Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The "Lost Highway": Hank Williams, Sr. Memorial Road

Aside from Pearl S. Buck, Don Knotts, Chuck Yeager, and Jennifer Garner, most West Virginians would be hard pressed to think of another native son to complete their handful of West Virginia celebrities.  While the grasp on native-born notables might be somewhat tenuous, West Virginians know for darn sure who died in their midst, and danged if they ain't proud!

Hank Williams, Sr. died here
"Lost Highway" might have been a more fitting tribute.

A mild controversy between the neighboring towns of Hilltop and Oak Hill, WV has ensued over the years as to the esteemed title of Hank Williams Sr.'s Official Place of Death.  The matter appears to have been resolved by dividing the honor between "Last place seen alive" and "Discovered dead."  Not knowing when I would be returning to West Virginia, you bet your sweet life that I eschewed Hank's directive to "Mind Your Own Business" and I made the pilgrimage to both locations.


In the wee morning hours of January 1, 1953 Hank Williams' chauffeured Cadillac pulled into the Skyline Drive-In for some solid sustenance on his trip to Charleston, WV for a scheduled concert.

"Hank's Last Stop"
It is rumored that Hank penned the tune, "Hey, Good Lookin'"
after a previous visit to the Skyline Drive-In...but only by me
(I dabble in creating unsubstantiated internet rumors).

"Hey, Good Lookin'" - Hank Williams

I read that his driver, rather than Williams himself, ordered food for the journey.
It would be just moments before Hank Williams would never blink his lights for service ever again.
Sadly, the drive-in is no longer in service.  Signs in the windows indicate a forthcoming Bar-B-Q
restaurant, but it was impossible to determine the age and accuracy of the signs. 


Williams was never to honor that engagement as just two short miles down the road he passed away from heart failure (allegedly caused by a combination of drugs and alcohol).

When his driver asked Williams to "Move It On Over," he was dismayed to receive no reply.
According to official documents, it was the road directly in front of the Herbert E. Jones Library
where Williams was discovered unresponsive and ultimately dead in the backseat of his Cadillac.

Williams was on tour when he passed, leaving many ardent fans with a serious case of the "Lovesick Blues."

Whatever happened that night, it was clear that old Hank was fixing to be "Settin' the Woods on Fire."  Obviously, he instead "Saw the Light" and went right toward it; perhaps "Build Me a Cabin in Gloryland" was on his playlist for that fateful day.  I guess timing is the only real difference separating us from the same fate.  After all, no one gets out of this world alive.

"I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" - Hank Williams

Skyline Drive-In "Hank's Last Stop"
6329 Legends Hwy
Hilltop, WV

Herbert E. Jones Library
108 Lewis St
Oak Hill, WV


Mr. Tiny


  1. Love me some Hank Williams. I love how you sprinkled your post with Hank's song titles. Are you going to the “Songs of Hank Williams” at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum on Friday, July 26, 2013? I think I’m gonna go.

    1. Thanks!!! That should be an awesome show! I didn't even know about it. It might sound weird, but I really don't get out much (at least as not as much as I'd like to).

  2. Excellent post! Just got back from a road trip through Asheville, NC; Nashville, TN; and Memphis. We kept wondering if we might pass you on the highway - we've decided it would be a lot of fun to travel with you!

    1. Oh, thank you for saying that! I think as long as there are plenty of snacks in the car and everyone is willing to pull of the road for every giant fiberglass statue, then I can be a pretty good road trip companion. How was your trip? I was so bummed to not head towards Tennesee on this trip. Maybe next time I need to do a Nashville to Chicago run!!

  3. Haha, I enjoyed your musical travelogue, too! I picked up a "Lost Highway Tourism" pamphlet from the state of Alabama when I was driving back from Gulf Shores, and we managed to hit both one of his childhood homes (in this WAY weird, nothing-else-there, former-small-town-now-mostly-abandoned place off the highway) and a chili hamburger place he used to frequent in Montgomery. The latter I recommend highly! Chris's hotdogs, there are some pictures of that and the birthplace here. Loving this vacation coverage!

    1. Well I love everything about your post!!! I'm ready to move in to old Hank's childhood home. Chris' looks delicious too! I got hung up on the "throwed rolls" restaurant -stuck on the question of whether the thrower's hands were clean enough to eat from and how many germs the rolls picked up as they hurtled through the dining room. Are my hands even clean enough to eat the roll? How much handling can one poor little dinner roll take?!?!?!?! I'm not too big a germaphobe. Truthfully, knowing me as well as I do, I would get over it as quickly as I caught a hot roll in my hot little hands and then held them up to catch more and more and more!!! Then I would just be worried about all the rolls that I couldn't catch; I am NOT an athlete!

  4. That was perfection. I seriously want to go on a road trip with you. Swing through Nashville and pick us up!

    1. Sounds great to me!!! I was sad to be so close to all you Nashville folks and still not be able to meet you. Next trip, for sure! You know that my one stipulation is lots of snacks for the car...

  5. Wasn't Hank Williams that guy whose music made the Martians' heads explode in the movie "Mars Attacks!"?

    1. Hahaha!!! That's Slim Whitman. Slim just died a few weeks ago; I don't think they've had a chance to begin construction on his memorial highway yet!