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The Hillbilly Shakespeare (1945-1953)

How the bluegrass sound spread in post-war America. Honky-tonk star Hank Williams wrote songs of surprising emotional depth, derived from his troubled and tragically short life.

As country music adapted to the cultural changes of post-war society, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs transformed traditional string band music into something more syncopated - bluegrass.

Out of the bars and juke joints came a new sound - honky-tonk - with electric guitars and songs about drinking, cheating and heartbreak. Its biggest star was Hank Williams, a singer who wrote songs of surprising emotional depth, derived from his troubled and tragically short life.

50 minutes

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:01

    Hank Williams

    Honky Tonkin'

  • 00:04

    Bill Monroe

    Bluegrass Special (Album Version)

  • 00:05

    Hank Williams

    Six More Miles (To The Graveyard)

  • 00:06

    Hank Williams

    Wealth Won't Save Your Soul

  • 00:13

    Hank Williams

    Move It On Over

  • 00:15

    Roy Acuff

    Wabash Cannonball

  • 00:17

    Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys

    It's Mighty Dark To Travel

  • 00:20

    Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys

    Bluegrass Breakdown

  • 00:21

    Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys

    Mansions For Me

  • 00:22

    Hank Williams

    (Last Night) I Heard You Crying In Your Sleep

  • 00:25

    Hank Williams, The Drifting Cowboys

    I Saw The Light

  • 00:31

    Hank Williams With His Drifting Cowboys, Hank Williams, The Drifting Cowboys

    I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Single Version)

  • 00:32

    Hank Williams

    Long Gone Lonesome Blues

  • 00:39

    Hank Williams

    You Win Again

  • 00:41

    Hank Williams

    I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

  • 00:44

    Hank Williams

    Lost Highway

  • 00:49

    Hank Williams

    Your Cheatin' Heart

Credit

Role Contributor
Director Ken Burns

Broadcast

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