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The offspring of famous musicians often have a hard time creating a career for themselves, yet Hank Williams, Jr. is one of the few to develop a career that is not only successful, but markedly different from his legendary father. Originally, Hank Jr. simply copied and played his father's music, but as he grew older, he began to carve out his own niche and it was one that owed as much to country-rock as it did to honky tonk. In the late '70s, he retooled his image to appeal both to outlaw country fans and rowdy Southern rockers, and his makeover worked, resulting in a string of Top Ten singles -- including the number one hits "Texas Women," "Dixie on My Mind," "All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)," "Honky Tonkin'," and "Born to Boogie" -- that ran into the late '80s.
Hank Jr. never was above capitalizing on his father's name, yet his tributes and name-dropping often seemed affectionate, not crass. Also, Bocephus -- as his father nicknamed him when he was a child -- was a passionate cheerleader for patriotic American values; he even wrote a pro-Gulf War song during 1991. All of these actions helped make him an American superstar during the '80s, becoming one of the most recognizable popular culture figures of the era. As new country took over the airwaves in the '90s, Williams slowly disappeared from the charts and his concerts stopped selling as well as they did ten years earlier, yet he retained a devoted core audience throughout the decade.
The son of Hank and Audrey Williams, Hank Jr. was born in Shreveport, LA, in 1949. Less than four years later, his father died, leaving behind a huge legacy. When Hank Jr. was eight years old, Audrey decided to push her son into the spotlight, positioning him as the rightful heir to his father's legacy. Dressed in a white Nudie suit, he would sing Hank Sr.'s biggest hits on package tours, and by the time he was 11, he had made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. After a few years of touring, Hank Jr.'s voice broke in 1963. As soon as his voice changed, Audrey had her son sign a contract with MGM Records.
Hank Jr. recorded his father's "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" as his debut single, and the record was a hit upon its early 1964 release, climbing to number five. Later that year, he sang all the material for the Hank Williams, Sr. biopic Your Cheatin' Heart and starred in the film A Time to Sing. Though he immediately had a hit, he wasn't able to follow it up with another Top Ten hit until 1966, when his self-penned "Standing in the Shadows" reached number five. By that time, he had begun to grow tired of his reputation as a Hank Williams imitator and was trying to create his own style, as "Standing in the Shadows" proved. Following that single, he began to explore rock & roll somewhat, occasionally performing under the name Rockin' Randall.
Despite his half-hearted rock & roll attempts, Williams continued to concentrate on country music, turning out a string of hit singles, including the number one "All for the Love of Sunshine" and a number of inspirational cuts released under the name Luke the Drifter, Jr., a reference to his father's alter ego. Though his career was doing well, Hank Jr. began falling into drug and alcohol abuse after he turned 18 years old. His personal life became progressively more complicated, culminating in a suicide attempt in 1974. Following the attempt, Williams moved to Alabama, where he not only got his life together, but he changed his musical direction as well. Hooking up with Southern rockers like Charlie Daniels and the Marshall Tucker Band's Toy Caldwell, he recorded Hank Williams, Jr. & Friends, which fused hardcore country with rock & roll. Though he wasn't scoring as many hits as he had in the early '70s, his music was becoming more original and focused.
Just as his career was being revived, tragedy beset Williams. While he was climbing a mountain in Montana in 1975, he fell 442 feet down the side of the mountain. His injuries were serious -- his skull was split and his face was crushed -- but he survived. Following extensive reconstructive cosmetic surgery, he had to relearn how to speak and sing. Williams' recovery period lasted a full two years. When he re-emerged in 1977, he aligned himself the outlaw country movement, as Waylon Jennings produced Hank Jr.'s comeback effort, The New South. It took several years before Williams began to have hits again -- his biggest hit in the late '70s was a cover of Bobby Fuller's "I Fought the Law," which reached number 15 -- but in the final six months of 1979, he had two Top Ten singles, "Family Tradition" and "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound," which began a virtually uninterrupted streak of 29 Top Ten hits that ran into 1988.
Throughout the '80s, Hank Jr. was one of the most popular, and controversial, figures in country music. Following his image makeover, he appealed primarily to young and rowdy crowds with his hell-raising anthems and jingoistic ballads. Though he had established his own distinctive style, he continued to name-check and pay tribute to his father, and these salutes became as much a part of his act as his redneck rockers. Both the wild music and the party-ready atmosphere of his concerts made Hank Jr. an immensely popular musician and helped him crossover into the rock & roll audience. Williams' career really began to take off in 1981, when he had three number one hits -- "Texas Women," "Dixie on My Mind," and "All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)" -- and Rowdy began a streak of 15 gold or platinum albums that ran until 1990. During that time, he won several awards, including back-to-back Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year in 1987 and 1988.
