baseball team to trending restaurants. The Alley is a revitalized downtown area filled with bars and restaurants and a short walk from the Montgomery docks beside the Alabama River.  

The Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center is the newest hotel in town and across from the Hank Williams Museum. 

There's a reason Montgomery has the nickname "Capital Cool." For information, contact the city's official tourist bureau

Updated: 08/21/2014, JudithG
 
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