Clarence Eugene “Hank” Snow was born in Brooklyn, Queens County, on May 9, 1914, where he was raised in poverty. He went on to become one of the most famous country music entertainers of all time.
While his music was rooted in small-town Nova Scotia where he grew up, Snow pursued his dream of becoming a famous singer like his idol, the country music pioneer, Jimmie Rodgers. As a teenager, Snow began to copy Rodgers’ distinct style. In his late teens, Snow moved to Halifax, pursuing his goal to sing on the radio station CHNS. Performing under the name, Hank The Yodelling Ranger, he became a regular there for several years. While in Halifax, he married Minnie Aalders and in 1936, their only child, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, was born.
In pursuit of his dream to be a country music recording star, Snow went to Montreal in 1936, and recorded two songs for RCA entitled The Prisoned Cowboy and Lonesome Blue Yodel. Though not hits, the record sold well enough that he was invited back to RCA in the fall of 1937 and recorded eight more songs. From this session The Blue Velvet Band became a major hit and with it, Snow started his rise to fame and stardom.
For the next several years, Snow appeared on several other Canadian radio stations in the Maritimes while also continuing to record for RCA. Recognizing that his only chance of reaching the level of success that he desired, in 1945, Snow moved to the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree, West Virginia. Around this time, he bought his trained horse Shawnee, and for a few years, toured throughout the Maritimes each summer.
Following a short detour to Hollywood, where he failed in his attempt to break through in the movies, Snow moved to the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, Texas, in 1948 where he met country music legend and Grand Ole Opry star Ernest Tubb. With his help, Snow was eventually invited to join the Grand Ole Opry on WSM Nashville and made his debut in January 1950.
Initial audience reception at the Opry was weak until I’m Moving On hit the airwaves. The song stayed on the country charts a total of 44 weeks and was at number 1 for 21 of those weeks, an unprecedented record. Snow’s accent to stardom had begun and there was no turning back.
A string of hits followed and RCA kept Snow on the label until 1981. During his lengthy career, Snow won many honours and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville in 1979.
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Snow recorded 140 albums and between 1950 and 1980, he charted more than 85 singles on the Billboard country charts. His number 1 hits include the self-penned songs I’m Moving On, The Golden Rocket and famous versions I Don’t Hurt Anymore, Let Me Go, Lover!, I’ve Been Everywhere and Hello Love as well as many other top hits.
In 1996, Snow began experiencing respiratory problems, which forced him to retire from performing on the Grand Ole Opry stage. He died three years later at 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 20, 1999, from heart failure at his Rainbow Ranch in Madison, Tennessee and was interred in the Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville. Minnie died on May 12, 2003 in Madison, Tennessee.
The Hank Snow Home Town Museum in Liverpool, which opened in August 1979, celebrates his life and music in a province where his fans still see him as an inspirational figure who triumphed over personal adversity to become one of the most influential artists in all of country music. Each summer, for the past 27 years, the Friends of Hank Snow Society hold the Hank Snow Tribute, a fundraising and social event that attracts visitors from all over North America.
This year’s tribute, the 28th annual, will be held Aug. 16 to 19 at Queens Place Emera Centre in Liverpool and museum manager Kelly Inglis says the event will not only feature many of the regular attractions, but also several new acts and events. The challenge, she says, is to keep the tribute fresh while attracting new visitors and keep regular attendees coming back.
At the society’s premier event, she says the tribute is vital to the museum’s continued operation. “The tribute accounts for about 30 per cent of our annual revenue stream,” she says. “Without it, we wouldn’t be able to operate.”
Inglis explains that, this year’s event titled A Tribute to Two Hanks, will, as the name suggests, “honour two Hanks — our own Hank Snow and Hank Williams.”
Thursday evening’s headliner is Blue Yonder, the West Virginia-based Hank Williams tribute band featuring John Lilly and special guest Rob McNurlin. They will be playing all of Williams’ old-time favourites including I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Lovesick Blues, Hey, Good Lookin’ and Jambalaya.
In addition to the headliner, this year’s tribute will feature dozens of performers throughout the Maritimes, an open mic competition, songwriters’ circle and a performance on Friday evening from returning guest artists from Nashville, 2Country 4Nashville. There will also be 50-50 draws, food concessions and RV camping will be made available.
For more information, contact the Hank Snow Home Town Museum at www.hanksnow.com or call 902-354-4675.