Hank Williams LIVE – 1952

Starring Joe Matheson as ‘Hank Williams’

“What a show! I thought it was really Hank!”

Photo: Helen Tansey

Photo: Helen Tansey

That was just one of hundreds of happy patrons at the Stirling Festival Theatre’s presentation of HANK WILLIAMS “LIVE” 1952. Everyone lucky enough to see this show was delighted and entertained in a way they hadn’t been since, well, maybe January 1953. You don’t have to be a country fan to love this show. You don’t have to know anything at all about Hank Williams to love this show. You just have to be willing to be entertained for more than two hours by one of Canada’s best singer/actors and an incredible band.
Claudia Staines, Managing Director, Stirling Festival Theatre

Hank walks on stage, the band kicks into “Settin’ the Woods on Fire” and the show is off! For two hours the audience is treated to all of Hank Williams’ hits and an intimate, revealing evening with one of the legends of country music. Joe Matheson, who has been dubbed “the quintessential voice of Hank Williams”, is an accomplished professional actor and singer who previously starred as Hank Williams in The Show He Never Gave. This fully scripted musical theatre piece is Joe’s personal tribute to the King of Country Music. It’s not a true story, but the stories are true. And if it ain’t exactly factual well, as Hank would say, “What Momma don’t know won’t hurt’er!”

1952: it seemed like the beginning of the end for Hank Williams. His marriage had ended, his contract with the Grand Ole Opry had been terminated, and his health – never good – was in serious decline. His drinking got worse, the stream of concerts he was used to dried up, and even his old friend and mentor Fred Rose said he couldn’t put up with Hank’s shenanigans any longer.

Then, suddenly, in September of ’52, things changed: he’d be going back on the radio with the Louisiana Hayride, he’d be touring again, he was getting married in October, and he was going back into the studio to make a new record. Who was working on it with him? Fred Rose, who else?

Hank was riding high again. History, of course, proved Hank to be a little too optimistic for his own good. He died early on the morning of January 1, 1953 – on his way to a concert. But what caused the turn around? Where did Hank get this amazing second wind only months before his death?

We may never know. But Hank did spend a great deal of time at a friend’s cottage that summer, near a diner called the Kowaliga Café. “Hank Williams Live” gives audiences a glimpse at what might have been: a night with Hank, just as the world seemed to be getting rosier.

It may be bittersweet, imagining what Hank must have been like, knowing he would be dead a few months later. But it was his last hurrah, one final triumph, and one of his greatest recording sessions ever.

After headlining the 2002 Grandstand Show at the Calgary Stampede, playing to between 17,000 and 20,000 people a night, Joe wrote his own Hank Williams show. Hank Williams ‘Live’ 1952 has played throughout Manitoba, southern BC and Saskatchewan, as well opening for Blue Rodeo at the Magna Hoedown in Aurora, ON and selling out the Deerfoot Casino in Calgary and the Festival Theatre in Edmonton (twice). He has toured from Whitehorse to Whistler, from Maple Ridge to Moose Jaw, from Halifax to … you get the point.

“To review Joe Matheson’s show is easy: ‘The best Hank since Hank.’
Moe Mcguinty, GM, Dekker Centre for the Performing Arts (North Battleford, SK)

“Our audience left the theatre absolutely giddy – Joe Matheson’s portrayal was authentic and charismatic: a complete evening of quality entertainment.”
Andrea Martinuk, Theatre Manager – Maclab Centre for the Performing Arts (Leduc AB)

photo: Rod Wilson

photo: Rod Wilson

Buy the CD! Joe Matheson’s
Long Gone Lonesome – Songs Of Hank Williams

“This is a show that sings the truth from beginning to end. Not only does Joe Matheson convincingly deliver the sound of Hank Williams, he also captures the soul of the music. This is great entertainment with a very big heart. It swept me away”
– Robert More, Artistic Director – Victoria Playhouse

“Joe Matheson is ‘the quintessential voice of Hank Williams.’”
Rob Wellan, Former PR Director – Grand Theatre, London ON


Photo by Larry Nicols

“… a most believable portrayal of the talented and tortured singer – the chemistry is palpable.”
London Free Press

“The Stellar performance of Joe Matheson – filled with wit, charm, and personality [and] his amazingly rich voice and emotional range.”
St. Thomas Times-Journal

“… a very professional show with obvious attention to detail … an interesting play list of Williams’ songs, witty banter and carefully scripted repartee.”
Mary Alderson, Theatre in London

©2021 Joe Matheson