singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, Nova Scotia, who sought refuge in music as
a lad as an escape from an unhappy home life. After his parents divorced when he
was eight he was the victim of an abusive grandmother who forbade him to
visit his mom and beat him frequently.
Eventually he moved in with his mom and his step-dad and was abused
by him, as well.
At the age of
twelve, he escaped to the sea and went to work on fishing boats, where he
would sing and play the guitar and harmonica. Jimmie Rodgers was his idol, and he
fashioned his style after him.
Rodgers was signed by RCA Victor, which inspired Hank, and his
cohorts encouraged him to audition for a radio program on CHNS in nearby
Halifax. He aced the audition
and performed his first broadcast on the very same day.
eventually led to an audition with RCA Victor, and they inked him to a deal
that would span forty-seven years, the longest such tenure in recording
history. Some of his early
releases on RCA’s Bluebird label include “Blue Velvet
Band”, “Galveston Rose”, “Lonesome Blue
Yodel”, “My Blue River Rose” and “Prisoned Cowboy”. In all, he cut about ninety records
for Bluebird in between 1936 and 1949, but few of these were released
In 1949, Hank
cracked the American market with his first U.S. tour, in support of his
first American recording. A
trick horse rider to boot, he had a gimmick that immediately attracted
attention and set him apart from the rest of the field.
successful show in Dallas, Texas, he sought and received an audience with
Ernest Tubb, who lobbied for him to get a spot on
the Grand Ole Opry. Hank’s coming out party was on
7th January 1950, and although his first handful of performances
garnered tepid reviews, his tenure at the Opry
would last almost as long as his time with RCA.
His big break
came in 1950 when he topped the charts with “I’m Movin’ On”, a song his producer had
dissuaded him from recording.
It stayed on the country chart for a total of forty-four weeks,
twenty-one of them at #1, a record that stands to this day. Proving he was no flash in the pan,
Hank followed this up with a pair of number-one records, “The Golden
Rocket” and “Rhumba
Another one of
his big hits was the musical travelogue, “I’ve Been
Everywhere”, which is famous for its rapid-fire delivery of a map
full of American cities.
(Johnny Cash’s remake of this song recently turned up on a
series of television commercials.)
In 1954, Hank struck gold again with “It Don’t Hurt
Anymore”, which was the #1 country and western song of the year.
He is also
credited with discovering Elvis Presley and getting him onto the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time. It did not take long for Colonel Tom
Parker to muscle in and commandeer Elvis’s career, however.
In 1958, Hank
achieved another milestone in his life by becoming a U.S. citizen. He is considered to be one of the
first artists to delve into concept albums. A good example of this is his
valentine to his home province, My
Nova Scotia Home. Making
good use of his U.S. citizenry, he performed in at least one presidential
campaign and overseas to entertain the troops in Germany, Korea, Norway and
In April 1974,
he scored his seventh and last #1 hit with “Hello Love”, and at
age fifty-nine became the oldest artist to do so. (The record has since been surpassed
by Kenny Rogers, who was sixty-one when he topped the charts with
“Buy Me a Rose” in 2000.)
In 1977, Hank released Still
Moving On, his 104th album on RCA.
A year later,
he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1979, similar kudos followed from
the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the
Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame.
He has also been honored by heads of state like President Jimmy
Carter and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In 1985, he was enshrined in the
Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
He is also the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from St.
Mary’s University in Nova Scotia.
In 1994, he
published his autobiography, simply titled The Hank Snow Story.
A music center in Nova Scotia also bears his name. In 1997, The Essential Hank Snow was released on CD. It is an aptly titled work that
serves as a good introduction to those unfamiliar with his music.
entrepreneur and philanthropist, he has run a music school and a publishing
company, owned a pair of radio stations, and established the Hank Snow
International Foundation for Prevention of Child Abuse.
December 1999, Hank shuffled off his mortal coil and was placed to rest in
Nashville’s Spring Hill Cemetery. He has left behind a staggering
discography that boasts about 840 recordings, resulting in more than
seventy million sales. (Some
put the number at eighty million.)
In May 2009,
one of Hank Snow’s songs was misconstrued as a Bob Dylan poem. Christie’s was planning on
auctioning the document, written in Robert Zimmerman’s hand, when a Reuters reader recognized it as the Hank Snow song,
“Little Buddy”. It
will still fetch a fool’s ransom, as it is believed to be the first
thing ever “written” by Bob Dylan. Ten years after his death, Hank
Snow’s music is still money.
A Smoky Montgomery recordings
(Faded Petal From) A Beautiful Bouquet (C. E. “Hank” Snow)