Grand Ole Opry says no to fans who want Hank Williams, Sr. reinstated

Hank Williams statue, Lister Hill Plaza in Montgomery, Alabama
Statue of Hank Williams, Sr., Lister Hill Plaza in Montgomery, Alabama. Image from the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

More than 61,700 fans have petitioned the Grand Ole Opry to reinstate membership for the late Hank Williams, Sr. So far, the answer remains, “No.” Why not reinstate one of the most legendary performers in all of what was once country music?

Saving Country Music, the site where I learned about the reinstatement effort, cited remarks by Dan Rogers, the vice president of the Grand Ole Opry:

“Hank Williams will always be a treasured past member of the Grand Ole Opry,” Dan Rogers said when asked about the possibility of reinstating the country legend. “The Grand Ole Opry is made of living, breathing artists who can contribute to the show, and to whom the Opry can give back. We have a long list in the member gallery of folks who have been members of the Opry from Uncle Jimmy Thompson, who preceded what Opry membership even meant … So that wall honors everyone from Uncle Jimmy Thompson to Little Big Town to Hank Williams.”

Why did Williams get kicked out to begin with?

In 1952 Williams was on a self-destructive path involving substance abuse. The Opry kicked him out that year, and he died a few months later. Had Williams lived, and had he been able to control his demons, chances are he’d have been reinstated.

As Wide Open Country noted in a general article about artist dustups with the Nashville institution, Johnny Cash did something outrageous, got kicked out, and lived to return to the stage. Remember that fabulous film Walk  the Line? It wasn’t called a biopic without good reason. WOC explained:

“That scene where he [Cash] drunkenly bashed out the stage lights with a microphone stand? Definitely happened. And it definitely earned Cash a ban from the Opry in 1965. Well, for three years at least. He eventually returned to even host TV specials from the historic stage beginning in 1969.”

The online petition is active.

There aren’t many stars or musicians who can hold a candle to Hank Williams, Sr. when it comes to making a long term impact on the country music genre that existed before modern country married pop. Seems to me reinstating Williams, Sr. would be the honorable thing to do.

(Kay B. Day/Feb. 18, 2020)

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