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A tragic country hero

Joe Matheson unearths the multi-dimensional life of Country Music Legend Hank Williams in musical/theatrical tribute

What: Hank Williams Live at the Kawliga Cafe

When: Thursday, March 2, 8 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Tickets: $20/$17

Performer Joe Matheson best likes to remember country music legend Hank Williams by remembering Williams’ last moments before he died in the backseat of a car traveling to a New Year’s Day concert on January 1, 1953.

"He was driving to a concert," Matheson said. "What I admired about him was that he continued to do (live shows) even though he made more money in royalties from other people recording his songs than his own concerts, but he kept going out and playing for his fans.

"When they found his body in the car and took him out, a piece of paper fell out of his hands with some lyrics scribbled on it. All he ever wanted to do was make music, live in the country and fish — his old best friends would tell you that."

On a trip to Nashville this September to record a few of Williams’ hits, Matheson was fortunate to meet one of the last remaining connections to Williams: his lap steel guitar player, a man now in his early 80s.

The guitarist echoed the same sentiments Matheson felt about how Williams was narrowly remembered in the media as a hillbilly who suffered frequent bouts with alcoholism and cheated on his wife.

"(The guitarist) wished that people wouldn’t always talk about the negative stuff," Matheson recounted. "If people are writing about him, they are always writing about the concert where he got drunk and fell off the stage. He played 300 shows a year and when you read a book about his life, writers always tell the same five or six stories about his drunkenness, not the shows where 3,000 people were standing screaming and yelling for an encore, where security was called to help get the band off the stage. There are incredible stories about him."

From newspaper articles, Williams’ friends and books, Matheson has pieced together the multi-dimensional life of the King of Country into a fully scripted, first-person-perspective stage show.

"The story of the show isn’t true, but the stories in it are true," Matheson said. "Instead of everybody talking about Hank — It’s all about Hank talking about himself."

There is a lot to talk about. By the age of 29, Williams had penned more than 60 top-10 Country songs and rode the number one spot on pop, country and jazz music charts all at the same time. Classics such as Cold Cold Heart, Jambalaya and Your Cheating Heart became the staple backbone of country music today. His songs were recorded by greats such as Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, the Grateful dead, Bob Dylan, Patsy Cline and even Lawrence Welk.

Matheson will play classic favourites along with lesser-known jems.

"A lot of the songs people won’t realize Hank wrote or made them famous," Matheson said. "He had an incredible gift for songwriting. I wouldn’t necessarily say I admire him for that, but instead how he saw the world. He wasn’t educated, didn’t speak very well, sometimes on radio shows they couldn’t even understand what he was saying, but when he looked at the moon, he didn’t just see it as that, but wrote about how it represented what he was going through."

The Whistler Real Estate Company sponsors this intimate rendezvous with the country great. Tickets are $20/$17.