Hank Williams – Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

Hank Williams only lived to be 29 years old. It’s hard to believe because he wrote so many classic songs during his short recording career. “The Hillbilly Shakespeare” was one of his nicknames.

He had not been in a studio for 6 months but this song brought him back. He recorded it on June 13, 1952, in Nashville. There was speculation that Hank Williams co-wrote the song with a gentleman named Moon Mullican. Williams had the sole credit but it has been said that Williams’s publishing agent Fred Rose stepped in and wanted William’s publishing company to get the credit and the money. It has been said that Rose possibly paid Mullican so he wouldn’t have to split the publishing with Moon’s label King Records. Williams got the inspiration for the song while listening to Cajuns talk on a bus trip.

The melody is based on the Cajun song “Grand Texas.” The song peaked #1 on the Country Charts for fourteen, non-consecutive weeks. The song also peaked at #20 on the US Billboard Most Played By Jukeboxes. Hank Williams was born with spina bifida occulta, a disorder of the spinal column and he killed the pain with narcotics and alcohol. If you look at pictures of Williams he looks much older than in his twenties, especially in the last year of his 29 on earth.

Before his death, he had been known to take morphine and drink heavily. On New Year’s Day 1953, he took his seat in the back of his 1952 powder blue Cadillac. As his driver, college student Charles Carr, headed toward a New Years show in Canton, Ohio, Williams’ health took a turn for the worse. Finally, after not hearing from the singer for two solid hours, the driver pulled the car over in Oak Hill, West Virginia, at 5:30 in the morning. Williams was pronounced dead a short while later.

Hank Williams was a genius when it came to songwriting. He influenced so many genres of music from Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and many more. He left a huge mark on the world in such a short time.

Williams was among the first class of artists inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961, and in 2010, the Pulitzer Board awarded him a special citation for songwriting.

Charles Carr, the teenager who was driving Williams to his concert:

“Hank’s song ‘Jambalaya’ was just out on the radio and he asked me what I thought of it, I told him I didn’t care for it, that it didn’t make a bit of sense to me. Hank laughed and said, ‘You son of a bitch, you just understand the French like I do.

“We were just a couple of young guys on a car trip having fun.”

My favorite version of this song was by John Fogerty.

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

Goodbye Joe me gotta go me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My Yvonne the sweetest one me oh my oh
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and filé gumbo
Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio
Pick guitar fill fruit jar and be gay-o
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou

Thibodaux Fontaineaux the place is buzzin’
Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the dozen
Dress in style and go hog wild me oh my oh
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou
Settle down far from town get me a pirogue
And I’ll catch all the fish in the bayou

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and filé gumbo
Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio
Pick guitar fill fruit jar and be gay-o
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou

Later on, swap my mon, get me a pirogue
And I’ll catch all the fish on the bayou
Swap my mon, to buy Yvonne what she need-oh
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and filé gumbo
Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio
Pick guitar fill fruit jar and be gay-o
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

51 thoughts on “Hank Williams – Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”

  1. One of those artists I’ve grown up aware of, without knowing about. No idea he was only 29 when he passed. Just assumed he was some old dude. Every day’s a school day, right enough. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is one of my favorite songs ever. In any version, even the Carpenters. It’s just such a good song. I lived in New Orleans for a little while and I made sure that I ate all the foods mentioned in the song cuz they got a lot of restaurants there with that kind of food. There was even a little corner store on my street that served gumbo. It was awesome. And I tried to learn all the Cajun words that he says in the song and as it turned out some of them are just last names. It’s a really difficult language to understand, I’ll tell ya. Sometimes Cajuns would move into the city and you’d come across them working in a store or something and you couldn’t understand a word they said even though it was supposedly English they were speaking. Ha ha.
    I love Hank Williams. I was listening to Move it On Over the other day which I like just as much as this song.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The song is so good that it sounds good no matter who does a version of it. For Williams to write all of those songs in that short of time…is just incredible.

      Oh I love Gumbo…there was a chef from New Orleans that had a restaurant in Nashville…it was authentic and it was great.

