Lum York

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Bassist William "Lum" York is best remembered for his stint as a member of Hank Williams' backing unit the Drifting Cowboys. Born November 16, 1918 in Elmore, Alabama, York taught himself music…
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Bassist William "Lum" York is best remembered for his stint as a member of Hank Williams' backing unit the Drifting Cowboys. Born November 16, 1918 in Elmore, Alabama, York taught himself music simply by listening to the radio, acquiring his first guitar from an older brother heading off for military duty; following the death of his father, he quit school to support his family, landing a job via President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps program. York first heard Williams perform on a Montgomery radio broadcast around 1939, and the two men soon became friends, playing music at night and working area shipyards by day. York did not officially join the Drifting Cowboys until 1944 but remained with the group for five years -- sometimes he was Williams' sole accompanist, also playing peacemaker between the singer and wife Audrey; somewhere along the way he earned the nickname "Lum" in honor of the popular radio comedy duo Lum & Abner, and over time York also began performing comedy bits on-stage, donning a wig, makeup and country bumpkin garb for his cornpone routines. In 1948, Williams and York relocated to Shreveport, Louisiana to begin a year-long residency with the famed Louisiana Hayride radio show; the success of his single "Lovesick Blues" earned Williams an offer to join Nashville's Grand Ole Opry a year later, but the terms of his Opry deal mandated that he perform with the broadcast's house band, forcing York and his fellow Drifting Cowboys to remain in Shreveport instead. They continued appearing on the Hayride for several months before York caught on with Bill Monroe and later with Lefty Frizzell; he also toured with George Morgan, Goldie Hill, and Marty Robbins before retiring from the road in 1954 to concentrate on his family, going to work for the East Baton Rouge School Board. He continued playing on weekends, however, over the years performing behind Tennessee Ernie Ford, Hank Thompson and Kitty Wells. After retiring from the school board, he made a pair of self-released records, My Life and Times With Hank Williams and Memories Are Forever, and although a 1998 heart attack forced him to abandon his string bass, he continued playing spoons with a Baton Rouge band called Richard Barksdale & the Country Style. In his twilight years, York also performed live alongside Williams' son Hank Jr., his grandson Hank III, and daughter Jett. York died on August 15, 2004 at the age of 85.