1993 Hank Williams
- Third entry in the legends of American Music Series
- Honors the “King of Country Music”
- Has two different perforation gauges
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Set: Legends of American Music
Value: 29c to fulfill the First-Class postage rate
First Day of Issue: June 9, 1993
First Day City: Nashville, Tennessee
Quantity Issued: 2,071,360 (estimated)
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Format: Panes of 40; 5 columns across, 8 rows down
Perforations: 11.2 x 11.5
Why the stamp was issued: The Hank Williams stamp was issued to expand the new Legends of American Music Series that made its debut earlier in the year with the first Elvis stamp (#2721). It was the third in the series, after second entry Oklahoma! made its appearance.
About the stamp design: Hank Williams stamp was designed by artist Richard Waldrep with art direction by Howard Paine. Using photos of Williams performing, Waldrep created his painting using an airbrush. The artist would go on to design other stamps in the Country & Western segment of the Legends of American Music Series.
First Day of Issue City: At Hank Williams’ First Day of Issue ceremony at Fan Fair in Nashville, his son, Hank, Jr. joked, “Now I can tell my kids: ‘Your grand-daddy’s picture is right there in the U.S. Post Office – and he’s not wanted by the FBI’”.
Unusual fact about this stamp: The 1993 Hank Williams stamp has two distinct varieties. US #2723 perforations measure 10.15 x 10.25, while US #2723A measures 11.2 x 11.5. The difference was discovered by Wayne L. Youngblood, editor of Scott Stamp Monthly. The perforated 11.2 x 11.5 stamp (only about 1.5% of the total print quantity) is far less common than the 10.15 x 10.25 stamp.
According to Youngblood, stamps delivered to post offices in Nashville on the First Day of Issue were perforated on an old machine. The USPS unexpectedly moved up the stamp’s release date while printer Stamp Venturers awaited delivery of a new machine. So the printer perforated a small quantity (about 2,071,360) with the older machine to meet the rescheduled issue date. When the new machine arrived, the remaining stamps were perforated with the originally planned 10.15 x 10.25.
About the Legends of American Music series: The series debuted on January 8, 1993 and ran until 1999. More than 70 artists are represented from all styles of music: rock and roll, rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and pop, opera and classical, gospel and folk. In addition to individual singers and Broadway musicals, subjects include bandleaders, classical composers, Hollywood songwriters and composers, plus conductors and lyricists.
The Legends of American Music Set was a huge advancement for diversity because it honored many Black and female artists.
The 29c “young Elvis” – #2721, kicked off the series in a big and very public way. Its design was voted on by over one million Americans, about 75% of whom favored the young Elvis over the “old Elvis” version.
History the stamp represents: Hiram King “Hank” Williams was born on September 17, 1923, in Butler County, Alabama.
Hank’s father suffered an injury during World War I and spent much of Williams’s childhood in the hospital, while his mother worked and raised the children. They moved several times and she opened a string of boarding houses during the Great Depression.
Williams taught himself to play the guitar when he was eight, but also learned a lot from black street performer Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne. In 1937, Williams adopted the name Hank. That year he also entered a talent show and won first prize for his first original song, “WPA Blues.”
In evenings and on weekends, Williams played his guitar on the street in front of the local radio station. The station’s producers enjoyed his performances. Learning of his talent show win, they invited him to perform on air occasionally. When an increasing number of listeners called in requesting “the singing kid,” the station gave him his own 15-minute show twice a week. The show’s success led him to start his own band, the Drifting Cowboys, at the age of 14. Over the next few years, the band played clubs and parties throughout central and southern Alabama. Williams dropped out of school in 1939 so the band could perform further afield.
When the US entered World War II, Williams’ band was drafted, but he was deferred due to a back injury. His alcoholism began causing problems – band replacements refused to play with him and the radio station fired him. When he met one of his idols – Roy Acuff – Acuff warned him about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Acuff told him, “You’ve got a million-dollar talent son, but a ten-cent brain.”
For the rest of the war, Williams worked for a shipbuilding company. He also sang in bars for soldiers. By 1945, he was back at the Montgomery radio station, performing new songs he wrote every week. He published a songbook, which earned him significant attention as a songwriter. In 1946, he met Fred Rose of Acuff-Rose Music and sang a song for him, earning a six-song contract with Sterling Records.
In 1947, Williams moved to Nashville – the recording and broadcasting center of country music. There he introduced the country music world to a style that would later become known as “rockabilly” – a precursor to rock ‘n’ roll blended with a country flair. With hits such as “Move It On Over” and “Honky Tonkin’” he gained instant popularity. His performances on the Grand Ole Opry program, broadcast nationally every Saturday night, catapulted him to stardom.
Although Williams’ style changed country and western music forever, his lasting legacy may be his lyrics. He wrote literally hundreds of hits, offering country music some of its most enduring songs, including “Cold, Cold Heart”, “Jambalaya”, and “Ramblin’ Man.” “Your Cheatin’ Heart” has been recorded by at least fifty people.
Williams had long suffered from an undiagnosed case of spina bifida occulta, which left him in pain for most of his life. This plus an injury in 1951, led him to abuse alcohol and prescription drugs. He died on January 1, 1953, while enroute to a New Year’s Day concert at the age of 29.
Despite his short career, Williams is considered the “King of Country Music.” During his lifetime, he had 11 number one country hits, plus many others that placed in the top ten. Alabama celebrates Hank Williams on September 21. The singer received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. Today Williams’ son Hank Williams, Jr., also a country singer and composer, carries on his father’s legacy.