Saenger to host Hank Williams Sr. production


The Saenger Theater will mark the 94th anniversary of the birth of Hank Williams Sr. with the showing of a motion picture about his final days and a documentary that celebrates the legendary country singer’s love affair with 1950s Biloxi.

In fact, when “The Last Ride” plays on Sunday, Sept. 17 at 1:30 p.m. at the Saenger, the movie will be playing just down the street from the location of a nightclub where Williams is said to have made his last public performance. General admission tickets for the show are $8 in advance or $10 on the day of show. Advance tickets are available now at the Biloxi Visitors Center, U.S. 90 north of the Biloxi Lighthouse, and the Donal M. Snyder Sr. Community Center, 2520 Pass Road in west Biloxi. 

“The Last Ride,” a 90-minute feature film that stars Henry Thomas (young Elliott in “E.T.”), will be preceded by a 10-minute Mississippi Public Broadcasting documentary that chronicles Williams’s frequent visits to Biloxi. He performed at Sie’s Place, a nightclub that was at the corner of Reynoir and Division streets, where he had befriended owner Sie Simon. During his Biloxi visits, Williams also befriended Biloxi businessman and civic leader F. Yankie Barhanovich, an impresario in his own right.

The documentary, which borrows its title from the Williams single “Ramblin’ Man,” features excerpts of the singer-songwriter’s best-known songs; interviews with the late Sie Simon; Simon’s daughter, Kay Bankston; Frank Barhanovich Jr., son of Yankie Barhanovich; and others who knew Williams.

“This was a special time in Biloxi’s history,” said Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, who was 9 years old at the time. “Hank Williams Sr. must have appreciated the hospitality and friendship of people like Sie Simon and Yankie Barhanovich, and he obviously enjoyed his visits here, since he returned so many times.”

“The Last Ride” follows the last three days of the life of Williams, whose meteoric career produced 35 Top 10 country singles, including such classics as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “I Saw the Light.” He is regarded as one of the most important figures in country music, although he died at age 29, a life checkered by alcohol and drug use. He died in the backseat of a car en route to New Year’s shows in West Virginia and Ohio.

Only three weeks before his death, on Dec. 7, 1952, Williams had played at Sie’s Place, reportedly his last public performance. Earlier in the day, he had performed a benefit for the Biloxi Doll and Toy Fund, an engagement arranged by Barhanovich.

Williams’s bond to his Biloxi friends was so strong that he acknowledged audience members Simon and Barhanovich at his wedding in New Orleans Municipal Auditorium in October 1952. Simon and Barhanovich were honorary pallbearers at his funeral in Montgomery, Ala. In fact, at least three other Coast residents — C.T. Switzer Sr., Leo Todaro and Pee Wee Maddux – were among the throng of 20,000 at the ceremony.

“The Last Ride,” which was released in 2012, also stars Jesse James; Fred Dalton Thompson, the former Tennessee senator known for roles in TV’s “Law & Order” and several motion pictures; and Kaley Cuoco of TV’s “The Big Bang Theory.”


Learn more about ‘The Last Ride’

The trailer: To see the trailer for the Biloxi production, click here.

The background: To learn more about the production – including info on the cast and crew, the soundtrack and to see a photo gallery of the stars – click here.

The Biloxi poster: To print the poster from the Biloxi engagement of “The Last Ride,” click here.