New Heathens

Hank 7 in 2011 (To Good Health)

Talk about commitment to a lifestyle! On New Years Day my friends Steve and Heidi Strunsky and their band the Lonesome Prairie Dogs did what they've done every first day of the year since 2004: they hosted the Hank-O-Rama, a tribute to Hank Williams Sr., at the Rodeo Bar.

For the past few years I've had the pleasure of being asked to come up and do some Hank. This year I sang and blew some harp on "Honky Tonk Blues." In the background that's Steve in his on-stage persona, "Luke Lonesome." Offstage, Steve is a not-so-mild mannered member of the "rocking reporters" club. He works for the Newark Star Ledger.

Hank Sr., as you know, died of a morphine injection on New Years Day 1953 most likely in the back of a Cadillac convertable somewhere in between Knoxville, TN and Oak Hill, WV where his chaufer found him dead en route to a concert in Canton, OH. He was 29.

Hank left behind the blueprint for all great country music to follow. This includes his hits, "Your Cheating Heart," "Jambalaya," "You Win Again," "Lovesick Blues," "Hey Good Lookin'" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Hank's hitmaking was so prodigious that in his short but incredible life he had only one flop. His son. Hank gave his firstborn the unfortunate but apropos nickname "Bocephus," after a ventriloquist dummy at the Grand Ole Opry. I shall forever make apologies that my homestate of Montana didn't finish Bocephus off when it had the chance. He fell 500 feet off Ajax Peak in the Bitterroot Range in 1975 and split his head open on a boulder. The Yayhoos immortalized this tumble in their song, "Monkey With A Gun." It goes, "Well he fell off the mountain/And he never was the same/Somewhere in (Montana)/Sits a chunk of Junior's brain."

Anyway back to the Hank-O, it was a great crowd and a great time. As someone who knows how tough it is to pull off a good tribute show, I've gotta' hand it to Steve & Heidi.

Also, thanks to my friend Karen Hudson of the Karen Hudson River Band for the pix. I left the stage with these words of wisdom from my friend Bob Wire. "Remember folks, Junior is the disease. Senior is the cure."

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