How did Hank Williams really die?

I don't know, but would like to.  Who wouldn't?  I'm not saying it's important, but I, for one, would like to know why the 20th century's greatest talent in country died at 29.  

Joking to a friend, and remembering that the cause of death was unclear, I said something like, "you know how backwoods southern doctors are.  As the cause of death they just said, 'his heart stopped.'"

But that was just joking, and a few weeks ago I decided to consult google to see what I could find.  I found (from here:  Hank's death) that the official cause of death was "acute right ventricular dialation", which means, basically, that Hank's heart stopped.

The doctor who wrote this on the death certificate wasn't some backwoods southern redneck, however, but a Russian intern who knew almost no English.  So much for stereotypes.  But so much for knowing how Hank died.

Some day I will write the definitive blog entry on why Hank was so great.  So great that I wonder if he sold his soul to the devil, which would have been the real cause of his death.  Hank was the Elvis of country music, and the Bob Dylan as well.  It's hard to really give a sense of how great he was in the modern world of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. But you don't have to take my word for it.  Go buy a bunch of Hank Williams' music and listen to it for the next few months, then come back and leave a comment.  You'll be converted, I'm sure.



22 comments on “How did Hank Williams really die?

  1. Lance Carthen says:

    Yep, he died in the back of a 1952 baby blue cadillac on his way to a comeback show in canton, ohio. The undertaker who performed his autopsy Joe Tyree, is still alive and works at the same fueral home. I called Mr. Tyree recently and he was all too happy to tell me about that cold morning on new years of 1953. About performing the autopsy and driving his corpse back to alabama. You can contact Mr Tyree at I would do it soon if your that intesested he is in his 80’s. He tells a great story. The comment about just listening to Hanks music for a couple of months is true. You’ll get hooked, even if you hate country music. Its something else hard to explain. Peace out.

    • skyler seals says:

      He did not die in the back of a Cadillac. That my friend just makes for a better story. He actually died in the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, TN

      • Sorry my friend.I don’t know where you got your information?but Hank williams died in the back seat of his the early morning hour’s of Jan 1,1953 Mr.Tyree was telling the truth.I also talked with the policeman in Oak Hill West Va that was on the seen of that morning.there was a man from
        Bluefield,W.Va a cab driver that was hire’d to help drive.By the name of Don Howard Surface.
        Mr.Tyree and the policeman in oak Hill told the same story.and his name was in the oak Hill newspaper.and Mr.Surface ‘s daughter also told the same story.I don’t print hear say I get the fact’s.My name is Beecher O’Quinn jr phone number if any body want’s to talk with me about Hank williams.give me a call.

  2. brandon says:

    many don’t believe this. they have gone through great extent to keep this information from the public, but hank williams died of an opiate overdose. i believe morphine.

  3. Dekota says:

    i heard all my life he was on his way to Ohio in a back of a Cadillac and got into a bad wreck and was ejected from the car and died after crossing the west Virginia new river bridge i dont know but thats what iv heard all my life and in sticking with it plus my whole family from west Virgina and thats what they all told me

    • Dekota says:

      or he was beat up in a bar and droped off on the side of the road and they were on the way to the hospitly and died on the way those r the 2 storys if hear and i belive 1 of them r true

  4. I have been listening to Hank Williams as far back as 1958.he was then ,now, and will for ever be the greatest country music Artist and song writer too
    ever come down the pike.

  5. Sorry folks Hank Williams Did not die in the Andrew
    Johnson Hotel In Knoxville,Tn.I have researched
    this story and talked with Mr.Tyree the undertaker
    in Oak Hill,W Va.he said that Hank was dead about 3 to 4 hr’s when he received his body.It is around
    250 miles from Knoxville,Tn to Oak Hill,W,Va.If He
    was dead in Knoxville?he would have been stiff as a board in Oak Hill.his body was still worm when Mr.Tyree received it.The sad part is that he died.

