Lovesick Blues

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"Lovesick Blues"
Single by Hank Williams
A-side Moanin' The Blues
Released February 11, 1949 (1949-02-11)
Recorded December 22, 1948 (1948-12-22)
Genre Country
Label MGM Records
Writer(s) Cliff Friend and Irving Mills
Producer(s) Fred Rose
Hank Williams singles chronology
"A Mansion on the Hill"
"Lovesick Blues"
"Wedding Bells"
Music sample

Lovesick Blues is a show tune credited to Cliff Friend and Irving Mills. The song first appeared in the 1922 musical Oh, Ernest. It was recorded by Emmet Miller in 1928 and later by country music singer Rex Griffin. The recordings by Griffin and Miller inspired Hank Williams to sing it during his first appearances on the Louisiana Hayride in 1948.

Impressed by the reception of the song by the audience, Williams decided to record it. He initially met with disagreement from his producer Fred Rose and his musicians. Convinced of its potential success, he recorded the track.

MGM Records released the track on February 1949, and it became an instant success. It reached number one on Billboard's Top C&W singles, and 24 on Most Played in Jukeboxes. The publication named it the top country & western record of the year, while Cashbox named it "Best Hillbilly record of the year".

Background and Recording[edit]

"Lovesick Blues" was published in 1922 by Irving Mills and Cliff Friend.[1] Friend wrote the song, but Mills took half the publishing, as was his custom and as was standard practice at that time. Published by Jack Mills, Inc., the song was originally entitled "I've Got the Lovesick Blues". It first appeared in the Tin Pan Alley musical Oh! Ernest the same year, when it was introduced to audiences by singer Anna Chandler and its sheet music was first published.[2] Prior to being copyrighted, it was first recorded by Elsie Clark in 1922. A recording by Jack Shea followed, and later by Emmett Miller, who recorded it on September 1, 1925, and again on June 12, 1928, accompanied by his Georgia Crackers (which included Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Eddie Lang, and Leo McConville).[3] The track was later covered by country music singer Rex Griffin.[4]

Hank Williams, who heard Griffin's and Miller's records,[5] started performing the song on the Louisiana Hayride shortly after joining on August 1948. Horace Logan, producer of the show and director of programming for KWKH, stated about it that the audience "went crazy" from the first time Williams performed it on the show.[6]

Due to the positive responses of the crowds to the performances, Williams decided to record the song. In the last thirty minutes of a session recorded at Herzog Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio,[7] on December 22, 1948, Williams introduced the song.[1] He was opposed by his musicians and producer, Fred Rose, who considered that it was not good enough to be recorded.[4][8] Convinced of the potential success, Williams ignored their opinions. For the recording, he replaced the jazz musicians with a modern country music band, using a rhythm guitar, mandolin, string bass, drums and a steel guitar. He produced a two-beat honky-tonk track, using elements from both early versions of the song, the yodelling and the beat drops.[8][9]


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released "Lovesick Blues" on February 25, 1949,[10] selling 50,000 copies in the first two weeks.[7] It reached number one on Billboard's Top C&W singles, where it remained for sixteen weeks and at number 24 on Most Played in Jukeboxes.[11] The magazine listed it as "number one country and western record of 1949" while Cashbox named it "Best Hillbilly record of the year".[1]

Following the success of the song, Williams was invited to appear as a guest on the Grand Ole Opry, on June 11, 1949.[12] After the first performance of the song, acclaimed by the standing audience,[13] Williams performed six encores.[12] It became his signature song, which he used to close his shows.[14] The fame of the song earned Williams the nicknames "The Lovesick Blues Boy" and "Lovesick".[1] Thanks to the success, he was ranked number two "Year's Top Selling Folk Artist", behind Eddy Arnold.[14]


The song was the first of many number one hits on Country radio for Hank Williams. It also marked one of the songwriter's few cover songs.[13] The song's monumental success led to Williams' tenure at the Grand Ole Opry and remains one of his best-remembered songs. In 2004, it was chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.[15] His version of the song appeared in such films as The Last Picture Show (1971) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994).

