Friday, January 1, 2010


Veteran film and television director Harry Thomason is planning a film about the last ride Hank Williams, Sr. took, and has already begun collecting film clips for the production.

It is most probable that the ’52 Cadillac, driven by 18-year-old Charles Carr, with Hank asleep in the back seat, came through Roane County sometime on New Year’s Eve 1952. They were on their way to Canton, OH and points north, as a new beginning for Hank’s career.

Upon reaching Knoxville, Williams decided to try getting a flight out of McGee Tyson; however, the flight never occurred due to snow in the area.

Williams had his driver take him into Knoxville where they got a room at the Andrew Johnson Hotel. Some speculate that the 29-year-old entertainer was already dead, especially since porters had to carry him from the car to the room. Reports say Carr seemed nervous and later decided the group should push on toward Ohio in order to make Hank’s scheduled engagement.

Again Hank is carried from the room and placed, like a drunken man (maybe a dead man) into the back seat of the Caddy.

Regardless of when and where Hank Williams, Sr. died, his short life of alcohol and drugs (particularly morphine) took a toll on his skinny body, but it was not until arriving in Oak Hill, West Virginia that Carr determined his boss was dead.

The best historical account I found was from “Death of a Legend”. It makes for interesting reading and ties the story to East Tennessee. It’s still quite a mystery and makes great fodder for books and movies 57 years later.

Today, on the anniversary of that occurrence, Bill Landry coordinated/directed, and Doug Mills filmed several local vintage automobiles driving around the area. This footage was procured by Harry Thomason for his movie “The Last Ride”. Thomason called Bill, who is part of Princess Productions, just yesterday, but, even on short notice, Bill was able to get the needed cars, including a baby blue ’53 Cadillac convertible belonging to Rex Walls. The car is basically like the one Hank Williams was riding in as he passed this way.

I can find nothing on the Internet about this planned movie and nothing about when it might come out, but when it does we can all watch for the Trenton Street, Rocky Top General Store, and Riggs Chapel Road scenes. This may even be the first mention of the production on the Internet!

Other local car owners with period vehicles in the scenes were: Hubert Blaylock (his red Chevy), Boyd Woody (his black Plymouth), J. T. Robinson (his Model A), and, of course, J. D. Williams driving his black ’41 Ford.

One day soon, Roane State students will be prepared to shoot and edit for production companies too. The “Princess Performing Arts, Education, and Conference Center” will be equipped to teach them what they need in order to following their dreams in a career of movie, stage, radio, and television production. The industry will always be seeking trained and devoted employees for their productions and Roane State will become one of the best places to look for that talent.

That day is getting close too. Frank Sparkman still says he can make Chris Mason’s deadline of fall of 2010 if the promised TVA funding is received in January.

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