Hank Williams, the Yodeling Walmart Kid, and My Dad: A Love Story

Hey, Becky the news editor here to tell you a little story about the yodeling Walmart kid, my dad, and the one thing they have in common: a love for 1940’s musical sensation Hank Williams.

It’s weird that my German-Brazilian immigrant father and a little Midwestern boy born in the late 2000’s are the two most pronounced fans of Hank Williams currently in my life and I’m gonna tell you why.

Thriving in the Golden Era of American Radio, and monopolizing jukeboxes across the South and West in the final days before the domination of rock ‘n roll, Williams was a heavy drinking, heavy yodeling, quintessentially American talent — as unreliable as he was undeniable. Considered one of the fathers of American singer-songwriters, Williams and his contemporaries were the first class of American musicians who could get famous writing and singing their own songs. There would be no Bob Dylan, no Elvis Presley, no Paul Simon without Hank Williams.

Now, the Walmart kid. 10-year-old Golconda, Illinois native, Mason Ramsey, became a viral hit after a video of him singing “Lovesick Blues,” a 1920’s show tune made famous by Hank Williams, was shared all over social media earlier this week. Importantly and inexplicably, the video takes place inside a Walmart.

In a different video (not inside a Walmart), Ramsey declares that his dream is to one day perform at the Grand Ole Opry (where Williams was a star) before launching into another Williams classic, “Hey Good Lookin'”. His accent screams, “I live very close to Kentucky,” and his vocals evoke memories of down home days gone by. In an online era dominated by terribleness, malicious terribleness, and horrifying terribleness, Ramsey is easy to love. Equal parts cute, remarkable, and hypnotizing, he’s the perfect viral meme child star. Like Gavin from Vine.

Now, my father. When I first heart Ramsey singing “Lovesick Blues” in the Walmart I didn’t recognize it as Hank Williams at first. It was the other video, “Hey Good Lookin’,” that instantly brought me back to memories of my dad: in the kitchen, in the family room, in the car – for the two decades that have been my life – singing that song.

Hey, good lookin’

Whatcha got cookin’?

How’s about cookin’ something up with me?

That tune, and other Williams classics, are beloved in my heart and mind in the way that only the music your parent’s played in the car around the age you were gaining consciousness really can be. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate Williams as a good songwriter and not just a weird fixture of my childhood, but if you can imagine being five and listening to “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It,” (Yeah, my bucket’s got a hole in it/ Yeah, my bucket’s got a hole in it/ Yeah, my bucket’s got a hole in it/ I can’t buy no beer) you can understand that it took me a while to come around.

But come around I did, and now Williams is a favorite for my “I’m feeling homesick” or “I want to drive…West” listening. It’s still hard for me to explain though, to my fellow New England young people, why I like something that sounds so old and unrelatable. So, I enlisted my dad for some help.

Originally aired on WMUA Amherst April 4, 2018, here’s my dad, Rolf Wandel, telling us why he loves Hank Williams and why you should, too.

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