Snow, Hank (Clarence Eugene)
Snow, Hank (Clarence Eugene)
Snow, Hank (Clarence Eugene) , Canadianborn American country-music singer, guitarist, and songwriter; b. Brooklyn, Nova Scotia, May 9, 1914; d. Dec. 20, 1999. After establishing himself as a major star in his native Canada in the 1930s and 1940s, Snow shifted his attention to the U.S. and went on to become one of the most successful country-music performers in America during the 1950s. With his distinctive baritone and precise enunciation, he carried on from his primary influence, Jimmie Rodgers, frequently singing songs concerned with travel. He reached the country charts 85 times between 1949 and 1980, his biggest hits being “I’m Moving On,” “The Rhumba Boogie,” and “I Don’t Hurt Anymore.”
Snow’s father, George Lewis Snow, worked in a sawmill; his musically inclined mother, Marie Alice Boutlier Snow, sang in minstrel shows and played piano for silent films. When he was eight his parents separated, and thereafter he lived variously with his grandparents, with his mother and an abusive stepfather, and with his sisters. From age 12 to 16 he worked on fishing vessels in the Canadian maritime, sometimes singing, playing the harmonica, and dancing to entertain his fellow sailors. During his late teens he worked at various menial jobs while taking up the guitar in emulation of Jimmie Rodgers.
Around 1934 he successfully auditioned at a radio station in Halifax and began a 15-minute weekly show, Clarence Snow and His Guitar. Later he was billed as the more Western-sounding “Hank, the Yodeling Ranger,” then as “Hank, the Singing Ranger.” He began to make other radio appearances and to perform concerts. On Sept. 2, 1935, he married Minnie Blanche Aalders; they had a son, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, who became a country-music singer before turning to the ministry.
Snow made his first recordings, the self-penned “Lonesome Blue Yodel” and “Prisoned Cowboy,” for RCA Victor Records on Oct. 29, 1936, beginning an association that would last 45 years. His records were released only in Canada at first, on RCA’s Bluebird label. For the rest of the 1930s and into the mid-1940s, he toured eastern Canada, performed on radio, and recorded. In July 1944 he traveled to Philadelphia and first appeared live and performed on radio in the U.S. Late in the year he joined the Wheeling Jamboree radio program in Wheeling, W.Va. For the rest of the 1940s he alternated Canadian tours with forays into the U.S. By 1948 he was based in Dallas, where his songs became popular on the radio, leading RCA Victor to begin releasing his records in the U.S.
Snow scored his first country Top Ten hit in the U.S., “Marriage Vow” (music and lyrics by Jenny Lou Carson), in December 1949. On Jan. 7, 1950, he joined the Grand Ole Opri/radio show in Nashville. His appearances were not successful at first. But on March 28, 1950, he recorded his own song, “I’m Moving On,” and it went on to become the biggest hit in the history of the country-music charts, hitting
1 in August and remaining at the top for months. He followed it with “The Golden Rocket” (music and lyrics by Hank Snow), which hit
1 in January 1951, and “The Rhumba Boogie” (music and lyrics by Hank Snow), Which hit
1 in March 1951.
Snow had three more Top Ten hits in the country charts in 1951 and another five in 1952, the most successful of which were “The Gold Rush Is Over” (music and lyrics by Cindy Walker) and “Lady’s Man” (music and lyrics by Cy Coben). He had six country Top Ten hits in 1953, notably “(Now and Then, There’s) A Fool Such as I” (music and lyrics by Bill Trader) and “Spanish Fire Ball” (music and lyrics by Dan Welch). He scored another massive hit with “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” (music by Don Robertson, lyrics by Jack Rollins), which spent months atop the country charts starting in June 1954, and he scored his fifth #1 on the country charts with “Let Me Go, Lover!” (music and lyrics by Jenny Lou Carson and “AI Hill” [a pseudonym for Kay Twomey, Fred Wise, and Ben Weisman]) in January 1955. There were another six country Top Ten hits in 1955, and starting in October, Snow was among the hosts of a monthly network television version of the Grand Ole Opry that ran through September 1956.
Snow scored nine country Top Ten hits between 1956 and 1959, the most successful of which was “The Last Ride” (music by Ted Daffan, lyrics by Robert Halcomb) in the fall of 1959. From 1960 to 1965 he reached the country Top Ten another six times, his biggest hits for the period being “I’ve Been Everywhere” (music and lyrics by Geoff Mack), which went to #1 in November 1962, and “Ninety Miles an Hour (Down a Dead End Street)” (music by Don Robertson, lyrics by Robertson and Hal Blair) in the fall of 1963; the latter earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Country & Western Recording. He also reached the Top Ten of the country LP charts with three albums in 1964: Railroad Man; More Hank Snow Souvenirs, which hit #1 in June; and Songs of Tragedy.
Snow continued to appear on the Grand Ole Opry and to tour successfully, but his record sales diminished after the mid-1960s. He scored a considerable comeback with “Hello Love” (music and lyrics by Betty Jean Robinson and Aileen Mnich), which topped the country charts in April 1974, accompanied by a Hello Love LP that went to #1 on the country LP charts in May. He continued to record for RCA Victor and to place records in the country charts until 1980. After he was dropped by the label in 1981, he gave up recording, except for Brand on My Heart, a duet album he made with Willie Nelson in 1985. He also cut back on touring, though he continued to appear on the Grand Ole Opry into the 1990s.
Hank Snow Sings (1952); Just Keep A-Movin’ (1955); Country and Western Jamboree (1957); Hank Snow Sings Sacred Songs (1958); Singing Ranger (1959); Hank Snow Sings JimmieRodgers Songs (1960); Souvenirs (1961); Together Again (1962); I’ve Been Everywhere (1963); Railroad Man (1963); Songs of Tragedy (1964); More Hank Snow Souvenirs (1964); Reminiscing (1964); Your Favorite Country Hits (1965); The Guitar Stylings of Hank Snow (1966); Christmas with Hank Snow (1967); Hits, Hits and More Hits (1968); Snow in All Seasons (1969); In Memory of Jimmie Rodgers (1970); Hank Snow Sings (1970); Tracks and Trains (1971); The Jimmie Rodgers Story (1972); All About Trains (1975); Living Legend (1978); Lovingly Yours (1980); By Request (1981); Three Coutnry Gentlemen (1983).
With J. Ownbey and B. Burris, The H. S. Story (Urbana, 111., 1994).