Hank Williams’ ‘Health & Happiness Show’ 1949 Recordings Out This Summer

Before he was a household name Hank Williams was playing late-night road stops, honky-tonks, and early morning radio shows. He, and did many musicians of the time, defined the word hustle.

October 1949, two years before the better-known Mother’s Best Flour radio programs, Hiram King “Hank” Williams recorded eight live-to-disk 15 minute radio programs for distribution to radio stations for promotion.

The name of these programs were billed as ‘Health and Happiness’ shows. The name came from the original sponsor of the programs, the patent medicine company Hadacol Corporation. But the sponsorship was not to be, the Hadocol company went broke leaving the show’s producer removed all of the corporation’s identity from the shows and left blank spaces on recordings to insert a future sponsor name to be inserted at a later date. (More details on that in the press release below)

Contemporary recordings have only been found on ebay since a 2-CD edition of the ‘The Health and Happiness Shows’ was last available the storied Lost Highway Records, but it’s been long out of print since Lost Highway folded a few years back.

Well kids, good times are back again!

From the press release:

On June 14, 2019, BMG will release The Complete Health & Happiness Shows for the first time on vinyl. The 49-track, three-LP set or two-CD contains the eight Health & Happiness episodes in their entirety. Included are performances of his breakout 1949 hits “Lovesick Blues,” “Wedding Blues,” “Mind Your Own Business,” and “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave),” along with such other iconic Williams tunes as “I Saw the Light,” “I’m a Long Gone Daddy,” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” (The last song actually came out after the program was recorded in the fall of 1949 but before the show was broadcast in the spring of 1950.)

The set was produced by Cheryl Pawelski, Colin Escott and Michael Graves have produced, written notes and mastered the new set respectively, alongside the rest of the team that was responsible for the Best Historical Album for 2014, The Garden Spot Programs, 1950.

In addition to the amazing performances, this archival collection contains the earliest recorded evidence of the Nashville-era incarnation of Williams’ backing band, the Drifting Cowboys. Sessions for the Health & Happiness Show were done at Nashville’s WSM studios on two successive Sundays in October 1949. They were recorded directly to acetate, which were then duplicated onto 16-inch vinyl discs for distribution to radio stations. For The Complete Health & Happiness Shows, this material has been freshly transferred, restored and mastered from these original 16″ transcription discs.

Escott’s extensive and informative liner notes not only offer illuminating insights on Williams’ music and Health & Happiness Show performances, but he also provides a quite fascinating story about the program itself. The show’s sponsor was Hadocol, an elixir created by a Louisiana state senator named Dylan LeBlanc who aggressively touted for its curative power. While the tonic had some vitamins and minerals, its main ingredient was alcohol. To increase his product’s popularity, LeBlanc staged massive publicity campaigns. These stunts included the Hadocol Caravan, a traveling roadshow whose wildly eccentric bills included Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, and Hank Williams. The Hadacol craze imploded spectacularly in 1951 due to huge debts and federal investigations.

Thankfully one positive byproduct of Hadacol PR blitz was The Health & Happiness Show. As Escott states in his liner notes, “the audio quality of his transcriptions equaled, if not surpassed, his commercial recordings.” Williams would go on to do the transcription radio show The Garden Spot in 1950 for sponsor Naughton Farms (these were issued by Omnivore Recordings in 2014), and the Mother’s Best show for WSM in 1951.

The Hadacol scandal did little to damage Hank Williams’ career. Between 1950-52, he continually topped the charts with such now-iconic tunes as “Why Don’t You Love Me,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” and “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.” Released in November 1952, “World Alive,” proved to be all-too prophetic as he passed away on New Year’s Day 1953 from heart failure brought on by alcohol and drugs. He was just 29 years old. The Health & Happiness Show sessions capture Williams at a unique moment of time, when he was a rising star still hungry for success and performing at the top of his game.

Pre-order ‘The Complete Health & Happiness Recordings.”

THE COMPLETE HEALTH & HAPPINESS SHOWS TRACKLIST:

RECORD ONE: SIDE ONE
Oct 1949 – Health & Happiness Show 1
Happy Rovin’ Cowboy (Theme)
Wedding Bells
Lovesick Blues
Old Joe Clark (featuring Jerry Rivers)
Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies (featuring Audrey Williams)
Sally Goodin’ (featuring Jerry Rivers)
Oct 1949 – Health & Happiness Show 2
Happy Rovin’ Cowboy (Theme)
You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave)

RECORD ONE: SIDE TWO
(There’s A Bluebird) On Your Windowsill (featuring Audrey Williams)
A Tramp On The Street
Sally Goodin’ (featuring Jerry Rivers)
Oct 1949 – Health & Happiness Show 3
Happy Rovin’ Cowboy (Theme)
I’m A Long Gone Daddy
I’m Telling You (featuring Audrey Williams)
Bill Cheatham (featuring Jerry Rivers)

RECORD TWO: SIDE ONE
When God Comes And Gathers His Jewels
Sally Goodin – Jerry Rivers
Oct 1949 – Health & Happiness Show 4
Happy Rovin’ Cowboy (Theme)
Lost Highway
I Want To Live And Love (featuring Audrey Williams)
Bile Them Cabbage Down (featuring Jerry Rivers)
I’ll Have A New Body (I’ll Have A New Life)

RECORD TWO: SIDE TWO
Fingers On Fire (featuring Bob McNett)
Sally Goodin’ (featuring Jerry Rivers)
Oct 1949 – Health & Happiness Show 5
Happy Rovin’ Cowboy (Theme)
A Mansion On The Hill
There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight
Wagner (featuring Jerry Rivers)
The Prodigal Son
Sally Goodin’ (featuring Jerry Rivers)

RECORD THREE: SIDE ONE
Oct 1949 – Health & Happiness Show 6
Happy Rovin’ Cowboy (Theme)
Pan American
Lovesick Blues
Arkansas Traveler (featuring Jerry Rivers)
I Saw The Light
Sally Goodin’ (featuring Jerry Rivers)
Oct 1949 – Health & Happiness Show 7
Happy Rovin’ Cowboy (Theme)
Mind Your Own Business

RECORD THREE: SIDE TWO
Wedding Bells
Cotton Eyed Joe (featuring Jerry Rivers)
I’ve Just Told Mama Goodbye
Sally Goodin’ (featuring Jerry Rivers)
Oct 1949 – Health & Happiness Show 8
Happy Rovin’ Cowboy (Theme)
I Can’t Get You Off My Mind
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
Fisherman’s Hornpipe (featuring Jerry Rivers)
Thy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine
Sally Goodin’ (featuring Jerry Rivers)

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