By the end of the decade, Hank Jr.'s persona was becoming a little tired, especially in light of the new breed of clean-cut new country singers who had taken over Nashville. Williams could still have a hit -- such as "There's a Tear in My Beer," which was an electronic duet between him and his father -- but by the end of 1990, he was no longer hitting the Top Ten and by the middle of the decade he had trouble reaching the Top 40. Despite his declining record sales, Hank Jr. remained a popular concert draw into the latter half of the '90s, as well as a relatively prolific character in the studio. His string of new albums tapered off in the early 2000s, with 2003's I'm One of You marking his final album for several years. Hank Jr. returned toward the decade's end, however, with 127 Rose Avenue appearing in 2009. 2012's Old School New Rules, which featured guest appearances by Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins, was the first release for Williams on his own Bocephus Records, an independent label based in Nashville, and marked how much Williams had taken over control of all aspects of his work and career.
Randall Hank Williams (born May 26, 1949), better known as Hank Williams, Jr. and Bocephus, is an American country singer-songwriter and musician. His musical style is often considered a blend of Southern rock, blues, and traditional country. He is the son of legendary country music singer Hank Williams and the father of Hank Williams III, Holly Williams, Hilary Williams, Samuel Williams, and Katie Williams.
Williams began his career by following in his famed father's footsteps, singing his father's songs and imitating his father's style. Williams's own style slowly evolved as he struggled to find his own voice and place within the country music industry. This trend was interrupted by a near-fatal fall off the side of Ajax Peak in Montana on August 8, 1975. After an extended recovery, he challenged the country music establishment with a blend of country, rock, and blues. Williams enjoyed much success in the 1980s, from which he earned considerable recognition and popularity both inside and outside the country music industry.
As a multi-instrumentalist, Williams's repertoire of skills include guitar, bass guitar, upright bass, steel guitar, banjo, dobro, piano, keyboards, harmonica, fiddle, and drums.
From 1989 until October 2011, a version of his song "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" was used as the opening for broadcasts of Monday Night Football.Hank Williams Jr. - Official Website Buchalter, Gail (October 22, 1979). "Hank Williams Jr. Fell Down a Mountain and Lived Now He's Climbing High on the C&w Charts". People.com 12 (17). Retrieved 3 August 2013. "The Fall". Country Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved 3 August 2013. "Hank Williams dropped from Monday Night Football - Richard Deitsch - SI.com". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2011-11-27. "ESPN pulls Williams from MNF opening". ESPN.com. October 4, 2011.
ContentsBiography1.1 Early life and career1.2 A change in appearance and musical direction1.3 Acceptance into the country music establishment
Early life and career
Williams was born on May 26, 1949 in Shreveport, Louisiana. His father nicknamed him Bocephus (after Grand Ole Opry comedian Rod Brasfield's ventriloquist dummy). After his father's untimely death in 1953, he was raised by his mother, Audrey Williams. While he was a child, a number of contemporary musicians visited his family, who influenced and taught him various music instruments and styles. Among these figures of influence were Johnny Cash, Fats Domino, Earl Scruggs, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Williams first stepped on the stage and sang his father's songs when he was eight years old. In 1964, he made his recording debut with "Long Gone Lonesome Blues", one of his father's many classic songs.
Williams provided the singing voice of his father in the 1964 film Your Cheatin' Heart. He also recorded an album of duets with recordings of his father.
Williams' early career was guided, and to an extent some observers say outright dominated, by his mother, who is widely claimed as having been the driving force that led his late father to musical superstar status during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Audrey, in many ways, promoted young Hank Jr. as a Hank Williams impersonator, even to the extent of having stage clothes designed for him that were identical to his father's, and encouraging vocal styles very similar to those of his father.
A change in appearance and musical direction
Although Williams's recordings earned him numerous country hits throughout the 1960s and early 1970s with his role as a "Hank Williams impersonator", he became disillusioned and severed ties with his mother.
By the mid-1970s Williams began to pursue a musical direction that would eventually make him a superstar. While recording a series of moderately successful songs, Williams began a heavy pattern of both drug and alcohol abuse. Upon moving to Alabama, in an attempt to refocus both his creative energy and his troubled personal life, Williams began playing music with Southern rock musicians including Waylon Jennings, Toy Caldwell, and Charlie Daniels. Hank Williams, Jr. and Friends (1975), often considered his watershed album was the product of these then-groundbreaking collaborations. In 1977 Williams recorded and released One Night Stands and The New South, and worked closely with his old friend Waylon Jennings on the album Once and For All.
