40. Hank Snow
came to his songs of the open road – "I'm Movin' On," "The
Golden Rocket," "I've Been Everywhere" – from experience: at age
12 he fled an abusive stepfather and spent the next four years working on a
fishing boat. Born in Nova Scotia, his life was changed by the traveling songs
of Jimmie Rodgers. "I first heard Jimmie Rodgers when I was very young, I
was in my teens," he remembered. "'Moonlight and Skies' – and I
became an ardent fan at that minute. I either had to duplicate Jimmie Rodgers'
success before I died, or bust." He signed to RCA, the same label as
Rodgers, in 1936, and had his first hits in Canada before cracking the U.S.
market in May of 1950 with "I'm Movin' On," a song that blended
acoustic picking and chrome-plated pedal steel into a celebration of freedom
and mobility that spent a record-setting 21 weeks at Number One (Ray Charles
made it a both a pop and R&B hit in 1959, and the Rolling Stones gave it a
frantic live update in 1965). Though he was an early supporter of Elvis Presley
and experimented with Latin rhythms and Hawaiian music in songs like
"Rhumba Boogie," Snow was a guardian of country twang and tradition
in hits like "(Now and Then) There's a Fool Such as I" and "Ninety
Miles Hour (Down a Dead End Street)" – even his last big hit, "Hello
Love" in 1974, was a down-home throwback, featured the sort of picking he'd
heard on the Rodgers songs that first inspired him. Joe Levy
Key Tracks: "I've Been Everywhere," "(Now and Then) There's a Fool Such as I"