Although the spiteful “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and the haunting “Lost Highway” arguably had more influence on the shape of honky-tonk and country music, the line “Hey Good Lookin'” and its follow-up rhyme “whatcha got cookin'” are as synonymous with Hank Williams’ timeless music and lasting legacy as the chorus from “There’s A Tear In My Beer.”
Recorded on March 16, 1951 at Castle Studio in Nashville, “Hey Good Lookin” came from the same session as “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You),” “Howlin’ at the Moon” and “My Heart Would Know.” The song reached number one that same year on Aug. 13.
Proto-Rock ‘N’ Roll
What makes it stand out now, more so than its flirty chorus, is the various pre-rock references to teenage culture. In the song’s second verse, Williams mentions a hot-rod Ford, stopping for a soda pop and hitting up the local dance. He also alludes to his little black book (“date book”) and going steady (“steady company”). It’s basically American Graffiti in a country song. While Williams was inspired by Cole Porter’s song of the same title, he must’ve also been in tune with the R&B and blues artists who’d soon change the course of popular music.
Williams, the lone songwriter, penned the future classic for Little Jimmy Dickens yet recorded it first with his own Drifting Cowboys. Although it lacks the foot-tapping appeal of “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” the sarcasm of “Move It On Over,” the uplifting spirit of “I Saw the Light” or the jadedness of “Cold, Cold Heart” or “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” it’s still one of the Montgomery. Alabama native’s most recognizable hits.
Cover Material For Country Singers and Beach Bums
Cover songs over the years came from various sources, from Johnny Cash to Roy Buchanan and The Residents. No one had more fun or success tweaking Williams’ “brand new recipe” than Jimmy Buffett did for his 2004 album License to Chill. Long after a two dollar bill could buy this much fun, the beachy pop legend cut his own version with Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith and George Strait. It’s a charming single that cracked the Billboard Hot Country Songs’ top 10 and came with a bouyant music video that’ll make you want to play palm tree basketball.