BY GERALD HODGES
The 44th Annual Salute to a Legend will be held Friday and Saturday, June 2-3 at the Hank Williams Music Park in Georgiana.
The festival will celebrate the legendary singer’s 100th birthday. Famed, actor/singer/songwriter, Jason Petty will perform a special tribute to the famed singer as part of the event.
There is probably no better entertainer than Petty, who could do a better job, because he has portrayed Williams for years on stage, as both an actor and singer.
Petty has always been a country soul. Born and raised in the small middle Tennessee town of Manchester, he began spending a lot of time on his grandparents’ farm in Hickman County, Tenn., after his mother’s sudden passing when he was only seven-years-old.
The very first song he remembers hearing is when his dad, James Petty, sang ‘Hey Good Lookin’ to him on a car ride back home from visiting his grandparent’s house.
Jason was hooked. He began his career in business, working for a pharmaceutical company for three years, until the music bug bit him.
He had been singing in church choir when one of his fellow choir members told him he should audition for Opryland in Nashville, and an incident occurred that was life changing.
“While portraying Hank’s Death Scene on stage at the Ryman Auditorium, I heard loud crying coming from the audience,” said Petty. “I was able to glance over and it was coming from George Jones.
“After the performance George came up and said how my performance touched him. He told me Hank had always been his favorite singer, and my portrayal of Hank brought out so many deep feelings within him.
“Billy Walker heard everything George said, and afterwards told me that I should take George’s comments seriously, and continue to pursue my acting and singing.”
Petty heeded the advice from the two superstars and started on his way to stardom.
After a national tour and a few regional theater productions of “Lost Highway,” he went to New York City and in 2002, began a six week run Off Broadway.
The reviews were off the charts and the run was extended for another seven months.
After completing seven straight years of touring with ‘Lost Highway’, he decided to write a show based upon all the people he met and befriended who knew Hank.
Some of those included Grand Ole Opry stars, musicians and friends and family of Williams.
That first show was “Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes.” Petty has gathered many stories and was asked to write a book…but decided to write shows honoring those grand legends of country music and their songs.
It has become his life’s calling to do so and will continue until they drag him off the stage.
He currently has seven shows touring about the history of country music and he believes that the stories behind the artists and songs are just as important as the songs themselves.
He believes it gives the audience a greater appreciation and admiration for the artists and their impact on people’s lives.
Petty will bring his songs and storytelling to the big stage about mid-afternoon on Saturday.
Closing out the festival on Saturday night will be Nashville recording artist, Chris Cagle.
Cagle moved from Houston to Nashville in 1994 and struggled for five years as he tried to break into country music as both a singer and songwriter.
He finally landed a publishing deal and placed some of his songs with David Kersh.
He was discovered by the assistant to the president of Virgin Records Nashville, whom he met in a restaurant where he was working.
Virgin signed him and released his debut single, ‘My Love Goes on and On,’ which reached the country charts in July 2000, eventually peaking in the Top 20.
His first album, ‘Play It Loud’ followed in October. It reached the country charts, and its track ‘Laredo’ made the country Top 40.
Also appearing on Saturday afternoon will be Edward Johansson of Sweden.
The young singer visited Georgiana for the first time in 2018, and was a big hit with the fans.
Johannson has his own band, “Edward and the Hayriders,” and travels throughout northern Europe playing Hank Williams music.
His style of singing, which isn’t even similar to a country drawl, was never-the-less, enjoyed by the fans. This will be his fourth appearance at the festival.
Appearing along with Petty on Saturday afternoon, will be Mary McDonald, of Stonewall, Okla., a former “Female Vocalist” winner at the International TMA awards show; Colin Leatherwood of Ozark; Mason Ramsey, the 17-year-old singing star; the bands, “Flashback”, and “New Vision”’ along with Terry Smith, “The Bush Family,” Mary Battiata, Morgan Brown, Jeff Raybren, and many other entertainers.
As usual, Starla Jones, will perform the evening’s Patriotic Tribute.
Darryl Worley will headline and close out Friday night’s show.
Worley’s six albums have produced 18 singles on the Billboard Hot Country charts, including three number ones: “I Miss My Friends”, “Have You Forgotten”, and “Awful, Beautiful Life”, from 2002, 2003 and 2004–2005, respectively. “Have You Forgotten?” spent seven weeks at number one. Nine other singles have reached the top 40.
Thursday, June 1, there will be a free karaoke session starting at 6 pm.
Friday, June 2, fans can enter the park at 2 p.m. Admission will be $20.
Saturday, June 3, the gates open at 8 a.m. Admission will be $40.
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.
To order tickets, or for additional information, call 334-376-2555, or log on to: www.hankwilliamsfestival.com.