Hank Williams, Jr.: Beyond a family tradition
|Hank Williams Jr – photo by Rick Diamond of Getty Images|
Today when it comes to describing country music history, you cannot help but add Hank Williams, Jr. as one of the innovators and influencers. There are few acts in the music business period that can withstand musical style changes in the field of country music for decades and still crank out hits. He has helped open the door to newer acts by having them open for his concerts. Music doesn’t fall far from the music tree as his children are following the legacy that he has followed with his dad, Hank Williams.
Hank Williams, Jr. recently released, “It’s About Time,” that serves a reflection on the multiple decades of pure raw country music. It achieved the highest studio album peak position of his career with a No. 2 album on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and broke the Top 10 on Billboard’s Top 200, landing at No. 8. With numerous honors and recognition, as well as charity work over the years, one would wonder when he would fully be accepted as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Whether you know him as Hank, Jr., Bocephus, or the son of Hank Williams, there is no question about it, he has influenced many of singers across multiple genres of music.
Recently, I got the chance to ask Hank Williams, Jr. a few questions on his musical legacy, as well his new album.
Kentucky Country Music: What was the deciding factor to having Chris Stapleton to open for you on several shows this summer while on tour?
Hank Williams, Jr: Well, my manager and agent called me a year ago and said they had this really great guy that they wanted me to consider opening some shows. I was thinking who is this guy? Then I heard his songs and he reminded me a lot like myself and my buddies Willie, Waylon, and Johnny. He was just himself. Then, pow, he starts winning all these awards and people start to discover him. It really wasn’t a thing of I wanted him or not, it was about the music and what I felt the fans that come to my shows would like. I think it is a very good package and that the fans coming to the show are going to love both his and my show.
Do you feel like you are passing the “country music torch” to Eric Church and Justin Moore with the release of “Are You Ready for the Country” and “Born to Boogie” respectively?
HW: Hell no. I am not done yet and I don’t think those guys would want me to think that I am done and ready to pass along the torch. I have a lot of respect for those guys and their musicianship, and I know they have said many times that they have listened to me for years. So I don’t think this is the right time to hang it up. I am still having fun and making great records.
With “Dress Like an Icon,” you are correct – women are drawn to a sharp dressed man. What would you suggest men have to impress the ladies? Also, what kind of person do you think can pull of a rhinestone suit by Manuel or Nudie?
HW: Hey now, those words were very easy to come to me when I wrote that song. I am serious now, that song has a ton of meaning. No matter who you are, you have to be comfortable with what you are wearing, how you look, how you feel, and that’s really what this song talks about. Today, Manuel and Nudie suits are not that common, but back in the day, that was really the happening thing.
You have never stopped making music. What would be an estimate of how many songs that you have written, but not yet released?
HW: I write songs all the time. I used to have scraps of paper everywhere with lyrics of songs, titles to songs, and just ideas that came to me for a song. Now, I keep the iPad close by and I write no matter where I am. I have written thousands of songs, some I have recorded, some I have in the catalog, while others have been recorded by other artists.
You keep hearing reports that people are not buying albums anymore, but you, along with Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson have proven them wrong with charting high on the Billboard album charts. Why do you think people are still drawn to traditional country music over the decades?
HW: Good music is just that…good music. I think the fans tell the real story. I only do about 25 shows a year and I sell a lot of merchandise at those shows. I sell quite a few tickets to the shows. So if the fans didn’t want to hear my music, they wouldn’t buy tickets or buy albums. There is still a place for artists like me, and I found it at Nash Icon Records. Scott Borchetta let me make a record that I wanted and his team promoted to the fans. It is a win win for everyone.
Each of your children present a different style of country music, but always presented great showmanship on the stage just like yourself. What is something that you taught each of them about the music business?
HW: I support Holly, Hank III, Hilary, Katie and Sam in all they want to do in the music business or not. Holly is doing great at it. She makes great albums and still tours across the world. Shelton (Hank III) is making great music too. His style has changed over the years, but the fans love his shows and he knows how to perform, that’s for sure! The others are doing some things in music, but not to the extent that Holly and Hank III are.
I will say that “Just Call Me Hank” is a true biographical description of your life and career. At the end of the day, how do you want to be best remembered?
HW: I want the fans to know that I was real and made music that was for the fans.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.