By Kurt Wolff
If you already own the ten-CD box set The Complete Hank Williams, and think you’ve heard everything from that most legendary of country artists, guess again, because a new collection of unreleased Williams recordings is set to surface this spring.
Hitting stores on May 20, The Garden Spot Recordings, 1950 is a new 24-song collection featuring recordings from Williams that haven’t been heard since they aired 64 years ago. Williams recorded these songs as part of a sponsored radio program — which was common practice at the time — and it features previously unheard versions of some of his classic songs, including “Lovesick Blues” (which he didn’t write but was his first No. 1), “Mind Your Own Business” and “Mansion on the Hill.” See the track list on Radio.com.
In the liner notes to the collection, Williams biographer Colin Escott describes the context for these recordings. “Set the time machine for early morning on KSIB-AM, Creston, Iowa,” Escott writes. “February 1950. Country radio was beginning its slow transition from live music to DJ shows. Live music and DJ shows were augmented by transcribed shows. After buying 15 minutes of airtime on small-market stations, sponsors would prerecord shows with well known artists, duplicate them, and ship them out on 12 or 16-inch transcribed discs.”
And that, Escott continues “is how Hank Williams came to be on KSIB in February 1950. Sandwiched between the local ‘live’ acts, it was almost as if he were visiting with Skeets and those Radio Rascals. His sponsor was one of the nation’s largest plant nurseries, Naughton Farms, seven hundred miles south in Waxahachie, Texas. Given that Naughton was a big player in the nursery business, Hank’s shows were almost certainly shipped to many small stations, but only KSIB’s copies survived.”
And despite the fact many heard these recordings at the time, and many stations likely possessed the transcription discs at some point, they have since floundered in obscurity — even for a scholar of Escott’s stature. “Those of us who have studied Hank’s life and career had no idea that these recordings existed,” he notes.