Historic Herzog

HANK WILLIAMS AT HISTORIC HERZOG
811 Race Street – Floor 2
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Home of the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation

“Believe this or not, but record producers from all over the country used to come to Cincinnati to record. This was not for the great recording facilities we had in town, but for the great sidemen who were available here then. WLW had the biggest musical staff of any non-network station in the country.”

We recorded so many singers: Patti Page, Ernest Tubbs, Flatt and Scruggs, Red Foley, the great Hank Williams, and more. Homer and Jethro even did numerous sessions for me.”

 “Cincinnati was first, way ahead of Nashville. This was IT.”

—- E.T. “Bucky” Herzog, 1980 interview with Cincinnati Enquirer

On a Wednesday afternoon, on Dec 22, 1948, three days before Christmas, Hank Williams, his wife Audrey, and his manager Fred Rose, drove into downtown Cincinnati. They had booked a three-hour session to record three songs at the E.T. Herzog Studio at 811 Race St. One of the songs was written by Audrey, who was pressuring Hank to let her sing.  Hank hadn’t recorded in over a year and was desperate to get some chart action. After recording the songs, there was still a little session time remaining. Hank insisted he record a song that had been getting good reactions on the road. It was an old vaudeville song from the 1920s that he had reworked, making the chorus the verse and the verse the chorus. Fred Rose, a veteran songwriter, hated the song, saying it wasn’t country and had no bridge. After arguing for a bit, Rose stomped out of the studio in frustration and went for coffee.

Hank ran through the song with the top notch session players hired from WLW Radio, which was located right around the corner from the studio. When steel guitarist Jerry Byrd asked when he should take a break, Hank told him to come in when he stomped his foot. Listening to the playback of the one take, some of the musicians thought the performance was awful and out of meter. Byrd asked, “Hank, you ain’t going to put this thing out, are you?” Hank replied, “Well, maybe we’ll put it out as a B side.”

The song, “Lovesick Blues” would make Hank William a superstar after its release in May 1949. It stayed No. 1 on the Billboard charts for four months and was still on the charts in January 1950. The success with “Lovesick Blues” led to an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry, where he debuted on June 11, 1949, singing “Lovesick Blues” with an unprecedented six encores. He would returned to the Herzog Studios on August 30, 1949 to recapture the chemistry with the same studio musicians. On that day, “I ‘m So Lonesome I Could Cry” was recorded.

Why did Hank Williams recorded in Cincinnati in 1948 and 1949?
His manager Fred Rose wanted Hank to continue to record with the Pleasant Valley Boys.

Who were the Pleasant Valley Boys?
The Boys were the hottest session players in Nashville at the time. They are now considered Country Music’s first A team of session players. In great demand in Nashville 1946-1948, these sidemen recorded with many singers. In addition, the Boys were the backup band for Red Foley, the biggest star on the Grand Ole Opry at the time. In the fall of 1948, the Boys moved to Cincinnati to become TV stars. WLW debuted The Midwestern Hayride on TV that year and needed a backup band. The pay would be three times as much than what Foley was paying.

Who were the members of this band?
Tommy Jackson on Fiddle, Zeke Turner on Lead Guitar, Louis Innis on Rhythm Guitar and Jerry Byrd on Slide Guitar

Lost on the River                               Cincinnati   E.T. Herzog Dec 22, 1948 Wednesday
There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight
I Heard My Mother Praying For Me
Lovesick Blues

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry          Cincinnati E. T. Herzog Aug 30, 1949 TuesdayA House Without Love
I Just Don’t Like This Kind of Livin’
Two Takes of
My Bucket’s Got A Hole in It (Hank with guitar)
My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It

[Special thanks to Brian Powers for research and writing included in this document.]