If it was supposed to be a secret then the cat’s out of the bag — Revelstoke loves country music.
Fans of the genre will have a chance to travel back to the golden age of country music when performer Joe Matheson takes on the persona of the legendary Hank Williams.
Hank Williams Live —1952 takes the audience on a journey to the last concert performed by the “king of country music.”
“The last year of his life everything went wrong for Hank, but for three or four months near the end of the year he had a burst of energy. He was recording, touring, on the radio. People were saying he was just like the old Hank. A couple of months later he died. I don’t know if he was making a comeback or if he was just making one last gasp and then his motor gave out,” said Matheson.
Matheson, a former journalist who has been working as an actor for 30 years, began working on the script for Hank Williams Live — 1952 while performing a show called Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave at the Calgary Stampede in 2007. Matheson describes Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave as a dark, negative look at Hank Williams. He wanted to portray Hank in a different light, focusing on his larger than life characteristics.
“I thought this guy was the ultimate performer. He was Elvis before there was Elvis. Women loved him. He was almost a stand-up comedian. He would get into it with the audience and go back and forth with them. Anytime I see a documentary it’s always about what a jerk he was, that he was always drunk. That just wasn’t my view of him. Someone said to me, ‘Why don’t you write your own show?’”
Matheson did and first performed the show at McPhillips Station Casino in 2007. After a five-year run Matheson and the rest of the band decided to call it quits. Two years later Matheson received a phone call from a friend in Halifax who runs a theatre there. The friend wanted to know if Matheson would consider bringing back Hank Williams Live to help out with a fundraiser.
“It’s neat because after taking a break it’s fresh again and fun. I think everybody [in the band] missed hanging out. I think it was a good sign,” said Matheson.
Miriam Manley, executive director of the Revelstoke Arts Council said they have noticed a real interest in legendary country-themed shows. Shows such as the Louisiana Hay Ride and Ring of Fire — Johnny Cash musical proved to be incredibly popular. This year the RAC chose to bring in Hank Williams Live — 1952, after it came highly recommended from a friend of chair Carol Palladino.
“We’re trying to play on what the audience enjoys and wants. It’s a genre people love,” said Manley.
Matheson grew up in Saskatchewan listening to country music but confesses he wasn’t really a fan of Hank Williams then. It wasn’t until he began to work on the script for Hank Williams Live that he began to realize he already knew three-quarters of Hank’s musical repertoire. He says that it was likely through osmosis as Matheson’s dad was a fan of Hank Williams. Matheson jokes that although his dad was a fan of Hank he didn’t teach his son to play guitar and he certainly didn’t sit on the front porch playing guitar and singing.
“There was a magazine article that said that. I don’t know where the guy got that from. My dad didn’t play guitar at all and he was a terrible singer, but very enthusiastic. He loved to dance. The great thing about Hank’s music is basically it’s dance music. It was for the dance hall. As far as Hank was concerned if you couldn’t dance to it, get rid of it.”
Hank Williams Live —1952 takes place on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online at revelstokeartscouncil.com at the Revelstoke Visitors Centre and at the door.