  6. Charles Carr from Montgomery Al was driver the for Hank
    He picked up Mr.Don Howard Surface a cab driver in
    Bluefield,W.Va to help drive Hank’s Car on to Canton Ohio for a show on New years day 1953.When
    they discovered something was wrong with Hank near
    Oak Hill,W Va.when the Oak Hill Police arrived and
    took him to the Hospital were he was pronounced years day 1953.Traditional Country Music
    started to die at that time also.

  7. I have been a Hank Williams fan sence 1958 to present,and have been doing research about Hank’s life and music.for over 40 years, I have interviewed band members,family,friends people that knew and worked
    with him.I don’t print every thing that people tell.
    if their story can’t be verified.then it is their story.I don’t publish hear say.

  8. carolyn says:

    I grew up listening to Hank Williams. My parents loved him and I even have video tape of them singing Hank Williams songs to each other. My mother has been gone for 5 years now and I still go into my Dad’s home every now and then, he will be playing “you’re cheating heart” and singing like crazy. Good memories.

  9. carolyn says:

    The New River Gorge bridge wasn’t there in 1952. But I have heard the same story many times as far as he died somewhere in the area of OakHill. my parents and other family members where from Beckley and my Dad from just outside Charleston. I heard the we’re on rt 60 someplace when the driver pulled off the road and discovered that Hank had died.

  10. carlos says:

    dont ever compare hank to elvis. elvis is and always will be fake. elvis sucks. hank was and even after his death, still is the greatest country artist ever.

  11. Beecher O’Quinn Jr.
    If any body want’s to talk to about Hank williams? here is my Phone Number 423-542-5543.

    • Fred says:

      Well, Beecher, I would have to concur with you based on the evidence at hand. Please get back to me with explicit detail, as I also have been interested in the TRUTH for years. I have been a musician since as far back as I can remember-lets put it like this….I joined the Musicians Union in 1960, with my dads signature-I was only 14!
      The facts were more easily obtainable back then, and I got it that Hank had, of course, been drinking to intoxication, and ultimately the ‘shot’ that got him was either administered by someone other than Hank while he was in the Caddy, and he was alive when that occurred, or possible by either Hank (which would have been unusual-Hank had about everything done for him, or by the driver, while en route! And by the time he was pulled over by the police, he was actually dead. In order to ‘quiet’ the media, the hotel story was hatched after he was already dead. And attorneys and media continued to ‘confabulate’ the story as time would allow. But, in the end, Hank died an addict, in the backseat, on his way to a New Years gig. For which, again as usual, he was going to be late to!

  12. willy says:

    I worked at the local tv station with a man who said he was hanks sound man and that thet found hank dead on state street in bristol tn/va not sure which side he was on.

  13. Beecher O'Quinn jr says:

    The man that worked at the TV station with you. just want’s to be a little part of the Hank Williams Legend.A lot of People said this and that about Hank.but in reality most are full of BS.and I ‘m not talking
    about a Beachlor degree

    • GJP says:

      The story about a bar fight, could it not fit in with your story mr quinn?That would explain the bruises and the welt across his head.I have been a Hank fan since my Italain grandmather would alternate records of Dean martin, Sinatra and Hank Williams then go to Curuso and mario Lonza and then start all over again with Hank right in the middle. I think being from Italy Hank Williams helped her and my Granfather relate and feel apart of the American culture.

  14. sam says:

    I think it points to the man who took over for carr,carr knew he was going to be killed, but wanted nothing to do with,so he continure on, but couldn,t go on knowing he was was planned from the start.hank was never ment to get there,from day 1

    • Liz says:

      Wow! Y’all are incredibly sketchy about anything and all…Good for you all!!!!!!. From what I was always told, Hank Williams was on his way to a show, hit route 10 thru WV, walked into a shithole store between Camp Creek and Spanishburg, WV, picked up beer and as local lore goes sang the store owner a song before travelling along and was believed to die from affixiation due to alcohol poisioning,( basically choked on his own vomit while he was passed out )near Spanishburg, WV.

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