BY GERALD HODGES
Friday and Saturday, June 1-2 are important dates for Hank Williams Sr. fans.
The 38th Annual Salute to a Legend will be held the first weekend in June at the Hank Williams Music Park in Georgiana.
There will be many great singers on the stage, but none of them will be able to play and sing Hank’s songs as authentic as the left-handed guitar picker, Colon Leatherwood from Ozark, Alabama does.
“When I was just a boy I heard Hank’s music and I fell in love with it,” he said. “I bought some records, starting listening to them, and pretty soon, folks said I sounded like ole Hank.
“In 1967, when I was seventeen, me and another boy took our guitars and caught a Greyhound bus to Nashville. We went to the Grand Ole Opry, and really had a great time. After the Opry show was over we went across the street to the Hank Williams Jr. BBQ. We got a couple barbecue sandwiches to go, and they put them in a white sack that had Hank Williams Jr. Barbecue printed on it. I still have that sack. Several years ago, some of Hank Jr.’s relatives told him about it, and he wanted to see it. I took it over, and he signed it. I still have that white paper sack with his signature on it.
“I believe it was in 1983 we were going to Nashville in a car. We were listening to the car radio, and as we got close to Montgomery, we picked up WSFA. The announcer was telling about a Hank Williams Sr. Singing Contest that was going to be held that day in a Montgomery shopping mall. We weren’t in a hurry, so we decided to go over and check it out.
“I barely made it in time. I was number 17, and they were only going to allow 20 contestants. During the other singers’ performances, I notice the house band wasn’t doing a real good job. When it came my turn I told the band, ‘I will just do it by myself.’
“I sang, “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You.”
“We walked on away from the stage and went into a hot dog stand inside the mall. I had just finished eating when they came and told me I had won. What a thrill. There were several of Hank’s relatives there, which I got to meet, and we’re still friends.
“I’m still pickin’ and singin’, and hangin’ out. I ain’t trying to impress nobody. I just love Hank’s music, and I’ll keep on playing and singing as long as I’m able.”
For the past 30 years, Leatherwood has played and sung Hank Williams music at just about every crossroad, festival, auditorium, and civic center in Alabama, including opening for another legendary singer, George Jones.
Thursday, June 1, at 7 p.m. there will be a free karaoke session.
Friday, June, 2, fans can enter the park at 2 pm. Admission is $20.
Friday, June 2 lineup: Frank Foster, James Dupre, Colon Leatherwood, Brad Magness, Mary McDonald, and several others.
Saturday, June 3, the gates open at 8 am. Admission is: $30.
Saturday, June 3 lineup: Gene Watson, Jett Williams, Colon Leatherwood, Brad Magness, Mary Montgomery, Starla Jones, Flashback, Cherokee Creek, Kim Carson & The Real Deal, Hannah Schofield and others.
The Hank Williams Festival is an outdoor event, sponsored by the Hank Williams Museum. There is no reserved seating. Bring your lawn chairs. No lounge chairs, coolers, food, drinks, or pets can be taken into the park. The festival is biker friendly. A special weekend ticket, which will be good for both days, can be bought for $40, through May 27. This is a savings of $10 over the regular single-day admission price. This ticket must be purchased in advance. To order, or for additional information, call 334-376-2396, or log on to: www.hankwilliamsfestival.com.
To reach the festival, take I-65 Exit 114, and go one mile east.