Sundy is devoted fan of Hank

Published 1:32 am Wednesday, April 27, 2005

By By LYDIA GRIMES Features writer
A person would be have a hard time finding a more devoted fan of Hank Williams Sr. than the subject of this week's profile. James "Hank" Sundy has studied the country music icon for more years than most of us want to count and has his own opinion of the real character of the man.
"I know that people remember Hank as a drunk," Sundy said. "Looking back on it, I believe that he was probably a manic depressive. They didn't have the know-how to diagnose things like that in those days. He also had a lot of pain and was on pain medication for a lot of the time. I have had some problems myself and know that these things can happen. I am not a drinker but I got hurt in a karate punch several years ago and had a lot of problems afterward. I can relate to many of the same things that he faced in his life."
According to Sundy, Hank Williams sang and played music with the "three R's," rhyme, rhythm and reason, and that is why his music was so popular.
Apparently Sundy relates to Hank Williams in many ways. He, like Hank before him, was once thrown out of the Ryman Auditorium.
"I was one of the few people thrown out of the Ryman Auditorium," Sundy said. "My family wanted to go to Opryland so I had them put me out in downtown Nashville so I could go to the Ryman. I paid my money and went in. I had my guitar with me and I was told not to play it in the auditorium. I told them I wouldn't play it but when I was on stage, some tourists asked me to play. I forgot all about my promise not to play. Then another group came in and Roy Acuff was with them. He sang and played and I just couldn't keep from singing and playing along with him. That's when they got me and threw me out of the auditorium. I went on to 'Tootsie's Orchid Lounge" where a lot of the entertainers hang out. There was a stage and when a tour group came in they asked me to sing. I did and they put money in a coffee can. There was $4.97 in the can. That was the most money I ever made in the shortest amount of time."
Sundy is a self-taught guitar player and singer. He has sung in schools, nursing homes and at the Hank Williams Festival in Georgiana several times.
"It doesn't matter if there are a few people or a big crowd," he said. "I just love to sing. I like to do fund-raisers for worthy causes."
Sunday was born in the country near Flomaton. His father was robbed and killed while running a service station when Sundy was only eight years old.
"My older brothers had to go out and find work to help support the family," Sundy said. "When I was 12 years old I got a job shining shoes and at the age of 14, I was a barber."
In those days, a person could get his hair cut and have his shoes shined in the same place. Sundy said he became a barber by observing between shoe shines.
It was about this same time that he began his lifelong connection to Hank Williams. Williams was singing on the Grand Ole Opry at the time and Sundy loved to listen to him. Hank had also been a shoeshine boy in Georgiana in the early days. Sundy even traveled to Georgiana in later years and found Hank's old shoeshine chair in the back of an old barber shop. He paid $100 for it and it now is one of his proudest possessions.
Sundy graduated from Century High School and worked his way through college at Alabama Christian College at Montgomery, now Faulkner University.
"With all the college that I have, I still don't have quite four years," he said. "I got a two year degree at Jefferson Davis, and attended the University of South Alabama and the University of Alabama."
In 1961 Sundy went with his brother to take the test to go to work at what was then Container Corporation. He passed the test with flying colors while his brother, Joe, didn't pass.
"He didn't pass, so he is still barbering, Sundy said. "There were four of us in the barbering business. My brothers Joe, Buddy and Billy, along with myself, ran Sundy Barber Shop in Flomaton."
Shortly after his going to work at Container, Sundy was tagged with the nickname of "Hank" because of his love for the country music singer. He also sings and plays the guitar and has had several songs recorded, along with his late son, Jimmy.
From 1961 to 2005, Sundy worked at the local paper mill. His last day of work was March 31, 2005, and he went out in style.
"I paid $100 to have a limo come to pick me up that day, " he said. "It was a lot of money but it was worth every penny. I had worked hard all those years and I wanted to leave in a special way."
Not only did he leave in a limo, but the whole shift came out to watch him leave.
He plans to enjoy his retirement with some traveling and spending time with his family, Anita, his daughters, and his grandchildren. His only son died a few years ago.
Don't be too surprised to find him picking and singing somewhere, which is one of the loves of his life.