If Daniel O'Donnell is the brightly scrubbed face of British country music then Hank Wangford is its guilty conscience, its dark and troubled grubby soul. Hank has picked at the miserable underbelly of country music for twenty eight years, inspiring others like Billy Bragg, The The, The Alabama Three and other alt.country musicians.
He has spread the word with his two ground breaking television series, Britain’s first on Country music, "Big Big Country" and "The A to Z of C&W" and his books "Lost Cowboys" and "Hank Wangford Vol 3 The Middle Years".
This messianic derailment onto the path of country music came from befriending and playing with Gram Parsons, ex-Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, in the seventies. This was at a time when Hank - as Dr Sam Hutt - was a rock 'n roll doctor. Many of his patients were from the world of rock music and the hippie alternative world. The Grateful Dead, the Who and the Rolling Stones were some of his clients.
It was when Gram Parsons came over to hang out in London with Keith Richards that Keith sent Gram with his wife to see Doctor Sam. Gram passed the country torch to Emmylou Harris and the Rolling Stones as well as to Doctor Sam. Since then Hank has fronted a series of hot country bands, aiming for country non-believers. It's not all misery. Some of his songs and stories are sad and some funny. His new album WHISTLING IN THE DARK has some recent pearls.
In 1999 the LOST COWBOYS played a tour of the Falkland Islands and filmed it for BBC's Video Diaries. As well as his songs and books, Hank has been writing travel articles for the Sunday Telegraph, the Guardian and Caribbean World. He has written on Romania, Georgia, Argentina, Uruguay, Coney Island, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Falkland Islands' tour, Route 66, Branson Missouri, Nude Mountaineering on Everest, eco-farmers in Marin County California and his son's marriage by Elvis Presley in Las Vegas.
Through the '90s Hank has done several radio series for the BBC: "Nine Pound Hammer" - the history of railroad songs in the USA, "Ghengiz Khan was a Cowboy Too" tracing the development of C&W music from its Mongolian roots and journey West. "Way Out West" about Galway and Connemara, his new-found spiritual home. "He'll Have To Go" on telephone songs, "Looking for the Lonesome Yodel" on yodel songs around the World and several others. Hank continues to be President of the Nude Mountaineering Society.
In another life, Hank is a doctor and continues to work in sexual healthcare and contraception. He lectures and trains doctors and nurses around Britain. He has trained doctors and nurses in Georgia and in Bosnia during the war. He regularly visits Transylvania, Romania where he has had a project for women since 1991 and has helped set up two clinics.
Hank knows that laughter, tears and music are the greatest healers we have. This is why he loves Country music. Hank continues to tour extensively both with the Lost Cowboys and as a duo with Reg Meuross touring village halls on the Rural Arts Scheme. This is an Arts Council and local Council supported scheme to bring music and arts to village halls. This is Hank’s NO HALL TOO SMALL tour and he has played in two hundred and twenty village halls throughout England and Scotland in the last three years. He is chronicling the tour for a book which he will finish once the new album is launched. The new album WHISTLING IN THE DARK is launched on November 24th 2008.
Hank is choosing to launch the CD officially at the Fisher Theatre in Bungay, back in the area where he started and a hefty stones’ throw from his birthplace Wangford. He will be bringing the Lost Cowboys with the great Martin Belmont (ex Elvis Costello, Johnny cash, Graham Parker and the Rumour) and the legendary BJ Cole on pedal steel.
Hank's time with Gram Parsons is described in "Hank Wangford Volume 111 The Middle Years", now out of print, and in Ben Fong Torres (2002) biography of Gram Parsons "Hickory Wind" on Simon & Shuster, and in Twenty Thousand Roads "The Ballad of Gram Parsons and his Cosmic American Music" by David N Meyer Bloomsbury (2008).