Hank Snow ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Happy Birthday to Canadian Country singer Hank Snow, the man who discovered Elvis Presley. He would be blowing out 102 candles had he not died in 1999 at the age of 85.

Clarence Eugene Snow was born “in the sleepy fishing village of Brooklyn,

Queens County, on Nova Scotia’s

beautiful South Shore, just down the tracks from Liverpool“, according to his official web site, which continues:

As a boy, Hank faced many difficulties and shortcomings. He had to face

the trauma of his parents’ divorce at just eight years old and he was

forced to stay with his grandparents. He then had to deal with an abusive

grandmother who forbid him to see his mother. He regularly sneaked out

at night and walked the railroad tracks to Liverpool where his mother

was living. Not willing to return to his grandmother, who would often

beat him for visiting his mom, he would sometimes seek shelter in Liverpool’s

railway station, now home of the Hank Snow Country Music Centre.

He learned guitar from his mother. Running away from home at 12, he worked as a cabin boy on fishing schooners out of Lunenburg and bought his first guitar with his first wages: A T. Eaton Special which set him back $5.95. While onboard the ship he listened to the radio, later imitating the Country singers he heard, especially his hero Jimmie Rodgers.

Once he was back on land Snow continued to practice and improve. The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:

Soon, Snow was invited to perform in a minstrel show in Bridgewater
to help raise money for charity. “Someone blackened my face with black
polish and put white rings around my eyes and lips,” Snow recalls. When
his turn came in the show, he played a song called “I Went to See My Gal
Last Night.” “My debut was a big success,” Snow writes. “I even got a
standing ovation.”[2]

In March 1933, Snow wrote to Halifax radio station CHNS
asking for an audition. The rejection letter he received only made him
more determined and later that year he visited the station, was given an
audition and hired to do a Saturday evening show that was advertised as
“Clarence Snow and his Guitar.” After a few months, he adopted the name
“The Cowboy Blue Yodeler” in homage to his idol Jimmie Rodgers known as
“America’s Blue Yodeler.” Since Snow’s Saturday show had no sponsor, he
wasn’t paid for his performances, but he did manage to earn money
playing halls and clubs in towns where people had heard him on the
radio. He also played in Halifax theatres before the movies started and
performed, for $10 a week, on a CHNS musical show sponsored by a company
that manufactured a popular laxative. At the urging of the station’s
chief engineer and announcer, he adopted the name Hank because it went
well with cowboy songs and once again, influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, he
became “Hank, The Yodeling Ranger.” Snow also appeared occasionally on
the CBC’s regional network.[2]

Signed to RCA Records Canada in 1936, the radio hook-up brought him greater fame and he started touring across Canada. Eventually radio stations south of the border started playing his records and Snow moved to Nashville, where he had a growing audience. In 1950 Ernest Tubbs invited Snow to perform at the Grand Old Opry. He didn’t go over so big until he wrote his first hit song, I’m Moving On:

Even had he not discovered Elvis, Hank Snow would still be remembered today for his music. However, as the Wiki tells us:

A regular at the Grand Ole Opry, in 1954 Snow persuaded the directors to allow a young Elvis Presley to appear on stage. Snow used Presley as his opening act and introduced him to Colonel Tom Parker.
In August 1955, Snow and Parker formed the management team, Hank Snow
Attractions. This partnership signed a management contract with Presley
but before long, Snow was out and Parker had full control over the rock
singer’s career. Forty years after leaving Parker, Snow stated, “I have
worked with several managers over the years and have had respect for
them all except one. Tom Parker (he refuses to recognise the title
Colonel) was the most egotistical, obnoxious human being I’ve ever had
dealings with.”

One of my favourite jokes:

If Hank Snow married June Carter, there would be 6 inches of Snow in June.

But I digress. According to his website:

Snow sold over 70 million records in his career that spanned 78’s, 45’s,
extended 45’s, LP’s, 8-tracks, cassettes and compact discs.

Throughout his life he recorded over 100 LPs, including everything from hit
parade material to gospel, train songs, instrumentals (alone and with Chet
Atkins), tributes to Jimmie Rodgers and the Sons of the Pioneers, and
recitations of Robert Service poems. He has always kept a warm spot in his
heart for Nova Scotia, and he paid homage with his album “My Nova Scotia
Home”. He also recorded “Squid Jiggin’ Ground” in honor of the fishermen he
sailed with out of Lunenburg in his early youth.
Every August Liverpool, Nova Scotia, holds a multi-day Hank Snow Tribute. This year’s shindig will happen August 18-21 and tickets are already available. However, as Not Now Silly likes to say: It’s all in the grooves. This is why people still sing and play Hank Snow tunes:

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.