The Hank Williams classic “Hey, Good Lookin'” turns 65 years old today.
Released on June 22, 1951, the song was written that spring, during an airplane ride that found Williams sitting beside Grand Ole Opry members Little Jimmy Dickens and Minnie Pearl. The three singers were heading to Wichita Falls, Texas, in a charter plane owned by Pearl’s husband, Henry Cannon.
Williams had originally planned on spending the flight writing something new for Dickens, whose catalog of novelty songs — most of which focused on his own pint-sized stature — had yet to produce a chart-topping hit. After finishing “Hey, Good Lookin'” in a 20-minute burst of midair inspiration, though, Williams decided to keep it for himself, famously telling Dickens, “That song’s too good for you!” One week later, he rounded up his Drifting Cowboys and recorded the song at Nashville’s Castle Studio, also tracking a handful of other future hits — including “Howlin’ at the Moon,” which he allegedly wrote during the same flight — before the day was up.
The following March — almost one year to the date after the song’s recording session — Williams made one of his only TV appearances, performing “Hey, Good Lookin'” on The Kate Smith Evening Hour. In the clip above, he dedicates the song to a 22 year-old June Carter, who clowns around on camera before exiting the stage. Then, wearing his iconic cowboy suit emblazoned with musical notes, Williams kicks into an abbreviated version of “Hey, Good Lookin’.” Years later, footage from that same TV performance would be used in the video for Hank Williams, Jr.’s Grammy-winning version of “There’s a Tear in My Beer.”