Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Hank Williams and the bootleg recordings

I'm probably the world's biggest Hank fan! For those who aren't aware, there exist a number of "bootleg" recordings known as the "Mother's Best" recordings. Briefly, they were a series of radio shows done by Hank in 1951 for Mother's Best Flour; they were shelved after being given airplay (they were pre-recorded for when Hank was on tour, etc.) and rediscovered in the early 60's by a camerman from WSM being thrown in the trash. He realized what they were and retrieved them and gave them to a member of Hank's band.

All of these years, the record company MGM (later Polydor and later still Mercury Nashville) knew of the existence of these yet never licensed them to the public. Mercury even had the audacity to release a box set entitled The Complete Hank Williams which was minus any of these recordings.

Now the recordings are in the midst of a lawsuit. Legacy Entertainment attempted to release unauthorized, overdubbed versions of 40+ of the recordings and was met with a lawsuit from the estate of Hank Williams. Now Mercury is claiming they are the only ones with the legal right to release these even after a court has ruled Jett Williams and Hank Williams, Jr. to be the legal owner of these.

If the record company knew of the existence of these and their popularity (they've passed around from collector to collector on bootleg CD's and tapes down through the years) why didn't they attempt to do something? Sounds like another case of the record company not really caring what people want!


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