Honky Tonk Blues

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"Honky Tonk Blues"
Single by Hank Williams
from the album 'Moanin' the Blues'
B-side "I'm Sorry For You, My Friend"
Released February 1952
Recorded December 11, 1951, Castle Studio, Nashville
Genre Honky-tonk, country, blues
Label MGM
Writer(s) Hank Williams
Producer(s) Fred Rose
Hank Williams singles chronology
"Baby, We're Really in Love
"Honky Tonk Blues"
"Half as Much"

"Honky Tonk Blues" was a hit country and western song written and performed by Hank Williams. The original 1952 recording was a major hit, and it later became a hit for later-day superstar Charley Pride.

Hank Williams version[edit]

"Honky Tonk Blues" is one of the most problematic songs Williams ever recorded. According to Colin Escott's 2004 Williams memoir, Hank and producer Fred Rose had attempted to record the song several times previously: in August 1947 (the session that produced the novelty "Fly Trouble"); in March 1949 (this version featured a light, jazzy feel and an intricate solo from guitarist Zeb Turner, but Hank broke meter and it was abandoned); and again in June 1950.[1] The backing on the December 1951 session is believed to have been Don Helms (steel guitar), Jerry Rivers (fiddle), possibly Sam Pruett (electric guitar), probably Jack Shook (acoustic guitar), and Ernie Newton or Howard Watts (bass).[2] The song was about a young farmboy who leaves his father's farm for the enticements of the city, only to become worn down and disillusioned. The version that was released did not contain all the lyrics on his original demo; the next-to-last verse in which Maw and Paw are "really gonna lay down the law" was missing, emphasizing in a way that Hank himself never made it back from the honky-tonks to pappy's farm.[3] Williams' version reached #2 on the Billboard magazine country best-sellers chart.

The title served as the name for a documentary about Williams broadcast by PBS as part of its American Masters series.[4] The documentary was also shown at the 48th London Film Festival in 2004.[5]

Chart performance[edit]


Chart (1952) Peak

Cover versions[edit]

"Honky Tonk Blues"
Song by Huey Lewis and the News from the album Sports
Released 1983
Recorded 1983
Genre Pop rock, rock and roll
Length 3:26
Label Chrysalis
Composer(s) Hank Williams
Producer(s) Huey Lewis

Charley Pride version[edit]

"Honky Tonk Blues"
Single by Charley Pride
from the album There's a Little Bit of Hank in Me
Released January 1980
Format 7"
Recorded 1979
Genre country
Length 2:00
Label RCA
Writer(s) Hank Williams
Producer(s) Jerry Bradley, Charley Pride
Charley Pride singles chronology
"Missin' You"
"Honky Tonk Blues"
"You Win Again"

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1980) Peak
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[8] 1
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1

Pirates of the Mississippi version[edit]

"Honky Tonk Blues"
Single by Pirates of the Mississippi
from the album Pirates of the Mississippi
Released 1990
Genre Country
Length 3:00
Label Capitol Nashville
Producer(s) James Stroud, Rich Alves
Pirates of the Mississippi singles chronology
"Honky Tonk Blues"
"Rollin' Home"

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1990) Peak
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[9] 12
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[10] 26


  1. ^ Escott, Colin 2004.
  2. ^ Escott, Colin & 2004 346.
  3. ^ Escott, Colin & 2004 194.
  4. ^ "Hank Williams ~ About Hank Williams | American Masters". PBS. 2005-08-10. Retrieved 2016-01-21. 
  5. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20060929110113/http://www.lff.org.uk/films_details.php?FilmID=455. Archived from the original on September 29, 2006. Retrieved January 12, 2007.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 277. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 270. 
  8. ^ "Charley Pride – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Charley Pride.
  9. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 1298." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. October 6, 1990. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  10. ^ "Pirates of the Mississippi – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Pirates of the Mississippi.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Sugar Daddy"
by The Bellamy Brothers
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single

April 12, 1980
Succeeded by
"It's Like We Never Said Goodbye"
by Crystal Gayle
Preceded by
"I'd Love to Lay You Down"
by Conway Twitty
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single

April 26, 1980
Succeeded by
"Two Story House"
by George Jones and Tammy Wynette