In Hank Williams: The Biography
, authors Colin Escott, George Merritt and William MacEwen, detail the early history of "Cold, Cold Heart." It was originally intended to be the B-Side of "Dear John," which was written by Aubrey Gass - his biggest song and the only hit he ever wrote. This had first been recorded on March 11, 1949 by Jim Boyd. Hank recorded "Cold, Cold Heart" at an evening session at Castle on December 21, 1950, and it was released as the A-Side on February 2, 1951.
Hank claimed on at least one occasion that he'd written it in about an hour, but the melody was copped note for note from T. Texas Tyler's 1945 recording of "You'll Still Be In My Heart," a song that had been copyrighted by Ted West in May 1943 then rewritten by Buddy Starcher and acquired in July of the same year by Clark Van Ness. This resulted in a legal action, and although the judgment was not made public, "the case was closed when Dixie Music was awarded its court costs of $5000 on January 13, 1955" - which indicates that the Plaintiff was successful, though Hank Williams was not around to see the outcome, he died in tragic circumstances on January 1, 1953 aged only twenty-nine, but whatever the merits of the legal case, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the song he recorded was written from the heart.
Hank Williams married Audrey Sheppard in December 1944; he was her second husband, and the marriage was turbulent. In May 1949, they had a son (who would later take the name Hank Williams Junior). Audrey already had a daughter from her first marriage, and the couple had a nanny/governess, who was also named Audrey. In September 1950, Audrey Williams had an illegal abortion at home - without Hank's knowledge - and was subsequently hospitalized after contracting an infection. When Hank bent down to kiss her in her hospital bed, she turned away and said "You sorry son of a bitch" adding, "It was you that caused me to suffer this." Hank went home and told Audrey Ragland his wife had a "cold, cold heart." The lyrics reflect this:Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue, and so my heart is paying now for things I didn't do.
This is a clear reference to her first marriage. The song ends, "Why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?" The reason may have had something to do with Hank's adultery! Audrey shut him out of her life, and filed for divorce on January 10, 1952. The following October, Hank married Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar, and five days after his death, his daughter Jett Williams was born to his mistress Bobbie Jett.