A couple of headlines in the Chron today have me in a musical mood. First, there's this story, about the 50th anniversary of the death of the great Hank Williams:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Just before sunrise on New Year's Day 50 years ago, a sleek baby-blue Cadillac roared up to the rural Oak Hill, W.Va., hospital in the cold Appalachian darkness. The driver was just 17, exhausted and scared. The passenger was barely 29 and dead.
At the wheel was Charles Carr, a college freshman on Christmas break from Auburn. The man in the back seat was singer-songwriter Hank Williams Sr.
"I ran in and explained my situation to the two interns who were in the hospital," said Carr, now a 67-year-old Montgomery businessman. "They came out and looked at Hank and said, 'He's dead.'
"I asked 'em, 'Can't you do something to revive him?' One of them looked at me and said, 'No, he's just dead.' "
It was a last ride that would help define American music and pop culture for decades to come.
The last hours of his troubled life long ago passed from reality to myth. Biographers have speculated about what really happened. Officials have issued sketchy reports that only increased the mystery. Songwriters and playwrights still rhapsodize about it. A Web site dedicated to Williams estimates that more than 700 songs have been written about the singer, whose own recording career lasted only five years.
Then there's this story about an actual smoke-filled room where Houston politicians meet and greet each other:
Many Houston politicians prefer to do business over a single-malt scotch and an imported stogie.
The place of choice? Downing Street, a River Oaks cigar bar.
Walk in on any given weeknight, and a cadre of elected officials and political operatives is packed into the lavish mahogany and leather booths.
"Politicians gravitate toward smoke-filled rooms," said political consultant Dave Walden, who used to be a regular. "That place has more smoke than any place in town."