Hank Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953), born Hiram King Williams, was an American singer-songwriter and musician regarded as one of the most important country music artists of all time. Williams recorded 35 singles (five released posthumously) that would place in the Top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart, including 11 that ranked number one.
Born in Mount Olive, Alabama, Williams moved to Georgiana, where he met Rufus Payne, a black street performer who gave Williams guitar lessons in exchange for meals. Payne had a major influence on Williams's later musical style. During this time, Williams informally changed his name to Hank, believing it to be a better name for country music. After moving to Montgomery, Williams began his career in 1937 when WSFA radio station producers hired him to perform and host a 15-minute program. He formed as backup the Drifting Cowboys band, which was managed by his mother, and dropped out of school to devote all of his time to his career.
When several of his band members were conscripted to military service during World War II, Williams had trouble with their replacements and started taking alcohol as self-medication for his health problem, causing WSFA to dismiss him. Williams eventually married Audrey Sheppard, who became his manager for nearly a decade. After recording "Never Again" and "Honky Tonkin'" with Sterling Records, he signed a contract with MGM Records. In 1948 he released "Move it on Over," which became a hit, and also joined the Louisiana Hayride radio program. In 1949, he released a cover of "Lovesick Blues," which carried him into the mainstream of music. After an initial rejection, Williams joined the Grand Ole Opry. He had 11 number one songs between 1948 and 1953, though he was unable to read or notate music to any significant degree. Among the hits he wrote were "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey, Good Lookin'," and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."