During the summer of 1952, less than six months before his death, Hank Williams was traveling by car with his fiancée Billie Jean Eshlimar to Louisiana to visit her family and inform them of the couple’s engagement. As he drove through the wilted countryside and felt the rush of hot air blowing through the convertible, he switched off the radio and began to talk about his ex-wife, Audrey.
For some time, country music’s master songwriter rambled, telling the new woman in his life all about what he deemed Audrey’s “wicked” ways. It became quickly obvious that she had hurt Hank more than even he could express, or so it seemed. The more he spoke, the more painful were the episodes he dredged up, becoming more bitter and somber with each remembrance. In an effort to sum up all of his frustrations, Hank finally sighed and said “her cheatin’ heart will pay!”
That last phrase seemed to hang in the air for a few moments before Hank repeated it. He then asked Billie Jean to find a piece of paper and a pen. When she had secured both, Hank began to feed her words to the song that would become most associated with his monumental career. Billie Jean later recalled that “Your Cheatin’ Heart” had been completed in less than ten minutes. At this point in his life, Hank Williams was beginning to find a great deal of recognition beyond the often-confining borders of country music.