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Production unfolds life of legend Hank Williams


Photo
Photo courtesy of Harlon Taylor
With the recent Hollywood trend of depicting important musical figures through biopics, the Arizona Theatre Company is following suit and performing a musical about the life of Hank Williams at the Temple of Music and Art through Dec. 21.
By Randi Eichenbaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, December 1, 2005
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Sightings of Elvis Presley can take place anywhere from Nashville, Tenn., to the cover of a local supermarket tabloid, but where is the man behind the music of the king?

Music legend Hank Williams, who has been labeled the influence of all the greats of country, blues and rock 'n' roll, is being recognized in the production "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," which is being brought to Tucson by the Arizona Theatre Company.

Myk Watford, an actor and fan of Williams, will be playing Burr Head, a composite of characters in Williams' life, primarily his guitar player.

"Hank burned through band members pretty quickly," Watford said. "So my character is based on several characters; not just musicians, but childhood friends too."

Watford said that whether audience members are country fans or not, they will be impressed with what Williams did musically in his day.

"People who don't know a lot about country will say, 'He's just an ol' country singer,' but there's much more there to him than that," Watford said. "He was the first rock 'n' roll star. He was up there shaking his legs long before Elvis Presley."

During his childhood in Alabama, Williams befriended a black musician known as Tee Tot, who Watford described as Williams' primary instructor in both the guitar and singing. Tee Tot and the character of a local waitress, who enjoys working to Williams' tunes, are influential parts in this production.

"They are two characters that are onstage for most of the play that really represent Hank as well as the outside world," Watford said. "It really lets you see how things got started and then how people were affected by his music."

Williams' life ended when he died at 29 from drug and alcohol abuse, similar to Elvis' death.

"Many people would have considered him and he would have considered himself a lost soul," Watford said.

Watford described Williams' life as one that many with that sort of talent and fame deal with.

"He was just one of those guys that was completely obsessed with the music," Watford said. "He used to play will all the honky tonks and the next thing he knew he has got a record deal and then he is the most famous person in the United States."

Attribution to late music legends seems to be a trend evidenced in 2004 Academy Award-winner "Ray," which documented the music and life of Ray Charles, and the recent release of "Walk the Line," the biography of Johnny Cash.

"In the case of all three, their stories just happen to be amazing and incredible stories," Watford said.

Although he doesn't play the lead, it is clear that Watford has found purpose in this particular role by educating others on the life of Williams and doing justice to his name. Watford says his nine other cast members are all on the same page.

"We are all in one way or another part of a family. From the first person you see to the last, you're going to see a lot of people that care about Hank and care about each other," Watford said.

"Hank Williams: Lost Highway" will run through Dec. 21 at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. Ticket prices range from $31 to $48 and can be purchased online at www.arizonatheater.org.



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