Canadian country-western star Hank Snow made the move from his native Nova Scotia to Nashville in hopes of striking it big in country music. What followed was one of the genre’s earliest success stories. A triple threat, able to write his own songs, play guitar, and sing, Snow racked up several number one hits and worked with some of the industry’s brightest visionaries.
His story is special, and shows listeners what one man can do with a dream and a guitar. Hank’s story-driven songs reveal a lot about what he thought about life, love, and heartache.
We dive into the best Hank Snow songs below and get to know the man behind some of country music’s founding musical treasures.
11. Ninety Miles An Hour (Down A Dead End Street)
Don’t let the leisurely pace of the first 30 seconds of ‘Ninety Miles An Hour (Down a Dead End Street)’ fool you, the tune soon turns into a toe-tapper as Hank Snow sings about a high-speed romance. The 1960s country song was released on Nashville’s flagship RCA Victor Label, the place Snow called home after making the move from his native Canada to the budding country music hub. His deep voice and command of the acoustic guitar appealed to industry professionals, and he secured none other than the famous Chet Atkins to produce this fun recording.
10. The Rhumba Boogie
Hank scored another number one with this catchy, rhythmic number. With Afro-cuban stylings to make it perfectly danceable, the easy-going hit introduced country listeners to the Rhumba, which had gained significant popularity on the East coast of America in the ’30s. Evoking feelings of a beachy paradise, Hank doesn’t stop there as he sings about the latest dance crazes. He also references the popular Charleston and Jitterbug routines. Snow recorded back when country was known as “country-western,” a mixture of folk, singer-songwriter, and blues genres that had a heavy focus on story-telling. This novelty track had country-western listeners trying out the ‘Rhumba Boogie’ for the first time.
9. I Can’t Stop Loving You (with Chet Atkins)
Snow got his start performing in Nova Scotia, the Canadian province he called home. But once he made the move to Music City, his talents and dedication to his dream of country music stardom earned him the privilege of recording with future Nashville royalty Chet Atkins. The two were still in the infancies of their careers when they teamed up, and the many recordings they produced together would ultimately help solidify both Atkins and Snow as early authorities of the genre. For Atkins, his long career and visionary skills led to the creation of “The Nashville Sound.” He’s known as one of the key figures in the modernization of country music and bringing it into the mainstream. ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ appears on their popular collaborative album, Reminiscing. The easy listening tune features an instrumental duet, with the two trading off effortless guitar riffs and solos.
8. Miller’s Cave
One of the first to debut this 1960 country classic, Hank’s tender ‘Miller’s Cave’ is a grand representation of the genre’s switch from the honky-tonkin’ days of the 1940s to the story-filled songs of the ’50s and ’60s. With a down-and-out protagonist due to his girl’s “unfaithful ways,” the dark and dangerous Miller’s cave represents both something he has to valiantly conquer and retreat into as he comes to terms with the failed relationship. While lyrics were still rather tame in these mid. 20th century decades, country music stars like Hank Snow and another famous Hank, Hank Williams, loved to occasionally flirt with the boundaries of the genre. Because of this, a subgenre was born, the “Murder Ballad,” which encompasses narrative-focused and poetically-detailed gruesome situations, making them palatable for audiences who would otherwise never approve of the deeds done in the songs. In regards to this early murder ballad, take a listen and see what fate our desperate protagonist doles out to his former lover and her new beau, “Big Dave.”
7. Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down
After building one of the most successful careers in country music throughout the ’50s and ’60s, you’d think by the 1970s Hank would want to slow down and enjoy the fruits of his labor. Instead, he kept on working and released a beautiful version of the country western standard, ‘Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.’ Despite its contemporary status, Kris Kristofferson’s original quickly became one of country music’s most adored tracks. Everyone from Johnny Cash to Willie Nelson recorded it. Kris wrote it while working through a particularly hard-hitting hangover, and the slow-paced groove and melancholy lyrics were right in Snow’s downhome wheelhouse. A songwriter at heart, this deep cut shows Hank can reimagine classics just as authoritatively as he can write them.
