Health, Happiness and Hank
BMG’s complete, 49-track collection from Hank Williams’ short-lived yet still influential radio program The Health & Happiness Show includes the claim to fame for two of Georgia’s earliest country radio stars.
The compilation, available June 14 on two CDs or three LPs, features Williams’ only known recording of “The Tramp on the Street,” a Depression-era plea for Christ-like charity written by Grady and Hazel Cole.
The Cole family performed live on WRGA in Rome and WGST in Atlanta in the 1930s, introducing original compositions later covered by Williams and The Louvin Brothers (“What a Change One Day Can Make”).
Grady and Hazel first recorded their best-known song, “The Tramp on the Street,” on Aug. 24, 1939 at Atlanta’s Kimball House Hotel, meaning the song was just over a decade old before it entered Ole Hank’s radio repertoire. In Williams’ hands, the Coles’ peppy, accordion-driven waltz became the haunting heart song that inspired covers by Joan Baez, The Staples Singers and Georgia’s bluegrass-gospel legends The Lewis Family.
“The Tramp on the Street” is just one of several radio performances capturing a young and hungry Williams at the cusp of superstardom. Other standout tracks include Williams’ legend-launching singles of 1949: “Lovesick Blues,” “Wedding Blues,” “Mind Your Own Business,” and “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave).”