Since Williams' hit rendition of the song, it has been covered by a wide array of performers. Country performers including Slim Whitman (1957), Patsy Cline (1960), Glen Campbell (1974), Merle Haggard (1973), Charley Pride (1973), and LeAnn Rimes (1999), have all recorded their own renditions of the song. Floyd Cramer's rock-and-roll cover crossed over to pop audiences in 1962, while Frank Ifield took the song to #1 in the United Kingdom in 1963. In the 1970s, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Arlo Guthrie, Don McLean, Etta James and Linda Ronstadt all covered the song. George Strait took his cover all the way to #24 on the country chart in 1992 with little traditional promotion of the single. Alt-country artist Ryan Adams recorded the song for Timeless, a Hank Williams tribute album.

Chart performance[edit]

Hank Williams version[edit]

Chart (1949) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Most Played By Disc Jockeys 24

Sonny James version[edit]

Chart (1957) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 15

Floyd Cramer version[edit]

Year Chart Position
1962 Billboard Pop Singles 87

Frank Ifield version[edit]

Year Chart Position
1963 Billboard Pop Singles 44
1962 UK Singles Chart 1

George Strait version[edit]

Chart (1992) Peak
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[16] 22
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[17] 24


Preceded by
"Candy Kisses" by George Morgan
Best Selling Retail Folk Records number one song by Hank Williams with His Drifting Cowboys
May 7, 1949
(sixteen weeks)
Succeeded by
"I'm Throwing Rice (At the Girl That I Love)" by Eddy Arnold
"Why Don't You Haul Off and Love Me" by Wayne Raney
Preceded by
"Bouquet of Roses"
by Eddy Arnold
Billboard Best Selling Retail Folk Records
number-one single of the year

Succeeded by
"I'm Moving On"
by Hank Snow
Preceded by
"Telstar" by The Tornados
UK number one single
November 8, 1962
(5 weeks, Frank Ifield version)
Succeeded by
"Return to Sender" by Elvis Presley (December 13)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d Koon 1983, p. 41.
  2. ^ Tosches, Nich 2009, p. 247.
  3. ^ Harwood 2008, p. 108.
  4. ^ a b Jennings 2008, p. 211.
  5. ^ Harwood 2008, p. 110.
  6. ^ Diekman 2007, p. 13.
  7. ^ a b Kosser 2006, p. 22.
  8. ^ a b Campbell 2011, p. 126.
  9. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 9 - Tennessee Firebird: American country music before and after Elvis. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. 
  10. ^ Koon 1983, p. 153.
  11. ^ Jennings 2008, p. 212.
  12. ^ a b Koon 1983, p. 41, 42.
  13. ^ a b Williams 1981, p. 1.
  14. ^ a b Williams 1981, p. 82.
  15. ^ Tyler 2008, p. 174.
  16. ^ "RPM Country Tracks." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. March 21, 1992. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
  17. ^ "George Strait Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot Country Songs for George Strait.


  • Campbell, Michael (2011). Popular Music in America: The Beat Goes on. Cengaging Learning. ISBN 978-0-840-02976-8. 
  • Deikman, Diane (2007). Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-09380-7. 
  • Harwood, Robert (2008). I Went Down to St. James Infirmary: Investigations in the Shadowy World of Early Jazz-Blues in the Company of Blind Willie McTell, Louis Armstrong, Don Redman, Irving Mills, Carl Moore, and a Host of Others, and Where Did This Dang Song Come from Anyway?. Harlan Press. ISBN 978-0-980-97430-0. 
  • Jennings, Dana (2008). Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music. Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-429-99624-2. 
  • Koon, George William (1983). Hank Williams, so Lonesome. University of Mississippi press. ISBN 978-1-57806-283-6. 
  • Kosser, Michael (2006). How Nashville Became Music City, U.s.a.: 50 Years of Music Row. ISBN 978-0-634-09806-2. 
  • Tyler, Don (2008). Music of the post war era. ABC-Clio. ISBN 978-0-313-34191-5. 
  • Williams, Roger M. (1981). Sing a sad song: the life of Hank Williams. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-00861-0.