“Honky Tonkin'” is a 1948 country music song, written and recorded by Hank Williams. His song went to #14 on the Billboard country music charts. In 1982 it became the sixth chart topping single for Williams’ son, Hank Williams Jr.
Hank Williams released two versions of “Honky Tonkin’.” The first was cut at his second and final recording session for Sterling Records on February 13, 1947 and features backing by Tommy Jackson (fiddle), Dale “Smokey” Lohman (steel guitar), Zeke Turner (electric guitar) and Louis Innis (bass). The song, which appeared as “Honkey-Tonkey” in Williams’ first song folio, was chosen by producer Fred Rose as the B-side to “Pan American” after Hank had achieved success with two singles of mostly spiritual material on Sterling. While the subject matter is straight barroom fare in the Ernest Tubb tradition, the song is musically unusual, remaining in the same chord for fifteen and a half of its sixteen bars. According to Colin Escott’s 2004 biography on the singer, the original draft featured the lines, “We are going to the city, to the city fair/We’ll get a quart of whiskey and get up in the air,” which the commercially minded Rose had Hank change to “”We’re going to the city, to the city fair/If you go to the city, baby, you will find me there.”
Surprised by the success of the unknown Williams, and equally impressed with the raw talent of the young songwriter, Rose got him a contract with MGM that was finalized on April 1, 1947. On November 6, 1947, Williams recut Honky Tonkin’ at Castle Studio in Nashville with backing from Robert “Chubby” Wise (fiddle), Jerry Byrd (steel guitar), Zeke Turner (lead guitar), and probably Louis Innis on bass and either Owen Bradley or Rose on piano. The second recording of the song is more vibrant than the first, likely owing to the better recording facilities and the chemistry that had developed between Williams and Rose. To avoid confusion, Rose bought all the Sterling singles of “Honky Tonkin'” on May 17, 1947 for two thousand dollars and then sold them to MGM. Williams had enjoyed his first Top 5 hit with “Move It on Over” but “Honky Tonkin'” did not fare as well, failing to make the Top 10. Billboard praised the single’s “deft ork beat.”