On August 8, 1975 Williams was nearly killed in a mountain-climbing accident. While he was climbing Ajax Peak in Montana, the snow beneath him collapsed and he fell almost 500 feet onto rock. He suffered multiple skull and facial fractures. To hide the scars and the disfigurement from the accident, Williams grew a beard and began wearing sunglasses and a cowboy hat. The beard, hat, and sunglasses have since become his signature look, and he is rarely seen without them.
Acceptance into the country music establishment
Williams's career began to hit its peak after the Nashville establishment gradually—and somewhat reluctantly—accepted his new sound. His popularity had risen to levels where he could no longer be overlooked for major industry awards. He was prolific throughout the 1980s, sometimes recording and releasing two albums a year. "Family Tradition", "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound", Habits Old and New, Rowdy, The Pressure Is On, High Notes, Strong Stuff, Man of Steel, Major Moves, Five-O, Montana Cafe, and many others resulted in a long string of hits. Between 1979 and 1992, Williams released 21 albums, 18 studio & 3 compilation, that were all, at least, certified gold by the RIAA. Between 1979 and 1990, Williams enjoyed a string of 30 Top Ten singles on the Billboard Country charts, including eight No. 1 singles, for a total of 44 Top Ten singles, including a total of 10 No. 1 singles, during his career. In 1982, he had nine albums simultaneously on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, none of which was greatest hits or live. In 1987 and 1988, Williams was named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association. In 1987, 1988, and 1989, he won the same award from the Academy of Country Music. The pinnacle album of his acceptance and popularity was Born to Boogie. During the 1980s, Williams became a country music superstar known for catchy anthems and hard-edged, rock-influenced country. During the late 1970s and into the mid-1980s, Hank Jr's songs constantly flew into the number one or number two spots, with songs such as "Family Tradition", "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound", "Old Habits", "Ain't Misbehavin'", "Born to Boogie", and "My Name Is Bocephus". The 1987 hit single Wild Streak was cowritten by Houston native Terri Sharp, for which Williams and Sharp both earned gold records.
In 1988 he released a Southern pride song, "If the South Woulda Won". The reference is to a Southern victory in the Civil War. The song proposes Southern holidays, honoring Elvis Presley, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Patsy Cline. Hank Williams Jr. would run for president of the South. He would place the capital in Montgomery, Alabama, honoring his father, Hank Williams Sr., with his image on the $100 bill. He also implies that in the current United States drug dealers are not prosecuted and killers get off free and calls for swift executions instead.
His 1989 hit "There's a Tear in My Beer" was a duet with his father created using electronic merging technology. The song was written by his father, and had been previously recorded with Hank Williams playing the guitar as the sole instrument. The music video for the song combined existing television footage of Hank Williams performing, onto which electronic merging technology impressed the recordings of Hank Jr., which then made it appear as if he were actually playing with his father. The video was both a critical and commercial success. It was named Video of the Year by both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. Hank Williams Jr. would go on to win a Grammy Award in 1990 for Best Country Vocal Collaboration.
He is well known for his hit "A Country Boy Can Survive" and as the performer of the theme song for Monday Night Football, based on his 1984 hit "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight". In 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994, Williams's opening themes for Monday Night Football earned him four Emmy Awards. In 2001, Hank rewrote his classic hit "A Country Boy Can Survive" after 9/11, renaming it "America Can Survive". In 2004, Williams was featured prominently on CMT Outlaws. In 2006, he starred at the Summerfest concert.
He has also made a cameo appearance along with Larry the Cable Guy, Kid Rock, and Charlie Daniels in Gretchen Wilson's music video for the song "All Jacked Up". He and Kid Rock also appeared in Wilson's "Redneck Woman" video. Hank also had a small part of Kid Rock's video "Only God Knows Why", and "Redneck Paradise". He is also referenced in numerous songs by modern-day country singers, including Kid Rock, Brantley Gilbert, Gretchen Wilson, Alan Jackson, Justin Moore, Trace Adkins, and Aaron Lewis.
In April 2009, Williams released a new single, "Red, White & Pink-Slip Blues", which peaked at number 43 on the country charts. The song was the lead-off single to Williams's album 127 Rose Avenue. The album debuted and peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Also in July 2009, 127 Rose Avenue was announced as his last album for Curb Records.Hank Williams, Jr. interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058765/ "Hank Williams visits W.Va. mine survivor". USA Today. January 11, 2006. Morris, Edward (2009-07-21). "Hank Williams Jr. says new album is his last for Curb Records". Country Music Television. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
Williams opened for Super Bowl XL on February 5, 2006, on ABC and was in the stands as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
On April 10, 2006, CMT honored Williams with the Johnny Cash Visionary Award, presenting it to him at the 2006 CMT Music Awards.
