29¢ Country Music Legends
4 Booklet Stamps
Issue Date: September 25, 1993
City: Nashville, TN
Printed By: American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: Photogravure
Perforation: 11 horizontally
In January of 1993 a commemorative featuring Elvis Presley set the stage for a new stamp series - the Legends of American Music. Designed to highlight the music our nation has come to be known for, these stamps also offered more exciting, contemporary themes for collectors. The Country Music stamps wrapped up the 1993 releases for this new series.
A combination of folk music from Great Britain and the blues of rural southern blacks, country music later added sounds from other cultures, including the banjo, guitar, mandolin, and Hawaiian steel guitar. Playing with or without vocal accompaniment, country bands often entertained people at dances, parties, and country fairs. Country music continued to change as others began adding drums and electric instruments, incorporating yet another sound - that of pop music. By the 1930’s country music had gained national popularity.
Country Music Legends
A leading performer of the 1940’s and 50’s, Hank Williams dominated country music from 1949, when he joined the Grand ‘Ole Opry, until his death in 1953. His classics such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, “Jambalaya”, and “Hey Good Lookin’” helped cement his place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Born Virginia Patterson Hensley, Patsy Cline began her career performing in local clubs as a teenager. Yearning to make it big, she tried to break on to the Nashville scene in 1948. Unsuccessful in her attempt, she would wait nearly a decade before her dream came true. In 1957 her performance of “Walking After Midnight” not only won her first place in Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scout Contest, but also made record executives sit up and take notice of her.
Her recording of the song, made later that year for Decca Records, climbed to the top of the country charts and earned her a place on the pop charts - a feat far less common than it is today, especially for a female vocalist. Other top-selling releases soon followed including “Crazy”, “I Fall to Pieces”, and “She’s Got You.” In the late 50’s she moved to Nashville to join the Grand Ole Opry. Her unforgettable voice and pop-oriented recordings greatly increased the popularity of country music, which had taken a backseat to rock ‘n’ roll.
Her brilliant career ended in 1963, when her plane crashed near Camden, Tennessee. Even after her death however, her single releases continued to sell well into the 1960’s, and her performances still inspire female country artists even today.
Originally formed in 1926, the Carter Family was one of the most influential groups in the country music field - one that greatly affected succeeding generations of performers.
When A.P. Carter married Sara Dougherty in 1915, the two made a natural duet. Gathering Appalachian folk music and arranging it for performances, as well creating new songs, the two entertained family and friends. Maybelle Carter, who had married A.P.’s brother Ezra, joined the pair in 1926. The following year the newly formed trio traveled to Bristol to audition for Victor (later RCA Victor). Out of those who were lucky enough to be paid $50 per recorded song rose two of country music’s most promising stars - the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.
The Carters’ music appealed to many rural Americans, and broadcasts over radio stations helped increase their popularity. During the late 1930’s and early 40’s other family members joined the trio, and in 1943 the original threesome disbanded.
Teaming up with her three talented daughters Anita, June, and Helen, Maybelle kept the family tradition alive. And today the legend lives on through June and her husband Johnny Cash, and other family members.
Born into a family of old-time fiddlers, it was only natural that music would play an important role in Bob Wills’ life. Although he pursued various occupations including farming, barbering, and preaching, Wills eventually went on to become a full-time musician.
Hired to fiddle with the Fort Worth Doughboys, Wills made his first recording with the group in 1932 for RCAVictor. The following year he split from the Doughboys with his banjo-playing brother Johnnie Lee and vocalist Tommie Duncan to form his own group that became known as the Texas Playboys. For eight years they performed on a Tulsa, Oklahoma radio station, eventually gaining national popularity.
Combining the sounds of fiddling, blues, pop, big-band swing, and Mexican folk music he created a new pop-country style known as western swing. His recordings for American Record Company and Columbia, such as “San Antonio Rose”, “Take Me Back to Tulsa”, “Faded Love”, and the “Spanish Two Step”, appealed to a far broader audience than old-time fiddling attracted. And as western swing gained popularity, Wills’ name became a household word. Despite his failing health throughout much of the 1960’s he appeared for his induction into the Country Hall of Music in 1968.
Happy Birthday, Hank Williams
Hiram King “Hank” Williams was born on September 17, 1923, In Butler County, Alabama.
His father suffered an injury during World War I and went on to spend much of Williams’s childhood in the hospital, leaving his mother to work and raise the children on her own. They moved several times and she opened a string of boarding houses, but managed to find some stability, even during the Great Depression.
Williams taught himself to play guitar when he was eight, but also learned a lot from 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 and learned of his talent show win, so they invited him to occasionally perform on air. Over time, an increasing number of listeners called in requesting “the singing kid,” so 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 then dropped out of school in 1939 so they could travel even further for performances.
When the US entered World War II, Williams’s band was drafted, but he was deferred due to a back injury. His alcoholism began causing problems – his band replacements refused to play with him and the radio station fired him. When he met one of his idols Roy Acuff, he warned Williams 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 and met and married Audrey Sheppard. By 1945, he was back to performing at the Montgomery radio station, performing new songs he wrote every week. He then 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. According to the autopsy, it was because of an “insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart.”
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 Hand Williams on September 21 and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. Today Williams’ son Hank Williams Jr., who is also a country singer and composer, carries on his father’s legacy.
Click here for more from the Hank Williams website.