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Kaw-Liga

Written by: 18 February 2016 No Comment

“Kaw-Liga” is one of just a handful of songs that Williams wrote with Fred Rose, who produced his records and published his songs through his company Acuff-Rose. Rose often “doctored” the songs Hank composed, making suggestions and revisions, with biographer Roger M. Williams noting that Rose’s contribution to Hank’s songs was probably craftsmanship, whereas Williams’ was genius. Roy Acuff later recalled:

“Hank would come up with the ideas, and Fred would say, ‘Well, write it down and let me look at it.’ Hank’d bring it to Fred, and Fred would sit at the piano and complement Hank and say, “Maybe you can express this a little differently, let’s change it a little bit,’ but Fred never changed Hank’s thinking.”[1]

Kawliga is a community in central Alabama on Lake Martin. Named after a legendary Indian for which a wooden statue was later placed near the lake, the song was written by Hank when he was staying at a lakeside cabin that he owned and still stands today. The song tells the story of a wooden Indian, Kaw-Liga, who falls in love with an “Indian maid over in the antique store” but does not tell her so, being, as the lyrics say:

Too stubborn to ever show a sign,
Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

The Indian maid waits for Kaw-Liga to signal his affection for her, but he either refuses or is physically/emotionally unable (interpretations vary) to talk, ever the stoical Native American of the popular stereotype.[2] Because of his stubbornness, Kaw-Liga’s love continues to be unrequited, with Hank Williams, the narrator/singer of the song lamenting,

Poor ol Kaw-liga, he never got a kiss,
Poor ol Kaw-liga, he don’t know what he missed,
Is it any wonder that his face is red?
Kaw-liga, that poor ol’ wooden head.

The song ends with the Indian maid being bought and taken away from the antique store by a buyer, leaving Kaw-Liga alone,

As lonely as can be,
And wishes he was still an ol’ pine tree.

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