Hank Snow: The Yodeling Ranger

Hank Snow hailed from the rugged terrains of Canada, and carved out an illustrious career that not only cemented his place as a top-tier artist but also showcased his versatility and business acumen. Snow’s journey from the windswept village of Brooklyn, Nova Scotia, to the revered stages of Nashville, encapsulates the spirit of country music's formative years. 

Snow’s devotion to the style of Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, laid the foundation for his early fame. Yet, his repertoire was anything but static. Snow fearlessly explored an array of genres, incorporating Latin rhythms, jazz, blues, Hawaiian styles, recitations, mambo, and gospel into his music. His discography, spanning from 1936 to 1985, boasts approximately 840 commercial recordings—a testament to his prolific nature. These recordings encompass the folksongs of his Canadian boyhood, hobo and railroad ballads, cowboy tunes, pop standards, and the finest works of Nashville songwriters. His ability to resurrect and reimagine older songs for new audiences underscored his deep sense of tradition and his view of repertoire as a living entity. 

Snow’s commercial success was undeniable. Between 1949 and 1980, he saw eighty-five of his singles grace Billboard’s charts. His contribution to songwriting was recognized with his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978, followed by his election to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1979. 

Born into hardship, Snow’s life reads like a Dickensian tale. After his parents' divorce when he was eight, Snow endured a tumultuous childhood. He faced relentless abuse from a violent stepfather, prompting him to escape to the sea as a teenager. On a North Atlantic fishing trawler, Snow began entertaining his fellow sailors with his singing and harmonica playing. Back on land, he found solace in his mother’s Victrola records, discovering Vernon Dalhart and Jimmie Rodgers. 

By 1933, Snow was performing over CHNS in Halifax, armed with a mail-order Timothy Eaton guitar. He married Minnie Blanch Aalders and soon found steady radio work sponsored by Crazy Water Crystals, adopting the moniker Hank the Yodeling Ranger. His big break came in October 1936 when he recorded “Lonesome Blue Yodel” and “Prisoned Cowboy” for Canadian Bluebird. Over the next decade, he recorded around ninety songs for the label, although only a few were released in the United States. 

Snow's perseverance paid off in 1948 when he finally cracked the American market. An adept rider, he often toured with a trick riding show, featuring his horse, Pawnee. In Dallas, he made a modest impact on the Big D Jamboree and caught the attention of Ernest Tubb. Tubb, a fellow admirer of Rodgers, helped Snow gain a spot on the Grand Ole Opry, where Hank Williams introduced him. 

Initially, Snow struggled to gain traction at the Opry. However, his breakthrough came with “I’m Moving On,” a song his producer initially dismissed. The track dominated the charts for forty-four weeks in 1950-1951, followed by hits like “The Golden Rocket” and “Rhumba Boogie.” These songs cemented Snow’s status, leading to a string of Top Ten hits through the 1950s and early 1960s, including “I Don’t Hurt Anymore,” “The Gold Rush Is Over,” and “Yellow Roses.” His chart-topping success continued with “Hello Love” in 1974. 

Snow was a trailblazer in the country music LP market, creating some of the first concept albums. His guitar prowess shone through in duets with Chet Atkins, and his steadfast dedication to traditional country music helped resist the onslaught of rock and pop influences during the 1960s and 1970s. A globe-trotter and Opry staple, Snow recorded his 104th LP for RCA Victor in 1977, aptly titled *Still Moving On*—a fitting tribute to an artist whose career defied the boundaries of time. 

In the legacy of country music, Hank Snow remains a towering figure, whose journey from a Nova Scotian village to the heights of Nashville stardom is a testament to his talent and perseverance. 

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