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The Life and Times of Hank Williams

He also was a classic hard case, a womanizer and substance abuser who died of drug-related causes in his automobile on the way to a gig on New Year's Eve, 1952.

He also was a classic hard case, a womanizer and substance abuser who died of drug-related causes in his automobile on the way to a gig on New Year’s Eve, 1952.

While TNN’s “Hank Williams” doesn’t ignore his personal problems, it glosses over them, blaming his trouble on a congenital spinal problem and the fascinating Dr. Toby Marshall, a medic with a mail-order degree who “cured” alcoholism with morphine, chloral hydrate and phenobarbital.

If the de-emphasis of Williams’ personal failures were to make more room for the music, it could be a reasonable assignment of priorities; unfortunately, precious little of Williams’ music is actually heard. There’s some discussion of the behind-the-scenes role of songwriter-publisher Fred Rose — who some say “created” Williams as a writer, editing or possibly ghosting his songs — but not enough to soil Williams’ image in that respect.

It’s noted that Williams’ second marriage was performed three times, once privately and twice in front of paying audiences. That’s something present-day celebrities might keep in mind, instead of hiring security to keep tabloids at bay.

Best insight comes from musicians Jerry Rivers, Don Helms and especially Neal McCormick, who all worked with Williams at various stages in his career, and from Williams’ contemporary Little Jimmy Dickens. Compared with their first-hand recollections, the after-the-fact testimony of even Waylon Jennings and Marty Stuart (both literate and historically minded country singers) rings relatively hollow.

Entire project is reminiscent of a Shel Silverstein lyric, “Nashville is rough on the living, but speaks mighty well of the dead.”

The Life and Times of Hank Williams

(Wed. (7), 8-9 p.m., TNN)

Production: Produced by Greystone Communications and the Nashville Network. Executive producers, Craig Haffner, Donna E. Lusitana, Kevin T. Hale; producer, Martin Kent; coordinating producer, Lois Yaffee, co-producer, Melanie Blyth; field cameras, Dan Waymack, Paul Johnson, Steve Suggs; field engineers, Chris Reynolds, Chris Cranford, Michael Jordan, Richard Kuschel; editor, Margaret Willey-Moore; music, Christopher L. Stone. #Host: Hoyt Axton. #With: Kyle Cantrell, Little Jimmy Dickens, Alice Harp, Don Helms, Lycretia Williams Hoover, Waylon Jennings, Merle Kilgore, Brenda Lee, Neal McCormick, Jerry Rivers, Braxton Schuffert, Marty Stuart, Johnnie Wright. Presented with typical Nashville Network respect for the country idiom, "The Life and Times of Hank Williams" is a 60-minute primer of the late singer's life aimed, it seems, at those who have barely heard of him. If that's the goal, documentary succeeds; those looking for something a bit meatier than hearing what an influential guy ol' Hank was should look to biographical books, including Toronto-based author Colin Escott's worthy recent work. Williams is one of the towering figures of country

Crew: Music, both as a singer and a songwriter. He combined black and white musical influences and (it's ventured here) brought a dance beat to country music.

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