Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hey Good Lookin' Turns 60

About a year and a half before his still–mysterious death at the age of 29, country music legend Hank Williams released one of his final #1 hits — "Hey Good Lookin'."

Hank was on a roll at that point in his life. He'd had a single #1 hit between 1947 and 1949, but, in 1950, he seemed to explode on the charts with three #1 hits — and he kept that hot streak going the following year, starting with "Cold, Cold Heart" — and he nearly made it three #1 hits in a row with "Howlin' at the Moon," which reached #3.

You could probably recite a list of all the #1 hits Williams had in his brief but explosive career (as well as after his death), and any one of them could almost be said to be the definitive Williams song.

His style could be bluesy and earthy, and it could be playful and lively. I always felt "Hey Good Lookin' " touched on it all.

Oh, I guess you could say the same thing about songs like "Jambalaya" or "Settin' the Woods on Fire" — or several other Williams standards. For that matter, "Howlin' at the Moon" had the same sense of whimsy as "Hey Good Lookin'," but it isn't as well remembered, even though it was released at about the same time.

In the last year of his life, Williams had five songs that made it at least to #2 on the charts — and two of them reached the top. One of those songs was "Jambalaya" (which was released more than a year after "Hey Good Lookin' ") and the other, ironically, was called "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."

The song was intended to be humorous, as you can probably tell from the title. It was still climbing the charts when Williams died on the first day of 1953 — and took on considerably deeper meaning after that.

But, in June 1951, that was still in the future.

Sixty years ago, Williams was crooning to someone who was good lookin' and wonderin' what she had cookin'.

"How's about cookin' somethin' up with me?"

It has been covered by countless performers over the years, but, half a century after it was released, Williams' version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

That's staying power.