Hank Williams Jr.

  • Country Western singer, songwriter and guitarist born Randall Hank Williams in 1949 in Shreveport Louisiana.
  • Williams was just 3 years old when his father, the legendary Hank Williams Sr., died. He was raised by his mother, and many contemporary musicians visited him as a child, including Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Fats Domino, teaching him to play the guitar and influencing him. Williams’ first stage performance was at 8 years of age – he sang some of his father’s songs.
  • His status as the son of Hank Williams as well as his connections in the country music industry opened the door for Williams. In 1964, he made his recording debut with one of his father’s classics, Long Gone Lonesome Blues, reaching #5 on the Country chart. It was included in his debut album released that year, Hank Williams Jr. Sings the Songs of Hank Williams. That same year, he provided the singing voice of his father in the film Your Cheatin’ Heart, and the soundtrack album was Williams’ second album release.
  • From 1964 to 1975, he released 25 more albums, including tributes to his father and covers of old Country & Western standards, with an occasional song penned by Williams Jr. His style was mainstream, traditional country music – very much in the shadow of his father. He was popular with country music fans, and his albums sold reasonable well – he even had a #1 country album in 1969 with Songs My Father Left Me, and 8 singles reached the top 5 of the country chart, including Eleven Roses, which reached #1 in 1972.
  • In the mid-70s, his musical style evolved to what became known as outlaw country. He began performing with Southern Rock musicians like Waylon Jennings and Charlie Daniels. In 1975, he released his watershed album, Hank Williams Jr. and Friends. He no longer imitated his father’s style – instead, he transitioned to country rock. It was his first album where most of the songs were written by Williams Jr. It sold modestly, and only 1 single charted, with Stoned at the Jukebox peaking at #17 on the country chart. The country music establishment was reluctant to embrace the new Williams style, but his popularity with fans continued to grow with each subsequent release, and by the early 80s, he was in the running for all of the country music awards programs.
  • In 1975, Williams nearly died during a fall while mountain climbing. He spent 2 years recovering from the accident, requiring reconstructive surgeries and therapy to learn how to talk and sing again. To hide the scars from the accident, he grew a beard, wore sunglasses and a cowboy hat. It became his signature look, and he was rarely seen without it.
  • His albums released from 1979 to 1989 were immensely popular – all 14 studio albums were top 10 on the country album chart, with 6 consecutive #1 albums from 1984 to 1989, and 5 albums that were certified platinum. He had 28 singles in the top 10 of the country singles chart, with eight #1 songs. All 3 singles from the Rowdy album reached #1 in 1981 – Texas Women, Dixie On My Mind and All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down).
  • He continued on the rowdy theme with 1984’s All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight – in 1989, a reworked version of the song, performed by Williams, became the opening theme music for Monday Night Football. It remained the theme until 2011 (ESPN dropped the theme after Williams made some disparaging remarks about President Obama, and then they brought it back for the 2017 season). Williams won Emmy awards 4 times for the song.
  • He released 8 studio albums in the 90s, and 5 more from 2000 to 2016. These records were not as popular as his music from the 80s, as country music evolved to other styles like country pop and bro-country.
  • Williams received 3 Grammy nominations in 1964 and 1965, and then 14 years passed before his next nomination. In his career, he  received 10 nominations, with 1 win, for There’s a Tear in My Beer. He performed the song as a duet with his father – Williams Sr. wrote and recorded it in 1950 but never released it. In 1988, the recording was given to Williams Jr., and using electronic merging technology, a duet between father and son was created. The video for the song made it appear like they were performing together. In 1989, Williams Jr. shared the Grammy award with his father who died 36 years earlier.
  • Williams continues to perform concert tours and remains a popular draw for the 40-something and older country music fans. As he enters the 2020s, his career spans 7 decades, with 56 studio albums, 25 compilation albums and over 100 singles, including ten #1 singles. I suppose his father would be proud! Watch Hank Jr and Hank Sr sing together in the video for There’s a Tear in My Beer. Pretty cool.

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