Hank Williams and Johnny Horton #MysteryMonday

Hey, SE Readers. Welcome to 2021. I think we’re all hoping this will be a better year than the last one, but as a friend said a few weeks ago, “I’m not agreeing to anything until I see some terms and conditions.” Like it or not, 2021 is here. And as for 2020, all I can say is “Good riddance.”

It’s Monday, so I’m starting the New Year with a Mystery Monday post. Today’s feature not only has to do with my home state, but it’s also one of those “strange coincidences.” I posted a couple of stories last year about Robert Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln, and Archibald Gracie, one of the survivors of the Titanic disaster. If you haven’t read those, just click on the links. But now, here’s today’s post.

Beginning in the late 1940s, Austin’s Skyline Club was one of the hottest venues in Texas. Among the celebrities who performed there were country music stars Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, Bob Wills, and many others. Elvis Presley played the club in 1955.

Hank Williams in 1951 (Public Domain)

But on December 19, 1952, the legendary Hank Williams Sr. was scheduled to appear on stage. He was, at that time, the biggest name in country music. Hank had a habit of not showing up for concerts, or sometimes showing up drunk, but on that night, he played to a packed house of over 800 people.

Although he wasn’t completely sober, Williams’ performance was tops, and he played for around three hours.

Days later, he was riding in the back seat of a baby-blue Cadillac on his way to a show in Detroit, Michigan. Somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains, Hank Williams Sr. died of heart failure at the age of twenty-nine. He was pronounced dead on January 1, 1953.

At the time of his death, Hank was married to a woman named Billie Jean Jones. They had wed only two months earlier. Some said Billie Jean was at Hank’s last performance and that he kissed her goodbye before leaving.

Johnny Horton was another popular country music star of the 1950s. His first hit, “Honky Tonk Man,” peaked the charts at #9 in 1956. In 1960, Horton recorded the song, “North to Alaska,” for the John Wayne film by the same name.

Creative Commons Photo by Billy Hathorn

Horton claimed to have a premonition about his death, telling family members his demise would be somewhat eerie. Johnny was scheduled to play at Austin’s Skyline Club in early November 1960.

From all accounts, he had a bad feeling about performing at the club and even tried to cancel. He believed a wild drunk in the audience would kill him. However, his premonition didn’t come true.

Horton finished the performance, kissed his wife goodbye, and left in a car with his bass player and manager. They were on their way to Shreveport, Louisiana. On a bridge just outside Milano, Texas, a drunk driver hit his car head-on. Johnny died in route to the hospital on November 5, 1960. Horton’s premonition about dying at the hands of a drunk came true.

Two legendary stars. Two deaths. Both made their last appearance at the Skyline Club. But it gets even more bazaar. Care to guess the name of Johnny Horton’s wife?

Billie Jean Jones, the widow of Hank Williams Sr.