You would think being the child of a country music giant would be an easy thing. But at second glance, you figure out - it really isn't. Sure, you have the "in" in some ways, but then it gets tough. Just ask Rosanne Cash, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis or more recently, Jessie Keith Whitley, and many others. Now imagine being Hank Williams Jr., the son of the father of country music, and one of the fathers of rock and roll. His father, Hank Williams Sr. had a lot to do with many kinds of music in a very short period of time. Now that's pressure. (More on that sentence later). I played Jr's songs and watched his career from behind the mic for many years.
Yes, This is Hank, Long Before The Hank We All Know (Fun to see) - 1972 - (A Much Loved Song Then)
Hank Williams Jr., so far has led a very interesting life and an equally interesting, highly successful country music career. He is a mega star in every sense of the word. Hank Sr,. died at 29, when Jr., was about 5. Jr., started performing at a very young age with the heavy load of being asked to sing mainly his daddy's songs as his dad was one of the most prolific songwriters of the 20th century. Hank Jr., was a kid. But as with all kids, they grow up and things change. Hank Williams Jr., through it all, having many personal issues, even falling off a mountain, but somehow landing safely on his own star went on to dominate country music on the charts, award shows, and more importantly in the hearts of millions of country fans for years.
This Song Began The Big Change
Hank Jr., has recorded some 60 albums, many of them were long before any real success. After being ushered onto various TV variety shows that were the rage in the early 1960's, he was singing his fathers music and recording music that wasn't really his own. His charting success was marginal, as country music of the 60's and 70's was very, very different. Then, artists would record many times a few albums every year. Then in 1975, while climbing in Montana, he literally fell 700 feet off Ajax Peak mountain and somehow survived. His recovery was years long as a result of severe head injuries and his physical appearance was forever changed. He had to learn to talk again, and sing too. A beard, long hair, dark glasses, and hat helped to mask the injuries, and to this day is seldom seen without them. But after that incident, everything changed in his career, and I think within him too.
Early Success - Fans Loved This!
In 1979 he recorded the song and album, Family Tradition, and things began to change. The first three singles were mildly successful but the title song began his rapid acceleration to the top. Two more albums were released with good success. And then 1981 and his aptly named The Pressure Is On album was released and Hank Williams Jr., was now on top. The songs, All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down, and Country Boy Can Survive joined Family Tradition as country song royalty and the legend began. Hank Jr., reinvented himself and spawned a decade of greatness that would reach far beyond country and just his own success. The beauty of these early successes was this - Hank invented a new sound, but lyrically he was paying homage to his father, family name, and the established stars of the era. Super smart! A win-win.
First Single From This Breakout Album #1
I always felt his music came from the outside of the norm. It was country, southern rock, blues, and a ton of other styles. People who couldn't stand country music in 1981, loved Hank Jr. He was spoken in the same breath as Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Tom Petty, Waylon. Willie, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers and others. But deep country listeners loved the fact that his mega hit Country Boy Can Survive gave them a voice, and helped them through the deep recession gripping them and the entire country at the time, as they lost their jobs, just as Merle Haggard's Big City album did the exact same year. Both were right on time.
Immense Hit - #2
Through the 1980s Hank ran off a long line of big hit songs. He was a five time Entertainer Of The Year Award Winner, and was ten time Grammy nominee and a 1 time winner, and sold over 70 million albums. Keep in mind, the album to me that broke him wide open, The Pressure Is On was his 33rd album. The line of statistics on him is insane. But honestly, on top of that there is so much more.
Big Song - Many Influences
It's very hard to explain to those who were not there. Hank Jr., was a hero to many when country music needed them. The Urban Cowboy sound wasn't resonating with many, and even though new acts like Alabama, George Strait, Reba, Earl Thomas Conley (ETC toured with Hank a lot) and John Anderson were starting up a new direction away from Urban Cowboy. Hank was viewed as not from Nashville, as different, not as formula, and to many as "my guy." He also became his own guy. Turned out he was a most imaginative songwriter like his dad. He may have been with his sound, the most important artist then as we were looking for a newer, younger direction.
This Song Has Had Many Lives
In any great country career you would hope and pray for that one "country anthem" to be on your concert playlist. A song like Friends In Low Places by Garth, where everyone stops in the bar and sings and knows all the words. Hank Jr., has four, Family Tradition, Country Boy Can Survive, Young Country, and All My Rowdy Friends (Are Coming Over Tonight). That last one of course has been the Monday Night Football theme for a generation or two, or three. Hank Jr., in his quest to be his own man and performer succeeded far beyond anyone's imagination. He has recorded with everyone on the planet from every format, and still sells out concerts. He was with Chris Stapleton at Blossom a few years ago here, and this summer he headlines Neon Nights in August, where the crowd will be loud and immense.
How's This For Collaboration? Reba, Willie, Tom Petty, And Reverend Ike (Written By Hank Sr.) #1
Hank Jr., has led a life of controversy as well at times, with various legal and personal issues - some large, and many times saying and doing things publicly that later I'm sure he wished he hadn't. He has his detractors - as well as millions of hugely loyal fans. He's not perfect, but that is precisely one of the reasons for his gigantic popularity. In a time with a lot of super model stars, Hank was just a guy, and fans loved that, as they love Luke Combs today. Hank's the every man to them. In addition, he was amazingly influential to many stars coming up through Nashville in image, look, style, and sound. And to the stars after them and to many today. (Just like his dad was).
Later Hank - This Became A Country Music Battle Cry (Look at the amount of celebs in this video)
Think about the artists I have mentioned in this article. Hank Jr., is a major influencer, contemporary, and peer of them all. He was more than just country, he was pop culture, he was a huge risk taker, and married about ten different styles of music and made them one, but never left his country roots for a possible greener pasture. Then after 32 albums, found his way and his own path and really helped change country in the 1980's. He and others started a newer sound in 1981 that led to Randy Travis, and Dwight Yoakam in 1986, to Garth. Clint, Travis, and Alan in 1989.
(Photo From The Incredible Justina Bucceri) At Blossom!
In our history, he is one of country's biggest, most influential, and iconic stars. He isn't just country - He's Hank Williams Jr.
And Can Still Have Number One's With His Dad's Songs Too.