Vince Gill Joins “Hanks” for Musical Tribute

Vince Gill made a surprise appearance Saturday (Jan. 4) on the Grand Ole Opry during a tribute commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hank Williams’ death. The crowd at the Ryman Auditorium was rowdier than usual in anticipation of appearances by Hank Williams Jr. and his son, Hank Williams III. The younger Williams began the tribute with a rousing version of his grandfather’s “Howlin’ at the Moon,” following up with his original “Thrown Out of the Bar.” Opry host Little Jimmy Dickens noted that he had toured extensively with Hank III’s grandfather and said, “That’s a reincarnation if I’ve ever seen one.” Gill was backed by the Whites on “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” The evening’s emotional peak came when Hank Williams Jr. offered a musical tribute to the late Rufus Payne. Nicknamed “Tee Tot,” Payne was the black blues musician who taught Hank Williams Sr. to play guitar and sing in Montgomery, Ala. The musician’s son, Henderson Payne, sat in a wheelchair while Hank Jr. performed “Tee Tot Song,” a bluesy track from his most recent album, Almeria Club. The segment closed with Hank Jr., Dickens, the Whites and Gill singing “I Saw the Light.” Although his father called him onstage, Hank III did not appear for the finale, and the two were never onstage at the same time. 1/6/03