Album Chart of 1953

<1952 1954>

  • This chart features albums released in 1953 and is limited to all of the albums in my collection which have “A-list” status.
  • Elsewhere, the Albums released in 1953 page shows the full range of albums in this sites' database, including the “B-list” records.


A little boy lost his Daddy at the start of the year – and country music lost one of its greatest stars. Hank Jr. was watching and learning from an early age – he was destined to keep the family name alive well into the 21st century. His Daddy would’ve been proud.

In the wake of Hank Williams' untimely death at the age of just 29, there were a slew of hit singles and several posthumously released LPs in the years which immediately followed.

For my tastes, Hank delivered his strongest body of work as Luke The Drifter – and MGM made a fine decision when they compiled these single sides as an album – my album of the year in 1953.

The Jukebox Rebel

TJR says:

7.24 “Really good”

The sole Luke The Drifter album compiled eight single sides all recorded and released between 1950 and 1952. Biographer Colin Escott noted: “If Hank could be headstrong and willful, a backslider and a reprobate, then Luke the Drifter was compassionate and moralistic, capable of dispensing all the wisdom that Hank Williams ignored.”

The pseudonym was decided upon to appease label concerns that the lucrative jukebox trade would not be happy with his darker message-laden narratives, sometimes spoken in downbeat fashion with the simplest of musical accompaniment. As producer Fred Rose put it: “the last thing they needed was for someone to punch up a Hank Williams record and get a sermon.” Danger Danger: Beware the honky-tonk only zone!

The first side of the album is dynamite. The set opens with “Pictures From Life’s Other Side”, an appeal for compassion and understanding for the downtrodden which recounts two “scenes”: the first that of a degenerate gambler who dies right after staking his dead mother's wedding ring during a card game, his “last earthy treasure”; and the last that of a “heartbroken mother” who drowns herself and her baby by jumping into a river. Goddam! This is followed by a stunning rendition of Bonnie Dodds’ “Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw” which recounts the heroic act of a young lady who is killed while saving a child from a passing car, the same young lady who has been unfairly bad-mouthed recently by the mother of the saved child. Ooft! Next is “Men With Broken Hearts” of which Hank himself said: “Ain't that the awfulest, morbidest song you ever heard in your life? Don't know how I happen to write that thing, except that somebody that fell, he's the same man as before he fell, ain't he?” Hard to argue with that Hank! His rendition is truly soulful. “I Dreamed About Mama Last Night” addresses the moment everyone dreads – the death of a momma. Hank’s unforgettable recitation strikes a universal chord: “Why sometimes when we'd stay away till one or two or three, It seemed to us that mama heard the turnin' of the key, For always when we'd step aside she'd call and we'd reply, But we were all too young back then to understand the reason why, Until the last one had returned she'd always keep a light, For mama couldn't sleep until she kissed us all goodnight, She had to know that we were safe before she went to rest, She seemed to fear that the world might harm the ones that she loved the best… Then came the night that we were called together round her bed, The children're all with you now the kindly doctor said, And in her eyes the gleam again that old time tender light, That told that she's just been waitin' to know that we were alright, She smiled that old familiar smile and prayed to God to keep, Her children safe from harm throughout the years and then she went to sleep” It'd bring a tear to a glass eye…

In his autobiography Chronicles: Volume One, Bob Dylan summed this album up best: “The Luke the Drifter record, I just about wore out. That's the one where he sings and recites parables, like the Beatitudes. I could listen to the Luke the Drifter record all day and drift away myself, become totally convinced in the goodness of man.”

The Jukebox Rebel

TJR says:

6.13 “Decent enough”

The shock of Hank Williams death on New Year’s Day led to a surge in public demand for records, sheet music and pictures of the artist. MGM put their regular schedule on hold as the pressing plant worked around the clock to try and catch up with the demand. Hank’s two sheet music folios sold around 10,000 in just a few weeks - a seven fold increase on the norm. Airplay shot up and tribute records started to appear within weeks of the news. Billboard reported that by January 31st there were no fewer than 8 of them! This was an outpouring of grief. As a single, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” rocketed to the top of the Country chart, selling over one million copies. MGM announced that there would be two albums in tribute – “The Hank Williams Memorial Album” and “Hank Williams as Luke The Drifter”, both of which were issued simultaneously in early April, just as the sales of the “Kaw-Liga” / “Cheatin’ Heart” single were starting to descend from their peak. The album was a must-have for any casual fans who had not been following his singles output, featuring as it did 8 of his most popular songs all appearing in album format for the first time.

The Jukebox Rebel

TJR says:

5.32 “Below average”

Opens badly with “Skin Deep” as "mega-drummer" Louis Bellson gives it laldy… what a yawn-a-thon. Immediately, “The Mooche” recovers things brilliantly – it’s a slow swing creeper for pink panthers everywhere. Duke revisits his 1941 piece “Take The A Train” and I find that Betty Roche’s scatty shooby doops are not without some charm. “A Tone Parallel To Harlem (Harlem Suite)” is the album’s heart and soul – what can only be described as a soundtrack to an eventful, slightly surreal, 13 minute adventure dream. The album closes with “Perdido”, the closest the album gets to a bit of dance hall boogie woogie. I don’t dig jazz man – ain’t no big secret. But this ain’t too bad. Sometimes, I kinda feel this cat…

The Jukebox Rebel

TJR says:

3.22 “Terrible”

This compilation was first issued in 1953 according to both “Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records 1948-1991” by Martin Popoff and “Hard Travelin': The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie” by Robert Santelli, Emily Davidson. Other sources say 1956. None of the 13 tracks have previously appeared in Woody's album discography which gives it grounds for "A-list" status; only under some doubt as to the age of the recordings. It's likely that those date from 1947 onwards - many of these were released as single sides on Moe Asch's Cub label in 1948 and 1949. With all that in mind, I use my discretion to include the LP in the “A-list”. In their 9th April 1949 edition Billboard reviewed the Cub Records 10” “Grow, Grow, Grow” / “Swimmy, Swim”: “This unusual material is an honest attempt to create new disk entertainment for tots in the 1 and a half to 3 year old group. It’s rhythmic and repetitious, and while it strings together words a child can naturally associate with each other, it doesn’t burden him with a contrived story. Guthrie has a down to earth folk quality that’s just right for the material. The words are printed on the back of the envelope which also boasts the recommendation of Parents magazine.” Sadly, I’m missing “Grow Grow Grow” (presumably a reprise of “Green-y Grass Grass”) and can therefore only rate the album as far as 12 of the original 13 tracks. If anyone knows where I could purchase an MP3 copy please do let me know ; - )

The Jukebox Rebel

chart first published 23 Oct 2015; last edited 6 Dec 2015

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