Jason Petty, who earned a 2003 OBIE Award for Outstanding Performance for his charismatic portrayal of the title role in the Off-Broadway production of Hank Williams: Lost Highway, looks, acts, and sounds so much like the late country-music legend that, at times, he seems to be channeling the spirit of the 1961 Country Music Hall of Fame® inductee. In his April 9th performance of his new show Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes at the Clayton Center Auditorium & Conference Center, Petty smoothly slipped in and out of his Hank persona while royally entertaining a highly appreciative audience with choice anecdotes about Williams’ life and legend and high-octane renditions of an eclectic selection of songs from some country-music giants who influenced remarkably prolific singer and song writer Hank Williams (1923-53), some of Williams’ greatest hits, and a few songs from contemporary country-music stars who openly admit their admiration of and creative debt to Williams.
Performing with a simply fabulous four-piece band — Mark Baczynski on fiddle and mandolin, Andy Carroll on bass fiddle, D. J. Phillips on lead guitar, and Michael Stidolph on steel guitar — Jason Petty began his nostalgic trip down country music’s Memory Lane with four Williams songs (“Move It on Over,” “Honky Tonk Blues,” “We’ll Go Honky Tonkin’,” and “Moanin’ the Blues”), followed by an effervescent series of songs by the Father of Country Music Jimmie Rodgers (“T for Texas”), King of Country Music Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys (“Wabash Cannonball”), Texas Troubadour Ernest Tubb (“Walkin’ the Floor Over You”), and the First Family of Country Music The Carter Family (“Will This Circle Be Unbroken”).
Petty then closed out Act I with red-hot renditions of four Hank Williams classics: “I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You),” “Kawliga,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” and “Lovesick Blues.” Act II featured such Williams hits as “Cold, Cold Heart,” “You Win Again,” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” followed by Williams-influenced songs from the Old Possum George Jones (“Tell Me Why, Baby, Why”), the King of Honky Tonk Music Webb Pierce (“I Ain’t Never”), the Singing Sheriff Faron Young (“Wind Me Up”), Ray Price (“Heartaches by the Number”), Johnny Horton (“I’m a Honky Tonk Man”), Lefty Frizzell (“If You’ve Got the Money, Honey, I’ve Got the Time”), the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley (“That’s Alright Mama”), and Alan Jackson (“Midnight in Montgomery,” which chronicles a late-night trip to Williams’ grave and an eerie encounter with Hank’s ghost).
Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes closed on a high note, with a raucous hand-clapping, foot-tapping rendition of a Hank Williams’ gospel hit, “I Saw the Light,” followed by an exuberant standing ovation. They may have been performing choice selections from the country music songbook, but Jason Petty and his band really rocked The Clayton Center with their approximately two-and-a-half hour show. And they would have played all afternoon and all night, too, if the audience had had its druthers.
Clayton Center Auditorium & Conference Center: http://www.theclaytoncenter.com/. Jason Petty: http://www.jasonpetty.com/ [inactive 7/06]. Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes: http://www.jasonpetty.com/Hank_and_my_honky.asp [inactive 7/06]. Hank Williams: http://www.hankwilliams.com/ [inactive 7/09] and http://www.countrymusichalloffame.com/site/inductees.aspx?cid=200 [inactive 7/06].