On November 11, 2008, Williams was honored as a BMI Icon at the 56th annual BMI Country Awards. The artists and songwriters named BMI Icons have had "a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers."
In 2011, Williams was named one of "Five Living Legends" of his native Shreveport, Louisiana, by Danny Fox (1954-2014) of KWKH radio. Others named were Bob Griffin of KSLA and KTBS-TV and James Burton. Two other cited, Claude King and Frank Page, both died in 2013."Hank Williams, Jr. to be Honored as Icon at 56th Annual BMI Country Awards". bmi.com. Retrieved 2010-10-05. "Wayne Grimes obituary". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved June 2, 2014. "Living Legends of Shreveport – Danny Fox’s Top 5". KWKH. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
Like his father, a lifelong Republican, Williams has been politically involved with the Republican Party. For the 2000 election, he redid his song "We Are Young Country" to "This is Bush–Cheney Country". On October 15, 2008, at a rally in Virginia Beach for Republican presidential nominee John McCain, he performed "McCain–Palin Tradition", a song in support of McCain and his vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. He has made many contributions to federal election campaigns, mostly to Republicans, including Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign.
In November 2008, Williams explored a run for the 2012 Republican nomination as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee for the seat held by Bob Corker, though his publicist said Williams "has talked about it, but no announcement has been made". Williams did not run, and Corker was easily reelected to a second term.
2011 Fox and Friends appearance
In an October 3, 2011, interview with Fox News Channel's Fox and Friends, Williams referred to a June golf game in which President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner had teamed against Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Governor John Kasich, saying that match was "one of the biggest political mistakes ever".
Asked about why that golf game disturbed him, Williams said, "Come on. That'd be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu ... in the shape this country is in?" He also stated the President and Vice President are "the enemy" and compared them to "the Three Stooges". When anchor Gretchen Carlson later said to him, "You used the name of one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe, I think, the president." Williams replied, "Well, that is true. But I'm telling you like it is." As a result of his statements, ESPN dropped Williams' opening musical number from its Monday Night Football broadcast of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus the Indianapolis Colts and replaced it with the national anthem.
Later, Williams stated his analogy was "extreme – but it was to make a point", and "Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood ... I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me – how ludicrous that pairing was. They're polar opposites, and it made no sense. They don't see eye-to-eye and never will."
Williams went on to claim he has "always respected the office of the president ... Working-class people are hurting – and it doesn't seem like anybody cares. When both sides are high-fiving it on the ninth hole when everybody else is without a job – it makes a whole lot of us angry. Something has to change. The policies have to change." ESPN later announced they were "extremely disappointed" in Williams' comments, and pulled his opening from that night's broadcast.
Three days later, ESPN released a statement announcing Williams and his song would not return to Monday Night Football, ending the use of the song that had been part of the broadcast on both ABC and ESPN since 1989. Williams has further expressed defiance and indifference on his website, and said he was the one who made the decision. "After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision," he wrote. "By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It's been a great run." Williams' son, Hank Williams III, stayed neutral in the debate, telling TMZ.com that most musicians, including his dad, are "not worthy" of a political discussion.
After his song was pulled from Monday Night Football broadcasts permanently, Williams recorded a song criticizing President Obama, ESPN and Fox & Friends titled "Keep the Change". He released the track on iTunes and via free download at his website. The song garnered over 180,000 downloads in two days.
Williams continues to make his contempt for President Obama known; during a performance at the Iowa State Fair in August, 2012 he told the crowd, "We've got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S. and we hate him!"."McCain–Palin Tradition" "NEWSMEAT ▷ Hank Williams, Jr's Federal Campaign Contribution Report". Newsmeat.com. Retrieved 2011-11-27. "Hank Williams Jr. For Senate? - Real Clear Politics – TIME.com". Realclearpolitics.blogs.time.com. 2008-11-25. Retrieved 2011-11-27. "ESPN pulls Hank Williams Jr. intro after singer links Obama with Hitler". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. 2011-10-03. Retrieved 2011-11-27. "ESPN, Hank Williams Jr. part ways". ESPN.com. October 6, 2010. "ESPN - Hank Williams Jr. theme song won't return to Monday Night Football - ESPN". Espn.go.com. 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2011-11-27. "Hank Williams Jr.'s Son - My Dad Should NOT Talk Politics". TMZ.com. 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2011-11-27. Weir, Tom (October 10, 2011). "Hank Williams Jr. retaliates with song that slams Fox". USA Today. "Hank Williams Jr. Thrives With Downloads, Media Coverage Surrounding Controversy". CMT News. October 12, 2011. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/hank-williams-jr-tells-crowd-obama-muslim-hates/story?id=17042110