The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the mayor of Knoxville wants to sell the Andrew Johnson Hotel. Built in 1930, its 18 stories made it the tallest hotel in East Tennessee, and it hosted all manner of luminaries.
Local historian and author Jack Neely claims that it is the only building in the world that housed–not at the same time–Jean-Paul Sartre, Amelia Earhart, Duke Ellington, Tony Perkins, Liberace, and Sergey Rachmaninoff, who gave the last performance of his life in Knoxville. The top floor was once the home of radio station WNOX’s Midday Merry-Go-Round, a live show famous for launching the careers of country music stars.
The hotel is also famous for being one of the last places that Hank Williams saw the light.
On December 31, 1951, the country crooner rode into town in a long black Cadillac. William and his 18 year old driver, Charles Carr, checked into the Andrew Johnson Hotel. Williams had to be carried to his room. Long plagued by back pain that was exacerbated by long car trips, Williams found relief in morphine shots, and that night, allegedly suffering from violent hiccups, he found a doctor who was willing to administer two shots of the opiate and pronounce him fit to travel to a New Year’s Eve gig in Charleston, West Virginia.
Porters then carried an inanimate Williams to the back seat of the car, and his driver rolled out at 10:45 PM heading through the darkness up highway 11-W toward Virginia. Carr discovered that Williams was dead after checking on him in Oak Hill, West Virgina. Williams was 29 years old, and his last single made it to the top of the country charts. It was “I’ll Never Get It Out of This World Alive.”
This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.