Harrison County

‘Hank Williams once took a cab from Nashville to Biloxi just to see my daddy’

Hank Williams visits with his friend Sie Simon during a trip to Biloxi.
Hank Williams visits with his friend Sie Simon during a trip to Biloxi. City of Biloxi

For South Mississippi music fans, Dec. 7, 1952, is an important date, ranking high with Aug. 16, 1977, which was the day Elvis Presley died. Dec. 7, 1952 was the last time Hank Williams played Sie’s Place in Biloxi.

The following night, Dec. 8, Williams also played in Gulfport, but according to one Williams historian, he was “drunk” at the Gulfport show and would be in a sanitarium in Shreveport on Dec. 11. Williams would die at age 29 on New Year’s Day in 1953.

During his short life and career, which included being a part of Horace Logan’s “Louisiana Hayride,” Williams wrote and recorded many songs that are considered classics including “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

Williams is the subject of the film “The Last Ride,” which was directed by Harry Thomason. It stars Henry Thomas (who played Elliot in ‘E.T.”) as Williams. It is a fictional account of Williams last ride en route to a New Year’s Day show in Charleston, West Virginia. Williams was found dead in his rental car and would never play the show.

“The Last Ride” will be returning to Biloxi on Sunday for a 1:30 p.m. showing at the Saenger Theater. Tickets to the film are $10 and all proceeds will go to renovations for the Saenger. Williams would have turned 94 on Sept. 17.

Kay Bankston’s father Sie Simon owned Sie’s Place, a nightclub that was located on the corner of Division and Reynoir streets. She said she fondly remembers Williams’ visits to Biloxi when she was a teenager.

“Any time Hank Williams played in Biloxi, he would also play at daddy’s nightclub,” Banskston said. “He would do the Doll and Toy benefit for daddy around Christmas time.”

She said she remembers Williams’ presence in their home.

“We had a small house behind the club and Hank would be there and we would eat boiled shrimp and visit — he and my daddy were very close,” Bankston said. “I remember one time Hank Williams took a cab all the way from Nashville to Biloxi to see daddy and play at the club, of course he and daddy had to pay for the taxi bill and it was a lot of money back then.”

Banskston said she will never forget when Williams died.

“There was just a cloud around the house when died — he was so young when he died,” she said. “He and daddy were like brothers but I think he saw daddy as a father figure, daddy was an honorary pallbearer at his funereal.”

If you go

“The Last Ride”

Saenger Theater at 170 Reynoir St. in Biloxi

1:30 p.m. on Sunday

Tickets are $10 at the door at $8 in advance at Biloxi Visitors Center, and the Donal M. Snyder Sr. Community Center