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July 27, 2020

Hank and Audrey Williams: The Love Story of One of the Most Iconic Country Music Couples

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Hank and Audrey Williams' love story is certainly one for the books — and for sure the big screen as it was made into a movie. Though it did not end ideally, the pair loved each other till the end. 

Hank Williams was an aspiring country music singer when he first met Audrey Williams. Little did he know that the woman he would fall in love with would be the key to his success. 

Born in Banks, Alabama, in 1923, Audrey Mae Sheppard met her future husband, Hank, in high school. However, she was to marry someone else before the pair got together. 

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HOW THEY MET AND MADE MUSIC TOGETHER

Audrey tied the knot with a man named James Erskin Guy, and the two welcomed a daughter, Lycrecia, in 1941. They split up soon after, and Audrey and Hank began a relationship. 

Hank was just getting into his career at the time. Audrey convinced him to move to Montgomery and start a band with her so he could get his sound on the radio. 

In 1944, the pair got hitched at a Texaco Station in Andalusia, mere days after Audrey's first divorce was finalized. Before long, she took over from her mother-in-law as Hank's new manager.

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Hank Williams playing guitar in Montgomery, Alabama in 1938 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Images

 

It was not an instant switch to stardom as Hank fell through with his audition at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Audrey continued to push for her husband's success, however. 

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AUDREY PUSHES HANK INTO THE SPOTLIGHT

She spoke to record executive of Acuff-Rose, Fred Rose, convincing him to give Hank a listen. Rose was fully on board with the singer, granting Hank a six-song contract, which led to a deal with MGM records. 

Hank gained traction with the public and began to make a name for himself. At the same time, Audrey's desire to perform grew. The pair teamed up once again for various records. 

Hank Williams publicity photo for WSM in 1951 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Images

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Among them were "Lost on the River," "Dear Brothers," "The Pale Horse and His Rider," "I Want to Live and Love," "Where the Soul of Man Never Dies," "Something Got a Hold of Me," and "Jesus Died for Me." 

HANK'S SHORTCOMINGS LEADS TO MARRIAGE FAILURE

Unfortunately, the marriage was tainted by Hank's alcohol and substance abuse and instances of cheating. He and Audrey would welcome a son, Randall Hank Williams Jr., in 1949.

Hank's addiction drove a wedge in the pair's marriage. Audrey told him to choose between her and the alcohol, and, although Hank said he could not live without her, they eventually split up. 

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Hank Williams in concert in 1951 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Images

Audrey received the house, full custody of Hank Jr., and would gain half of her former husband's royalties if she remained single, which she did. Meanwhile, Hank remarried to Billie Jean in October 1952. 

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HANK AND AUDREY'S SHARED ISSUE AND DEATHS

A few months later, he passed away from a heart attack on January 1, 1953. After his death, a daughter, Jett, from one of his extramarital affairs, was born. 

Despite his misgivings, Audrey's daughter Lycrecia said that her mother blamed herself for Hank's downfall. So much so, she also began to drink and became an alcoholic, too. 

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She passed away in November 1975 from heart failure. In 2015, the movie "I Saw the Light" came out as an ode to Hank and Audrey's relationship. It starred Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Hiddleston as the beloved coupe. 

Although they divorced, Hank and Audrey are buried together at the Oakwood Annex in Alabama. The location reportedly receives lots of visitors from around the world. 

HANK'S PROGENY OF MUSICIANS AND TRAGEDY

Hank's legacy continued with his son Hank Jr., who became a singer just like his dad. In turn, Hank Jr. had a son — called Hank Williams III — who also became a musician. 

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Country singer Hank Williams Jr. on stage during a performance at the 2016 CMA Music Festival on June 10, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee | Photo: C Flanigan/FilmMagic

Hank Jr. and his son came together to create an album with their dad post-mortem using the late singer's old songs. They combined it with their vocals. The 1996 album is called, "Three Hanks: Men with Broken Hearts." 

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Sadly, Hank Jr. also had a daughter who died in a car crash in June 2020. Katherine Williams-Dunning was only 27 years old when she got into an accident alongside her husband, Tyler Dunning, who survived. 

Hank Jr. is also a father to Sam, Holly, and Hillary Williams, who all became musicians like their father and grandfather. Our hearts go out to them for the loss they suffered.

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