Hank Williams, like other Grand Ole Opry stars, also hosted his own live shows over Nashville’s WSM. These 15-minute programs sponsored by Mother’s Best Flour featured him and his Drifting Cowboys, and each closed with a hymn. Pristine recordings of 1951 programs provided the tracks on this collection.
The Drifting Cowboys meshed perfectly with Hank’s raw vocals. Don Helms’ keening (non-pedal) steel work became a trademark of the Williams sound, onstage and on records. Sammy Pruett added tasty electric guitar, while Jerry Rivers was known for his aggressive fiddling, and Howard Watts played solid upright bass. At times, the band added haunting vocal harmonies to numbers like “Farther Along,” the driving Hank original “I’m Gonna Sing” and other tunes.
While Hank’s simple-yet-effective rhythm guitar set the tempos, in sacred mode, the Cowboys restrained their usual exuberant soloing. Pruett largely confines himself to rhythm licks (mostly alternating bass notes). At other at times, he contributes graceful intros and turnarounds, as he does on “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” Helms kicks off “Farther Along,” then slips in his signature high-register chords, Pruett adding a smooth, melodic break. Seven decades later, the power of these 40 numbers remains undiminished.
This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.