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  3. This is the type of music that as recently as 6-8 years ago I would have dismissed as hillbilly music. Now I really love it. I recognized the song right away. What I don’t remember is which version I heard first. I’m almost 100% sure it wasn’t Williams’ original or John Fogerty’s great cover. Of course, it’s been covered by so many other artists. I think “my” first version may have been Carpenters. Fats Domino also did a great rendition!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. Fats Domino is actually my next favorite version after Hank Williams, but there’s a lot of versions I haven’t heard yet

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      1. Cajun is actually from French but it sounds nothing like French. nor does it sound anything like a Southern accent. And even when they speak typical English it’s just so influenced by the Cajun that it’s very hard to understand. It’s nice to listen to and stuff, but hard to understand

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea people call him a drunk…and yea he probably was but I can see how it got to that point…being in pain everyday will change anyone. At the time that was the quickest way of calming it down. Now he would have other options.

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      1. I knew he died young but I didn’t know he was only 29. In every picture I’ve ever seen of him he looks every bit of 49. I guess he was just so sickly all his life

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That was the same with me…I knew he died young but I didn’t know it was that young. Many people from that time period looked older but he really looked older than most.

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  4. I recall hearing George Thorogood singing ‘Move It On Over,’ sure enough the old Hank song redone, Also a great version of Hank’s ‘Lost Highway’ on a Jason And The Scorchers’ CD- the bones of Williams’ songs pop up everywhere, even now in these dark yet shallow pretty/petty poptart days. The sign of a great songwriter.

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  5. The true Cajuns, also known as Coon-Asses adopted this song as their own. I know a few quite well and old Hank is a legendary ghost of a hero in Louisiana. My band used to play this song and for a few minuets, everyone dancing was a Cajun. Sad that he didn’t have access to the meds or the surgical fixes we have today. I can’t imagine the pain he endured.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only known a few in my life…I spent some time asking “what was that? ” Good people though…at least the ones I knew.
      Yea it’s clear why he did what he did…that must have been unbearable. We played it also…we went by the Fogerty version.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Twenty-nine is way too young. I don’t like to hear him sing but, that is sad. I know he was a pioneer and a great songwriter but, I can’t take the music. Except for a few pieces, I feel the same about Dylan. I can’t help it…🤷‍♀️😬

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you like 60s and 70s country? Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, and George Jones?
      Hank Sr was a brilliant songwriter…I have him up there with Dylan.

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      1. Neither of my parents were into country music. My dad was 50s & 60s r&r & my mother was into soul & the Motown sound. I got most of my country from my maternal grandmother, whom played the banjo. I remember May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose, Wabash Cannonball and some Herb Alpert/Tijuana Brass. I did catch some country on the AM Gold radio…Charlie Rich, Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Pride, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell…plus my grandmother & I loved Hee Haw, Buck Owens, Roy Clark, other visiting singers… My dad tried playing guitar, Johnny Cash tunes… My uncle just tossed that guitar last week.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh that sucks that he pitched it…was it any good? I hate to see guitars destroyed lol.

        Yes I heard all of them…Country radio was always on in the car and at home at times. After I found the Beatles I didn’t look back until much later.

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      3. IDK. It wad always out of tune with my dad messing with it. My dad had a good singing voice…I inherited singing ability from both parents…and dancing ability (real rhythm).

        I have a guitar, given to me by a former boss (the one where I was repairing pianos). I still have it. The strings are rusty so, no ability to play it without bleeding to death and I have no clue how to tune one.

        Yeah. No Beatles in my house. My dad and his brother were polar opposites in music. Randy was into Beatles, Clapton, Chicago…they were eight years apart, which is huge for music tastes.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I like Randy’s taste!
        Guitar is not that hard to do…especially chords and things like that.
        Put some new strings on and you would be ready

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      5. Easy….a chord chart which now you don’t have to buy a book…you just look on the internet. After you master a few chords…Louie Louie is in your future. G – C – D
        that is it

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    2. Vic… check out my post from yesterday….not the music one but the Car post…you might like it I don’t know.

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    1. Yea the second time was the mistake one… instread of looking for the song I looked for the artist… At some point I put it under Blue Ridge Rangers and then another under John Fogerty…but this one I don’t mind since it’s a different aritst and story.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve heard both of these versions before but only got bits and pieces of what they were singing. Good to see the lyrics laid out. I think I had read before about Hank’s spina bifida. I know I thought he looked older than 29. Maybe he realized he only had a short time on this earth and wanted to make the most of his creative genius. Happy you decided to cover him.

    Liked by 1 person

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