Hey Good Lookin'

Hank Williams was the undisputed master of the down-and-blue country song. In fact, he contributed as much as anyone to chiseling the template for that sub-genre both in his life and songs. Which gives us all the more reason to appreciate this upbeat country classic. Williams wrote it in 1951 and—after countless covers by other artists—the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.

Here's Hank's original recording. Notice that his version has a two-step feel rather than the swingier approach we've taken. Rather than start at the beginning I've started this clip in the middle of the instrumental breaks so you can hear how his backup musicians approached the melody. Tasteful. You can do that.

Audio Clip: Hank Williams performs Hey Good Lookin', 1951

Ray Charles covered three Hank Williams songs—including this one—on his groundbreaking cross-over album, Modern Sounds in Ciountry and Western Music. The year was 1962 and America was doing The Twist with Chubby Checker and the legion of artists who tried to hitch a short, wild ride on the dance craze that was sweeping the country like...well, like a twister. But Brother Ray had a different sort of twist in mind when—after reminding the executives at ABC-Paramount of his contract's "full artistic freedom clause"—he recorded and released this collection of country standards reworked to reflect his own jazz, R&B and gospel sensibilities. DJ's had a helluva time pigeon-holing this one, but record store owners had an even harder time keeping it on the shelves. The album went to #1. Here's why:

Audio Clip: Ray Charles on Hey Good Lookin', 1962

Charles is not alone among those on the jazzier side of the spectrum who have appreciated this song as a jam vehicle. No less than Joe Pass himself included it on what turned out to be his last recording, his 1995 outing with (get this) Roy Clark. If that pairing doesn't say "Jazz meets Country", I don't know what does. The beauty of it is, it works. This clip starts with a Pass chorus, then you hear Clark come to the forground with his variations on the melody. Check out Pass' nice counterpoint after Clark comes in.

Audio Clip: Joe Pass and Roy Clark play Hey Good Lookin'



Williams' songs have long enjoyed wide popularity with Cajun and Zydeco musicians (Jambalaya, anyone?) and Hey Good Lookin' is no exception. Let's go out with a sampling of that approach as represented by the great Buckwheat Zydeco. Buck made a video of his performance of the song with Dwight Yoakam and David Hidalgo (of Los Lobos) a few years back. You can probably still find it on YouTube if you want to see the three of them cavorting with pretty girls. Then again, you can just enjoy the nice groove of this audio clip and use your imagination:

Audio Clip: Buckwheat Zydeco and special guests on Hey Good Lookin'