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Single by Hank Williams
B-side "Your Cheatin' Heart"
Released January 1953
Recorded September 23, 1952, Castle Studio, Nashville
Genre Country, blues
Length 2:54
Label MGM Records
Writer(s) Hank Williams, Fred Rose
Hank Williams singles chronology
"I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" (1952) "Kaw-Liga" (1953) "Take These Chains From My Heart" (1953)

"Kaw-Liga" (/kɔːˈlə/ kaw-LY-jə) is a country-music song written by Hank Williams and Fred Rose.


"Kaw-Liga" is one of just a handful of songs that Williams wrote with Fred Rose, who produced his records and published his songs through his company Acuff-Rose. Rose often "doctored" the songs Hank composed, making suggestions and revisions, with biographer Roger M. Williams noting that Rose's contribution to Hank's songs was probably craftsmanship, whereas Williams' was genius. Roy Acuff later recalled:

"Hank would come up with the ideas, and Fred would say, 'Well, write it down and let me look at it.' Hank'd bring it to Fred, and Fred would sit at the piano and complement Hank and say, "Maybe you can express this a little differently, let's change it a little bit,' but Fred never changed Hank's thinking."[1]

Kawliga is a community in central Alabama on Lake Martin. Named after a legendary Indian for which a wooden statue was later placed near the lake, the song was written by Hank when he was staying at a lakeside cabin that he owned and still stands today. The song tells the story of a wooden Indian, Kaw-Liga, who falls in love with an "Indian maid over in the antique store" but does not tell her so, being, as the lyrics say:

Too stubborn to ever show a sign,
Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

The Indian maid waits for Kaw-Liga to signal his affection for her, but he either refuses or is physically/emotionally unable (interpretations vary) to talk, ever the stoical Native American of the popular stereotype.[2] Because of his stubbornness, Kaw-Liga's love continues to be unrequited, with Hank Williams, the narrator/singer of the song lamenting,

Poor ol Kaw-liga, he never got a kiss,
Poor ol Kaw-liga, he don't know what he missed,
Is it any wonder that his face is red?
Kaw-liga, that poor ol' wooden head.

The song ends with the Indian maid being bought and taken away from the antique store by a buyer, leaving Kaw-Liga alone,

As lonely as can be,
And wishes he was still an ol' pine tree.

Recording and release[edit]

The song was recorded as part of William's final recording session on September 23, 1952 at Castle Studio in Nashville. The remarkably productive session also produced "I Could Never Be Ashamed of You," (written for his soon-to-be wife Billie Jean), "Take These Chains From My Heart" (also written by Rose), and Hank's masterpiece ballad "Your Cheatin' Heart." More than any other song, "Kaw-Liga" bears evidence of the guiding hand of Rose, who moulded the song into nothing like Williams had recorded up to that point. It begins in a minor key, which modulates into a major key on the chorus, and also features big band drummer Farris Coursey, who had played brushes on Williams' previous song "Moanin' the Blues" and played in WSM's dance band.[3] In addition, the song fades out, the only Hank Williams song to do so. Williams is also backed by Tommy Jackson (fiddle), Don Helms (steel guitar), Chet Atkins (lead guitar), Jack Shook (rhythm guitar), and Floyd "Lightnin'" Chance (bass). The single was released posthumously in January 1953 on the MGM Records label and it remained No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart for 14 weeks.[4] The flipside, "Your Cheatin' Heart, remained #1 on the country chart for 6 weeks.[5]

A demo version of Williams singing "Kaw-Liga" with just his guitar, likely recorded in 1951,[6] is also available. On the recording, Williams flubs a chord and can be heard muttering "shit" before starting the song again.

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ Escott, Colin & 2004 124.
  2. ^ "Journal of American Indian Education-Arizona State University". asu.edu. 
  3. ^ Escott, Colin & 2004 324.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 388. 
  5. ^ Jim Dawson, & Steve Propes (1992). What Was the First Rock'n'Roll Record. Boston & London: Faber & Faber. pp. 111–114. ISBN 978-0-571-12939-3. 
  6. ^ Escott, Colin & 2004 328.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Eddy's Song" by Eddy Arnold
Country & Western National Best Sellers number one single
(Hank Williams with His Drifting Cowboys version)

February 21, 1953
Succeeded by
"Mexican Joe" by Jim Reeves
Preceded by
"The Wild Side of Life"
by Hank Thompson
Billboard C&W National Best Sellers
number-one single of the year

Succeeded by
"I Don't Hurt Anymore"
by Hank Snow
Preceded by
"While Your Lover Sleeps" by Leon Ashley
RPM Country Tracks number one single
(Charley Pride version)

April 7-April 14, 1969
Succeeded by
"The Name of the Game Was Love" by Hank Snow