Monday, October 20, 2008

How Hank Williams Recorded for Mother's Best Flour (Part 1)

Hank expert Brian Turpen joins the Hank Blog this week in a 3 part mini series.  Below is part 1. 

How Hank Williams Recorded for Mother’s Best Flour

By Hank Williams researcher Brian Turpen

The Mother’s Best Flour shows are the most well-known and most sought-after Hank Williams artifact. Unheard for over fifty years, the shows were broadcast over WSM in Nashville every morning between 7:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. at the peak of Hank’s career in 1951. He was paid $100 a week for the shows.

Some of the shows were pre-recorded to be played on the air when Hank was out on the road. It was these transcriptions that have luckily survived. The format was pretty consistent. The 15-minute shows usually consisted of one country song, one instrumental or guest vocal and a gospel song to close the show. The shows also included a theme song that Hank wrote and sang during the broadcast:

"I love to have that gal around
Her biscuits are so nice and brown
Her pies and cakes beat all the rest
Cause she makes them all with Mother's Best”

But that’s not all the shows had to offer because Hank had more to do than sing. We hear him and announcer Louie Buck selling Mother's Best Flour, as well as self-raising cornmeal and pig & sow feed. We also hear him talk unguardedly about the songs he loved, his grueling itinerary, and much more. The Mother's Best Shows are arguably Hank’s best work and hs most revealing. They capture his personality better than anything else known to exist. It is probably the in-between song chatter that makes these recordings so great becacuse you get a glimpse of what Hank Williams was like as a person.

Although fans and collectors have heard of these Mother’s Best Flour shows for years, very few know much if anything about the company that sponsored these famous radio programs. Here’s a little history of the company that gave us this priceless glimpse into the heart and soul of Hank Williams.

Mother’s Best Flour can trace its origins back to 1919. That year, Frank Little and Alva Kinney incorporated Nebraska Consolidated Mills when they took over Nebraska Grain Mills in Grand Island, Hastings, St. Edward, and Ravenna. They were initially headquartered in Grand Island, until they moved to Omaha in 1922. The company ran at a profit until 1936, when Kinney retired. In 1940, the company began producing flour, and in 1942 ventured into the livestock feed business.
The series will continue later this week

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