The fact that the career of HANK WILLIAMS JR. has endured to become
legendary is not surprising. What is surprising—no, make that
amazing—is that the man himself has survived the ride.
With 2002, comes the resurgence of the man and his music, and never has
there been a time Hank Jr. and his national anthem of ‘country boys
can survive’ seemed more relevant to world headlines and musical
tastes. A renewed Americanism and a pride in self sufficiency as a
national art form can only spell out his name in bold relief—be it
carved in a tree in rural Alabama or spray painted on a dilapidated
ghetto sidewall in Brooklyn. Hank Williams Jr., like America, has and
The release of Hank’s much anticipated new music project, “The
Almeria Club,” delivers on the promise of not only new musical
innovation and new sounds, but a fascinating lifting of the veil to
glimpse yet another original slice of family folklore.
Just grazing past the half century mark in his own life, Hank Williams
Jr. is at an important juncture. Emerged fully from his father’s
imposing shadow, he’s looking back at the roots of his raising with a
new appreciation from whence he came. He’s mellowed a shade or two,
but lost none of the raw power and cutting edge that has steam powered
the engine that succeeded in propelling his own musical imprint into the
On “Almeria Club,” Hank is re-visiting the family tradition from the
exact site where Williams family history was originally penned. Hank Sr.
did it “his way” there prior to the birth of Randall Hank Williams,
his heir to the musical throne.
With his career crowding seventy albums, Hank has a fascinating career
to look back upon for a legend still in his prime. His discography
chronicles a bold profile of growth from adored offspring of a legendary
father, to titan of the modern country rock movement in his own right.
Is it any wonder that during the whole last decade, America came to its
collective fight each Monday night when this larger than life superman
of a musician looked into the camera and unleashed the national anthem
for viewers of ABC’s “Monday Night Football”—“Are you ready
for some FOOTBALL?” Those simple words won Hank not only a whole new
generation of fans but gave him the distinction of being the first
country performer to ever win an Emmy—a feat he repeated in ’90
Randall Hank was born May 26, 1949, one month before his father made a
landmark first appearance on “The Grand Ole Opry” stage in
Nashville. His daddy affectionately nicknamed his baby boy “Bocephus,”
after the ventriloquist dummy of the same name who shared the stage with
country comic Rod Brasfield. An ironic moniker in the fact that in years
to come, Hank Jr.’s uncanny genius for blending his own musical style
to cross all the conceivable boundaries between rock and country, would
find him, least of all, possessed of none of the qualities of his wooden
He was three when Hank Sr. died in 1952 and only five years older, at
eight, when his mother, Audrey, coaxed him onstage to sing his daddy’s
He made his own debut on the hallowed Opry stage at 11, and at 14 was in
the studio for his first record. His rendition of Sr.’s “Long Gone
Lonesome Blues” became a hit and transferred the family mantle of
stardom and all its blessings and curses to his young shoulders.
In the midst of his teen years, the gulf between Hank Jr. and
He was already a star, adored by fans, pursued by women twice his age,
and coming to terms with life in the fast, tempestuous business of
making music. The darkness that had clouded his father’s life seemed
destined on his horizon.
Record breaking crowds, chart breaking stats, heartbreaking personal
problems—Hank had his share of them all when he was hardly old enough
yet to vote. With his career popularity, he was growing restless, tired
of the expectations to be the “young Hank Sr.,” hemmed in by the
lack of space for the unique qualities of musical expression that were
as unique to Hank as his own fingerprints.
Hank was climbing out and climbing into his own shadow when he fell off
the mountain. His innovative, raw edged “Hank Williams Jr. &
Friends” was freshly in the can, steeping with the talents of young
musicians such as Dickie Betts, Toy Caldwell, and Charlie Daniels, who
came along side to support Hank’s new musical epiphany as a young
It was the ‘70s,--a time for taking risks-- and Jr. was never one to
bypass a new mountain to climb—either literally or musically. While
mountain climbing in Montana, he took a fall that by every law of nature
should have added the adjective “late” in front of his name on all
future press releases.
But Hank, as we all know, was never one to follow the ‘law.’ With
his head split open, his brain in his hand, and his face shattered, Hank
Williams Jr. had only begun to fight. From within the wellsprings of
courage and fight so much a part of his persona, Hank summoned up the
‘by God’ determination only a southern boy too young to die can
Survive he did, to come from the ashes, re-born as his own man. It’s
been a road he was never to look back from personally or musically.
His current project, “The Almeria Club” circa 2002, is the latest
stop on the odyssey that is Hank’s continuing journey set to music.
A time tested staple situated just south of Troy, Alabama, as the crow
flies, ‘The Almeria Club,’ where much of the project was recorded,
was built in 1907 and served for a time as both a school house and in
its later reincarnation, as the town’s community center.
It was here, as an old gentlemen recounted to Jr., that a fight broke
out during a performance by Hank Sr. in 1947—two years before Jr. was
to see the first light of day. Legend recalls an irate lover broke up
the concert that Hank Sr. was performing that night, welding a gun and
drawing a dead-eye bead on his sweetie and someone she shouldn’t have
been with. In the midst of the ensuing fray, Hank Sr. dropped his
guitar, grabbed his adored Miss Audrey, Jr.’s mother, around the waist
and literally headed for the hills. Country music’s most famous couple
of the day jumped out a backstage window in the old “Almeria Club”
and hightailed it through the Alabama woods to escape the gunfire.
Yep…Hank done it that way.
Hank Jr. celebrates the reincarnation of this important landmark as he
does all things: his way. His personal tradition of pushing his own
envelope to new musical levels holds true, as it always has, as rowdy
friends imported for the session included a full “who’s who” of
top musicians imported from Los Angeles, Austin, and Nashville. The vibe
is great country and blues, laced with a high-end acoustic feel, twined
with fiddle, banjo, upright piano, and slide guitar. Guest appearances
by Nickel Creek and Kid Rock add just the right seasoning for the master
himself to fry up a newly caught batch of multi-platinum.
The public Hank, whose concerts are parties thrown for thousands of
“guests of honor” who clamor before his stages, waving beer bottles
and Confederate flags and are legendary, is as relevant to music today
as he was the first day music buyers by the millions took his music to
heart. He’s a legend…so are his hits. In his private life, Hank
loves to hunt and fish, loves his wife and kids, loves his country, and
still loves to raise hell whenever possible. His every appearance
reminds us that America—like Hank—“can survive.” And will.
The pages of his bio can’t hope to contain the essence of his larger
than life persona and his legend.
Sufficient is it to say in this, the current chapter of greatness, Hank
Williams Jr. is a satisfied man.
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