You Win Again (Hank Williams’s blues)

It seems crazy that I’ve got over three hundred songs in this project, and this is the first Hank Williams song I’ve posted. (I did “Lovesick Blues” a while ago, and of course heard it first from him, but he didn’t write it.)

I know a bunch of them — Peter Keane and I once traded Hank Williams songs at a party for well over an hour. (The other partygoers were at first impressed that we knew so many, then drifted away as they realized quite how many.) In my busking days, I used to play “Jambalaya” and “Hey, Good Looking” on cafe terraces in Europe, and when I was knocking around the US I often found that his more mournful classics were good for tips from late-night drunks — or daytime drunks, for that matter.

But I never worked them up for club shows, because they’ve been done so often and so well by so many other people. This one, for example, was a top ten country hit for Williams in 1952, for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1958, and for Charley Pride in 1980, while Fats Domino had a pop hit with it in 1962… and those are just the charting versions.

That said, one of the pleasures of this project has been figuring out how I’d want to perform songs I’ve known forever but never worked up for public performance. I’d been messing with this one, and then was teaching a course on the history of rock ‘n’ roll and saw a video of Jerry Lee Lewis in full flight, doing “Whole Lotta Shakin'” and “You Win Again…” and began wondering if I could do it as more of a straight blues.

This is the result: a Williams classic layered on a basic Lightning Hopkins boogie, and anyone who knows the Jerry Lee version will hear that it’s still in my mind. I’ve got at least a half-dozen of Jerry Lee’s country albums — he did two sets of country standards on Mercury that are particular favorites — and much as I love Hank Williams, his version of this one is definitive.