My Son Calls Another Man Daddy


Country music is absurd. It’s overly melodramatic and the rhythms are happy when the words are sad. It’s about love when it means to be about loss. The sound comes from the nose when the truths are from the gut. In other words it’s all backwards.

Hank Williams resonated with people because he was foul and crass and said angry words when he was angry. He was also emotionally sublime, was sweet when he was sweet and told the truth except when he lied. His songs are the most funny and the most sad. And his songs age.

Classic country music can be so ironic to our ears today. Songs like “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” are completely over the top and when we hear it and har har to our buddies and shake our heads and think about those old rubes and hillbillies and the hoary old jokes they would tell and we forget sometimes to laugh with rather than at them. And then one day maybe the joke is on you. Or do I mean me? Waylon Jennings would say it best years later: “This is getting funny, but there ain’t nobody laughing.” Hank’s songs are like that. Some days they are funny. Some days they aren’t. Some days you laugh at him. Some days he laughs at you.

This particular song is simple. Really most of them are. He wrote it with a woman named Jewell House of Texarkana who ran the a small jamboree and record shop. Jerry Rivers kicks it off on his fiddle and the rest of the Drifting Cowboys fall in behind him. Don Helms works the high end of his steel with some lovely Hawaiian phrasing. Hank’s voice is a deep baritone. It’s steady and doesn’t crack and doesn’t take long to get to the point: his son calls another man daddy. That’s it. What more needs to be said. The economy of sorrow is something he was a master of and all of us gabbers and boohooers should take note. The song when felt is devastating. It has no joy, no winner, and the only joke is it isn’t funny.

I won’t suppose I know what the song is really about though, not like other men know anyhow. But I know enough to know what it’s not.

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About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
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7 Responses to My Son Calls Another Man Daddy

  1. Chris says:

    I don’t usually go around correcting people’s spelling, but I think you mean “hoary old jokes.” Trace Adkins = whorey. Hank Williams = hoary.

    The thing about Hank (and the other Great Ones) is, your son doesn’t have to call another man Daddy for you to feel what that’s like — at least for the duration of the song. When I listen to “My Sweet Love Ain’t Around,” I feel lonesome even if my wife is sitting right next to me.

    • iaanhughes says:

      Correct away. I was staring at it last night thinking that ain’t right, but couldn’t for the life of me think of how to spell it correctly.

  2. David House says:

    Hi, Ian. Great blog. Great thoughts. I’m David House, oldest son of the late songwriter Jewell House who wrote “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” with Hank Williams as well as others and many songs for other artists,including Webb Pierce and Red Sovine. Mom died at her home in Texarkana, Texas, on Sept. 3, 1971. The 40th anniversary of her death is this year. Coincidentally, I’ve finally begun research for a book about her. It’s about time and in the nick of time. Almost all of her colleagues and friends are dead, but not all. I’m finding them one-by-one. At any rate, I thought you’d like to know the story behind “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy.” Mom said in an October 1970 newsfeature about her that she got the idea for the song from a fiction story in Radio Mirror. Took her three days to write it. Hank bought it apparently in February 1949, and it was published on March 1. The song was not only the first song she sold but also, thanks to Hank, the song that kicked off her career. She became a songwriter for Acuff-Rose, Cedarwood, Moss Rose and other publishers and became well-known in Nashville. She was a very beautiful brunette with an electric personality and a heart of gold. If you’re taking requests, I’d like to request that you play “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” on Sept. 3 in remembrance of mom. There are a couple of others she wrote that are in her Cedarwood and Sony/ATV catalogues that you might like to play as well: “Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone” and “A Loveless Marriage” — big, big tear-jerkers. When I was a little boy, I hated that stuff. I remember asking mother once, after listening to her as she worked on yet another sad song and I felt tortured by despair: “Mama, why do you write such sad songs?” She looked at me and smiled the biggest smile. “Son,” she said, “someday you’ll know.” She was right. And so are those songs. Doesn’t take rocket science to understand human failings and tendencies. Country music explains it all. Take good care. Glad to know about your blog. If anyone knows about my mom, Jewell House, they can email me at david-house1@sbcglobal.net.
    Best regards,
    David House

    • iaanhughes says:

      Hi David, thanks for the note. I hope you’re able to make progress on your book, it sounds interesting. So many of country musics side musicians and songwriters go unheralded. It’s nice to see one of the great ones recognized.

      I won’t be on the air this coming week, but I played “My Sons Calls…” yesterday. I took liberally from your history too (giving you all due credit!) and believe it was a highpoint of the show. If you’d like to hear it you can find the archive at http://www.KBCS.fm and look for Walkin’ the Floor. It should be available for about two weeks.

      Thanks again and take care,

      Iaan Hughes

  3. Hello, I read the blogs with great interest. I have heard the song many times and “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” was recorded by Hank because he did have a son that called another man “Daddy.”
    My mother, Eva(Evie)Faye Smith, was my mother and she had an ongoing affair with Hank from 1943 ‘up until he died on i/53. He came to see me and my mother in November of ’52. He brough the ’52 caddy he died in to show it to my mom.
    We used to go to Shreveport to meet him and we would stay in a motel on US 80 on the east side. I can remember the motel because it had all the neon light around it. Hank used to send my mother bus tickets and we would go. We went to the Hayride several times. She met him in a honky-tonk just north of Demoplus, Alabama in 1943. Her brother, Basil lived there and worked in the pulpwood business.The relationship went on even after he married Audery.
    My mother was from a devoudt baptist family and my grandfather, a decon, refused to set her see him because he was five years older that she and he worked in honk-tonks and did not work a regular job.
    My mother became pregnant with me in late ’43 and I was born on May 7th ’44. My mother would not marry him after he asked her because of the circumstances surrounding Hank and the life he lived.
    Even after he married Audrey, he continued to see my mother. She called him “Hyram.” His full name was “Hyram King Williams.” His mother, Mama Stone loved my mother and we visited her several times in Montgomery, Alabama there at the boarding house she operated.
    If you would like more info., I can be reached at damngoodtunesNVE@aol.com. I am the senior editor for the music magazine, “www.damngoodtunes.com.” I cover all of middle Tennessee, the Nashville area.
    I live near Nashville,Tennessee, I am a recording artist and a writer/journalist here.
    My name Is “James Dean Fisher.”

  4. BonnieH says:

    That is a story some of my music playing friends talked about back stage in Louisianan before the Hayride at KWKH. We always wondered who the brunette was and where she came from. She was there quite often with a small yellow-haired, quite boy. I wondered what ever happened to the woman and the boy.
    Bonnie H.

  5. toy smith says:

    Her name was Evie (Eva) Fay Smith. She was from Philadelphia, Mississippi. She and Hank had an affair from ’43 ’till he died new years eve ’53. Hank asked her to marry him in December ’43 and she said ‘YES” but her father said no because he thought Hank was a drunk and a sinner bound for hell. He said she was not old enough to get married. HE DID NOT KNOW SHE WAS WITH CHILD, HANK’S CHILD. THE YELLOW HAIRED BOY SEEN WITH THE PRETTY DARK HAIRED WOMAN at the Louisiana Hayride. Hank married someone else and Evie did the same, however, Hank came to visit the boy, never telling anyone the child was his. Evie kept the secret ’till her death in ’83. They never stopped loving each other. Evie called him “Hyram,” his real name. The boy finally put it all together years later but has never spoken about what he knows.

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