Long Gone Lonesome Blues

Album: 40 Greatest Hits (1950)
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Songfacts®:

  • In his songs, Hank Williams was often despondent, so lonesome he could cry. In "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" it's so bad he thinks about ending it all, but he can't even do that right. He jumps in a river, but it's run dry, so he's on his way to look for another more suitable for drowning. We get the sense that by the time he finds it, he'll be feeling better and decide to just go home.

    As usual, an unfaithful woman is causing his ills. She's long gone and he's lonesome blue.
  • Williams had the song's title in mind when he went on a trip with his fishing buddy, the songwriter Vic McAlpin. Over many years of friendship, the two frequently wrote songs together but would trade sole writing credits back-and-forth so the collaboration went unknown to the general public.

    On the trip in question, they went to where the Tennessee River feeds Kentucky Lake. Williams was gazing into the water trying to think of lyrics to go with his song title. Annoyed at his friend's distraction, McAlpin asked, "You come here to fish or watch the fish swim by?"

    Williams excitedly took McAlpin's offhand remark for the first line of the song: "I went down to the river to watch the fish swim by."
  • "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" was Williams' second #1 on the Country chart, following "Lovesick Blues." It stayed at the top for five weeks and then lasted 16 more at lower positions.

    The two songs sound very similar, which probably isn't coincidence. Colin Escott, Hank Williams' biographer, suspected he did this intentionally to score another hit.
  • This song was an influence on "The River" by Bruce Springsteen and "The Ledge" by the Replacements.
  • Hank Williams Jr. covered the song on his 1964 debut album, Hank Williams Jr. Sings the Songs of Hank Williams. His version hit #67 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the Country chart.

    Dennis Robbins' 1986 cover hit #63. He released it as the fourth single from his debut album, The First of Me.
  • Willams recorded the song in Castle Studio in Nashville. Many of the musicians who played on the song were or would become notable, including Don Helms on steel guitar, Jerry Rivers on fiddle, and Ernie Newton on bass.

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