Hank Williams' alter-ego eulogized by House of Mercy this weekend

Hank Williams' alter-ego eulogized by House of Mercy this weekend

Funerals are a sad affair, attended perhaps more often out of social obligation than chance for celebration and commemoration. This weekend, the folks at St. Paul's House of Mercy want to give music fans a chance to change that sentiment.

"So many of us don't think about death. It's a thing we don't want to happen," remarks Reverend Russell Rathbun, House of Mercy founding minister.

Rathbun, who often volunteers as officiant for the funerals of folks who don't have obvious family connections - Jane and John Doe types - sees this weekend's performance as almost a practice funeral, a chance to think about life and death while enjoying country and gospel music, food, drinks and "a time for fellowship," as I believe I've heard it called at all the funerals I've attended.

So Hank Williams has been dead since 1953; who exactly will these folks be eulogizing?

Well, here's the run-down, from this week's Critics' Picks:

In 1950, country legend Hank Williams began recording religious songs and recitations under the name "Luke the Drifter," a pseudonym used to protect the marketability of his popular work. Two years later at the age of 30, Hank died after too few years of hard living. His Montgomery funeral was the largest in Alabama history, attended by as many as 25,000 mourners, and included performances by Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, and Red Foley. But what became of "Luke the Drifter?" To mark the impending demolition of the 1920s-era Bradshaw Funeral Home on Payne Avenue, a collective of music lovers from St. Paul's eclectic House of Mercy Church, including Reverend Russell Rathbun, Page Burkum and Jack Torrey of the Cactus Blossoms, and others will present "The Funereal Remembrance of Luke the Drifter," an imagining of a fictional Luke the Drifter's 1977 funeral. Open to folks who are a little bit Saturday night, a little bit Sunday morning, and everything in between, this participatory musical-theater experience will feature country music and eulogizing, gospel and recitations, food and drinks in a post-service reception-style format, and importantly, a reminder that whoever we are, however we live, we have one thing in common: We'll never get out of this world alive.

Or as the House of Mercy folks have been saying in their PR materials: "Come pay your respects, he wasn't all bad."

Luke the Drifter's "The Funeral"

"I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" - Hank Williams

The last single Hank Williams released, reached #1 posthumously in January 1953.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday October 13-15, 8:00. $15, with all proceeds going to House of Mercy. Bradshaw Funeral Home, 1174 Payne Avenue, St. Paul, MN. Tickets available now at House of Mercy online or at the door.

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