All sorts of tributes were being paid this past week to the late Hank Williams on the 50th anniversary of this death. Being an avid country music fan, I salute his memory as well.

I once heard it said that since William Shakespeare and Hank Williams there is nothing new to say. One can only seek a different way to say it.

I was just a kid when Hank died, but I grew up listening to his music on an old RCA radio sitting on an apple crate. I remember running by it one Saturday morning and getting my foot caught in the cord. The radio went flying off the apple crate and the dark brown cover with the little dog staring into the speaker shattered into a hundred pieces. Remarkably, the radio with its tubes, wires and speaker exposed, continued to play Lefty Frizzell, the next best thing to Hank.

I'm not sure how long that old radio lasted after that, but for quite some time we played it with all its innards exposed.

I used to look at the bright orange of those glowing tubes and imagine a miniature Hank inside belting out "I Saw the Light." For some reason, that old skeleton of a radio gave greater dimension to my early musical experiences than it did before I broke the casing.

I recall as a teen-ager going to see a movie based on Hank's life. And anyone who knows anything about Hank knows that he was a hard drinking, singer-songwriter who was sort of the godfather of country music. The movie depicted the good and the bad.

I had planned to visit Hank's gravesite in Montgomery, Ala., some years back when I was on a business trip there, but I never got around to it. I'm not sure visiting the gravesites of famous people really does anything for you, but maybe some day I'll go back and find out.

Country music is often referred to as blue-collar poetry. That's probably a fitting description as well as an honorable one.

I've been listening to country music all my life. Of course I listen to other kinds of music as well, but it's the honest and unfettered lyrics of country music that mostly draw my attention.

To repeat a lyric from a Barbara Mandrell hit from back in the late 70s, "I was country when country wasn't cool."

Of course I never really cared if country music was or wasn't mainstream stuff. I knew what I liked and to each his own.

I recall when I was back in college a fellow philosophy student tried to argue with me about country music. He referred to the likes of Hank Williams as a redneck bellowing out low-class rhymes.

I told him that if that was his sincere feelings about it, then he should go shout it from the roof tops. He couldn't understand why I wasn't getting fighting mad and offering a rebuttal.

I told him that the primary reason I took this philosophy class was because there were really no right or wrong answers. Mostly, I needed five hours of an easy elective so that I could graduate on time.

I told him I would not attempt to convince him to like country music any more than I would try to get him to develop a taste for souse meat. He looked really confused at that point. I almost felt sorry for him.

I didn't really feel the need to defend Hank and his music. And now, given all the tributes, emulation and fortunes that are associated with his pioneering in this venue, I let the issue stand on its own.

I also learned that it was possible to take a philosophy class without smoking a pipe.

Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545. E-mail:

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