6. Hello Love
If you’ve ever listened to the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, you’ll recognize this serene classic country effort. ‘Hello Love’ was the variety show’s theme song for a number of years. At the time of its debut, Snow hadn’t had a hit in over a decade. This single changed that when it went all the way to number one and marked the start of a comeback for the 59 year old artist. The title track to his 1974 album, the record was a big hit among country fans and Hank’s last release that charted high. That was okay, though. By the time Hello Love came around he had a slew of chart toppers to his name and had the honor of entering into his “Greatest Hits” phase. Not bad, Hank. Not bad at all.
5. The Golden Rocket
Another big, early 1950s hit for Hank, he wrote ‘The Golden Rocket’ in honor of his idol, Jimmie Rodgers. Rodgers is known as “The Father of Country Music.” He was one of the first to champion the genre, and earned the nickname “The Blue Yodeler” because he brilliantly combined acoustic blues guitar work with twangy yodeling vocal sections. Before he earned the title as country music’s patriarch, he was known among listeners as “The Singing Brakeman” because before he became a professional musician, he’d regale his buddies with original tunes while working as a railroad brakeman. Rodgers was Snow’s hero. He even named his son after him (Jimmie Rodgers Snow). Here, he meticulously tells Rodgers’ story via ‘The Golden Rocket,’ paying homage to his earliest, most important influence.
4. (Now and Then, There’s) A Fool Such As I
Now a country standard, when Hank released ‘(Now and Then, There’s) A Fool Such As I’ in 1953 it broke into the top 5 on country charts. Two years later in 1955, Snow took his show on the road, calling it his “All Star Jamboree Tour,” and this traveling lineup featured a very young Elvis Presley. Snow and Presley maintained a friendship over the years, and when Elvis was on leave from the military in 1958, he stepped into a Nashville studio alongside producer Chet Atkins and recorded his take on the popular single. His version charted even higher than Snow’s original, climbing all the way to the second spot. Ultimately, Elvis’ rendition went platinum.
3. I Don’t Hurt Anymore
A classic country-western song with a blues turnaround anchoring the song (in the same vein as Snow’s idol, Jimmie Rodgers), ‘I Don’t Hurt Anymore’ was written by Jack Rollins and Don Robertson, but it was Hank who put it on the map. After his polished version debuted, it kickstarted a long line of covers. Everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan have covered the popular ballad. The heartbreak song was released in 1954 just as Snow was really picking up steam in Nashville. By this time, Hank had earned an updated nickname from his Nova Scotia days when he was called “The Yodeling Ranger.” In keeping with a changing musical landscape away from the twangy sounds of the southern warble, his Nashville buddies updated his term of endearment to “The Singing Ranger.”
2. I’m Movin On
Sawing fiddle opens this track wide open. With a classic country sound, Snow sings about using his “big eight wheeler rollin’ down the track” to get outta town and leave his ungrateful lady behind. Snow wastes no time in the song’s story, and heads right on down to Tennessee where he’s got a “pretty mama” waiting for him. The Snow-penned tune is country to the core, but in pure (Jimmie) Rodgers fashion, Hank keeps a 12-bar blues song structure in honor of his biggest influence, which adds to the song’s appeal. The popular release was a defining song of the genre, and many artists went on to cover it, including The Man in Black. Cash recorded a particularly rousing take with fellow outlaw Waylon Jennings. Cash’s connection with Hank runs deeper than music. When Johnny rediscovered Christianity in the late 1960s, the preacher who helped him find his way was Hank’s own son, Jimmie Rodgers Snow.
1. I’ve Been Everywhere
One of the central themes you’ll find in Hank Snow’s catalog is the freedom and joy he felt while traveling. He loved to be on the road, experiencing different cultures and places he’d never been. His success in Nashville meant he’d tour across much of America. ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ was originally written by Australian musician Geoff Mack. The fast-paced tune requires a lot of vocal dexterity, the singer having to name off all the cities he’s traveled to with cardiovascular fortitude similar to an auctioneer. When Mack decided to rewrite the tune for American audiences, he used a map to replace all the Australian locations in the song with US towns. And he chose Hank as the man to re-record it. Of course, The Singing Ranger was the perfect man for the job. He took the eclectic tune to the top of the charts. Johnny Cash would bring the song back to life in the ’90s with his own gravel-voiced, outlaw version.