The Story Behind The Song: ”Your Cheatin’ Heart” – Hank Williams

His songs were being recorded by everyone from orchestras to the top pop singers of the day. He was being hailed as the “Stephen Foster of the Twentieth Century.” Hank was no longer just a country bumpkin, he was a certified genius. Perhaps this is the reason why his manic mood swings, his alcohol and drug abuse, and his erratic stage performances were so easily overlooked and often dismissed. After all, he was Hank Williams. He was one-of-a-kind, his talent was as rare as gold, and he was to be forgiven every sin. Most assumed that his behavior was just the price that had to be paid for his unique and explosive talent.

On September 23, 1952, in what would prove to be his final session, Hank and his band gathered in Nashville’s Tulane Hotel, home of the Castle Recording Studio, the city’s only recording facility at the time. It was named after WSM Radio’s slogan “The Air Castle of the South” because the studio had been established and operated by WSM technicians. Except for two earlier occasions at the Herzog Studio in Cincinnati, Hank did all of his recording at Castle, and everyone assumed that this would be just another routine session, like dozens of others. However, it soon became apparent that Hank was in even more frail condition than normal.

The end was in sight. Here was a young man of twenty-nine dying of old age. Hank was used up, worn out and despondent. His skin tone was pale, his face wrinkled, his manner slow, his gait a bit unsteady. He had dark foreboding circles that lined his eyes and seemed to reflect a world full of black nights and dark days. Future RCA Victor producer and executive Chet Atkins played lead guitar on the session that day.

In addition to “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” Hank had brought along several more new songs to record. One of those was called “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” and Chet remembers thinking “buddy, that might not be too far wrong unless you straighten yourself out, if it isn’t already too late.” Also participating on that last session were Tommy Jackson on fiddle, Don Helms (a former member of Hank’s recently disbanded touring group “The Drifting Cowboys”) on steel guitar, Jack Shook on rhythm guitar and Floyd “Lightnin’” Chance on bass. Two other standards were cut that day (and also went on to achieve #1 status): “Kaw-Liga” and “Take Theses Chains From My Heart.”

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