Radio Bristol Book Club – I Saw the Light: The Story of Hank Williams

Welcome to another year of Radio Bristol Book Club! Each month, readers from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the Bristol Public Library come together to celebrate and explore one book inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage. We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 11:00am when we will dig deep into the feelings and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

Our book for January is I Saw the Light: The Story of Hank Williams by Colin Escott with George Merritt and William MacEwen. This book is the perfect accompaniment to our current special exhibit Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music, 1972—1981, featuring the photography of Henry Horenstein and a variety of related artifacts, including a Hank Williams guitar. In his tragically short time on Earth, Hank Williams created one of the defining bodies of American music – including “Your Cheating Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” and “Jambalaya.” He sold millions of records and was hugely influential on country music and beyond. However, while he made a success of his career in so many ways, his life was also characterized by personal demons and sadly an early death at the age of 29. Estcott’s definitive biography vividly details the singer’s life and career – from its highs to its lows – while unveiling much that was previously unknown or hidden about this iconic country star.

Left: Book cover of I Saw the Light showing Hank Williams, wearing a dark suit and white cowboy hat, coming down some house steps and holding a guitar case. Right: Movie poster for I Saw the Light showing Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams, wearing a blue suit and white cowboy hat and standing in front of the Grand Ole Opry mic with his guitar.

The cover for Colin Escott’s I Saw the Light: The Story of Hank Williams. The book was later made into a film with Tom Hiddleston playing the title role.

Born in England, Colin Escott has written numerous music-related books, including Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Lost Highway: The True Story of Country Music, and The Grand Ole Opry: The Making of an American Icon (some of which we might be reading as future Radio Bristol Book Club picks!). His CD box set, The Complete Hank Williams, won two Grammy Awards in 1999 for “Best Historical Album” and “Best Recording Package—Boxed.” In 2010, Escott received a Tony nomination for Million Dollar Quartet, a Broadway musical about the one-night jam session between Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis in December 1956.

Black-and-white photograph of Colin Escott, an older white man wearing a dark shirt/jacket and in front of what appears to be a neon sign.
Portrait of author Colin Escott.

Be sure to tune in on Thursday, January 28 at 11:00am to hear the book club discussion about I Saw the Light: The Story of Hank Williams! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. And be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this wonderful biography of a troubled and iconic musician.

Looking ahead: We have picked all of the books for 2021 – and are looking forward to a wide range of titles and topics from Dolly Parton’s songwriting and Affrilachian folktales to a Carter Family graphic novel and an illustrated fiction book about Appalachian economic and social challenges. You can find the full list of our 2021 reads here – so be sure to check it out, read along with us, and then tune in to our discussion on-air! And if you have any questions about the books you’d like us to address on-air, email us at info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org with the subject line “Radio Bristol Book Club.” Happy reading!

Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

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