In 1975, Hank Williams Jr. almost met his maker. Rock climbing in Montana, he fell nearly 500 feet onto snow-covered rock and landed in the hospital with skull and facial fractures. But, like the brazen, fire-bellied man he is, he refused to let this incident define him. You see, Williams isn’t one to allow circumstances to derail his journey, creatively or personally.
Persisting, with the power of a coal-fueled locomotive, he meets his demons with an iron fist – proving a country boy can not only survive but thrive. On July 22, he will play Daniel Island’s Volvo Car Stadium and promises an unpredictable night of songs, storytelling and satisfaction. We chatted with the outspoken singer about his upbringing, his influence on the current state of country music and just what fans can expect from his upcoming gig.
“Growing up on Franklin Road in Nashville, I never knew who was going to be over at the house,” said Williams. “Mother owned a booking agency with Buddy Lee called Aud-Lee Productions, and they promoted everything from musicians to wrestlers. So one morning you might see Little Richard or Fats Domino over at the house, or I would be taught how to play the banjo by Earl Scruggs.”
His exposure to the rotating talent that made their way through his childhood home definitely would inspire him to set off on a path of musicianship. This gaggle of characters were family friends, there to impart worldly wisdom and teach him how to pluck and strum like a pro.
“Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins would come over,” said Williams. “The house was full of great artists that all wanted to talk to mother about daddy and know how he wrote so many great songs.”
Williams, who topped the charts with classics like “Family Tradition” and “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” has carried on the songwriting practice. In addition to having one of the most recognizable, husky voices in the industry, Williams is a skilled musician – a player of the upright bass, steel guitar, dobro, piano and countless other instruments.
“I don’t plan out any part of the show,” said Williams. “I just feed off the audience. If I come out and I feel that energy, well, I promise you they will feel it back! I play a few different instruments, from the piano to fiddle to electric/acoustic guitars on stage and do a special acoustic set during each show.”
Williams is considered a rebel icon of the country world, but, when he first hit the scene, he wasn’t readily accepted with open arms by the conservative, God-centered genre that expected him to produce songs in the vein of his polished father. Recording with Waylon Jennings and Charlie Daniels, he began to build songs with much more grit – blue-collar, dirt-under-the-nail country that still holds up today.
“Now, years later, people come up to me and say my music inspired them or that I helped create their sound,” said Williams. “You know, people like Eric Church, Jason Aldean, Justin Moore and Chris Janson are all friends that I have toured with, and we have a complete understanding of what our sound is and what we like and don’t like.”
As for what he would be doing if he wasn’t rocking stages – Williams envisions himself as a hunting guide, draped in camo, hot on the trail of a white-tailed doe.
His songs tell of life on the outskirts, devoid of glamour, where John Deere holds more relevance than John Galliano; where Jim Beam is prized over Dom Pérignon. His tunes are road maps back to swampland, rich with gator meat and adventure – a Solo cup filled with Bud, the dirt kicked up by a Chevy filled with firewood. These are the vignettes one thinks of when the needle hits the groove on a Hank Williams Jr. album.
To purchase tickets to his upcoming show, visit volvocars.stadiumcharleston.com.
By Kalene McCort