Hank III: Straight from the Darkness

 
As far as mainstream country, it's not that far off from like twenty years ago when my dad, Hank Jr. put out Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound. I'm just sticking to my guns, talking about the same topics. That's what country music has always talked about to me - drinkin' and smokin' and sinnin' on Saturday and bein' good on Sunday.

-Hank III

 

In our tabloid, celebrity-obsessed culture, it's little surprise that Williams' personal turmoil, famous bloodline and self-professed hard-drinking, hard-druggin' lifestyle hog most of the media attention. Everyone loves an outlaw, or loves to hate them. But Williams also possesses a natural flair for unapologetically raw, gratifyingly unruly and rowdy-as-hell songwriting. His tunes will swim through your whiskey-addled head for hours, spitting up blood and teeth from bar fights and sometimes reeking with the emotional mess of waking up in the gutter. Celebrations of drinking, fighting, fucking, flipping off the pious and shoving a metaphorical broken bottle in Nashville's self-righteous face abound, all delivered with a mischievous grin. Williams often drops the names of other country musicians he respects, from Waylon Jennings to Johnny PayCheck to George Jones, in his songs. Hank III's music is true to that spirit, even with the metal touches, weird experimentation and all, especially compared to most of what's currently coming off Music Row. It speaks to an era where country at its best wasn't afraid to look heartache and the roughness of working class life square in the face.

Hank III from hank3.com
Discussing the song "Me and my Friends" (listen to it here), Williams says, "Most folks, well maybe not everybody [sounds amused, as if he's got a few tight asses in mind], can relate to getting drunk with your friends and falling down or whatever. That's just a song about sticking around, making it through, doing what you got to do. About burning the candle at both ends. You can get destructive when you go through harder things, either destructive or creative. It tends to make you want to drink more, smoke more, do whatever you got to do. That's kind of what that's ["Me and my Friends"] falling back on. As far as mainstream country, it's not that far off from like twenty years ago when my dad, Hank Jr. put out Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound. I'm just sticking to my guns, talking about the same topics. That's what country music has always talked about to me - drinkin' and smokin' and sinnin' on Saturday and bein' good on Sunday. It's a Jekyll and Hyde, both worlds kind of thing. It's almost hypocritical. But, I mean, today's country, it's definitely hypocritical. It's so clean cut there's hardly any outlaws anymore. They don't give any rough kids a chance for country fans. You almost got to be a like a model or somethin' nowadays."

"It's a contrived controlled..." he continues, gathering up bile. "I'll give you a perfect fucking example – Hootie and the Blowfish. All of a sudden they get into country music, turn in a record. 'Oh, that's too country-sounding, we'll make it better so you'll have a number one hit song [taking on the voice of a pompous record exec].' And what happens? They go, 'Okay, y'all do your thing' and turn in the record the way [the label says] it's supposed to be made and get a number one hit song. If you play their game, you will be taken care of. If you talk shit and don't, you're an outcast and good luck on making it. But that's what all the true blue musicians out there do. They're unheard of and independent. That's just the way it is."

Hank Williams Sr.
By pursuing the music in his blood, Williams most likely never had the option of being an unknown. He made the decision to walk a tougher route than the cushy country career he probably could have had, and that certainly takes creative sincerity, a measure of integrity and brass gonads. In that spirit, he's been fighting the Reinstate Hank campaign for the past five years to restore Hank Sr.'s place in the Grand Ole Opry, explored in the song "The Grand Ole Opry Ain't So Grand." Hank Williams Sr. was fired from the Opry because of his drinking, and died a few months afterwards. Still, there seems to be a willingness to shell out his name if it will make a quick buck, but an unwillingness to afford something that goes beyond a bank balance – respect for his artistic legacy and influence.

"At Hank Williams' 50th anniversary [of his death] at the Grand Ole Opry [in 2003] they were paying homage to him. It was a TV appearance [and] the first time I mentioned it, I said, 'Folks, don't you think it's about time to have Hank Williams reinstated back into the Opry?' I got a big round of applause and all that. So, I started the movement going there," says Williams. "I got in touch with a couple presidents at the Opry, and was trying to be businesslike and respectful and in return I get a bunch of attitude saying, 'Oh we'll never reinstate a dead guy. That's absurd,' and acting like he's a nobody. And I was growing up around this town having to watch Hank Williams impersonators and stuff like that. Seeing stuff like that just starts to piss you off, [and] I watched them exploit him through the years and not give him the respect that they need to."

There is an online petition calling for reinstatement. Williams says, "Honestly, that's all [the public] can do. Just have awareness. All I can do is call them out and bust their balls. All I could be like is, 'I'll just let you hear what the public has to say about it.' That is where it's at right now. One day they might change their tune, but for now we're just calling them out and letting them know it could be handled better. We're talking about the first guy inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the little Gaylord secret society down in Nashville is too good for him? That just doesn't make sense. All they got to do is just step up. It ain't that hard to go, 'Okay, we'll do the right thing.' Simple as that."

Continue reading for more on the III...


Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!


You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!