Hank Snow, whose gaudy rhinestone suits and million-selling hit song “I’m Movin’ On” made him a country music legend for more than 40 years, died Monday at his home in Nashville. He was 85.
“He had been ill for several years,” his son Jimmy said. “He had not played the Grand Ole Opry for quite some time. He died peacefully in his bed.”
He said the family had requested an autopsy but only “to satisfy ourselves as to the exact cause of death.”
In all, Snow recorded more than 80 albums and 2,000 songs, scoring 85 country hits, 40 of which reached the top 10. He sold an estimated 70 million records. In 1980 he enjoyed renewed popularity teaming with Willie Nelson on a duet album.
Snow, known as “the singing ranger” because of his flamboyant cowboy attire, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1979.
“I’m Movin’ On” was on the country music charts for almost a year in 1950, including 21 weeks at No. 1. Other hits, many of which he wrote, included “I Don’t Hurt Anymore,” “Golden Rocket,” “Music Makin’ Mama From Memphis,” “Rhumba Boogie” and the humorous “I’ve Been Everywhere,” with lyrics that string together a multitude of place names.
His heyday was between 1950 and 1965, but he performed regularly on the Grand Ole Opry until the mid-1990s.
Snow was in his 20s when he became a leading country performer in his native Canada. He was signed to a record contract in 1934, and his 45-year relationship with RCA, from then until 1979, is a longevity record.
He moved to the United States in the mid-1940s and began singing on the Grand Ole Opry regularly in 1950. He became a U.S. citizen in 1958.
His “I’m Movin’ On,” about boarding a train to leave a wayward lover, was recorded in 36 languages.
In the mid-1950s, Snow was a mentor to Elvis Presley just as Presley was breaking into the music business.
Snow sang for American troops in Korea, Vietnam, Germany, France, Norway, Italy, England and Japan. He said in a 1991 interview that his appearances for troops were the highlight of his career. “This was a great experience, one that money couldn’t buy. It was the most important part of my life as far as entertaining is concerned.”
He continued singing regularly on the Grand Ole Opry into his 80s.
In 1986, he was involved in a dispute with CBS-TV. He refused to appear on a TV special saluting the Opry because he felt slighted when asked to sing only one verse of “I’m Movin’ On.”
He was born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, on May 9, 1914. Leaving home at age 12, he became a cabin boy on a freighter for four years. As a teenager, he used $30 in earnings from a two-week stint unloading salt from a ship to buy his first guitar. His style was heavily influenced by the U.S. country singer Jimmie Rodgers.
In the mid-1970s, Snow became interested in fighting child abuse and disclosed that he had been abused by his stepfather. He organized benefit concerts and formed a foundation for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.