Born as Randall Hank Williams, the American singer-songwriter the fans know better as Hank Williams Jr., is the son of a legendary country musician, Hank Williams. Another alias Hank Williams Jr. has also gone by is Bocephus. The genres of music he’s typically performed have been a blend of blues, country, and Southern-style rock. For Hank Williams Jr., it was like-father-like-son as he mimicked his father’s footsteps, first covering his father’s songs and imitating his style.
The first television appearance Williams Jr. made was on The Jimmy Dean Show in 1964 on ABC. He was fourteen years old at the time and performed many of his father’s songs. He also guest-starred in another program, Shindig! However, as much as following in his father’s footsteps had its merit, Williams Jr. still needed to find his own place in the world of country music.
On August 8, 1975, while at Montana’s Ajax Peak, Hank Williams Jr. fell off the side of the mountain that nearly claimed his life. It took a long time to recover, but once he did, instead of following his father’s style of traditional country music, Williams Jr. began to mesh together blues, country, and rock as a genre all his own. Already a talented multi-instrumentalist, his ability to play a range of instruments put him in a unique position to make the most out of his new musical path.
Although he was very successful serving as a musical impersonator of his father during the first part of his career, it wasn’t until he changed course with his music style did he catapult from stardom into superstardom. In addition to changing how he played music, he also changed his appearance. When Hank Williams Jr. had his near-fatal accident in Montana, he underwent a series of reconstructive surgeries, plus learning how to talk and sing again. Because of the disfigurement and scarring, Williams Jr. sported a beard, wore a cowboy hat, and sunglasses. This wound up becoming the signature look as he wore this in public nearly all the time.
Controversies & Legacies
Now that Hank William Jr. formed his own voice and identity, the critics, fans, and peers sat up and took notice. In 1976, Rolling Stone Magazine commented his brand of country music had always been among the best coming out of Nashville. At first, Nashville didn’t care for his music as he, along with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, was considered the outlaws of country music. However, as his popularity rose, the industry could no longer take a blind eye to his accomplishments.
This meant finally recognizing him with music industry awards that snubbed him and his blend of music styles. From Hank Williams Jr., it was one hit after another since returning from the near-dead and clean through the 1980s as one of the most productive musical artists in the business. On the Billboard Top Country Albums chart in 1982, Hank William Jr. had nine studio albums charting at the same time.
All the work was original. In 1988, the Country Music Association recognized Williams Jr. as Entertainer of the Year. He won this exact same award three years in a row from 1987 until 1989 with the Academy of Country Music. From 1989 until 2011, Monday Night Football played a refashioned version of one of Hank Williams Jr.’s songs, “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.” Now titled “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night, this continued until the artist made a statement, comparing then-president Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
Hank Williams Jr. has made it no secret he has been a loyal supporter of the Republican Party where he had considered at one point to run for political office, but never went through with it. In 2017, the song was reinstated with a new version that featured the combined performance of Hank Williams Jr., Florida Georgia Line, and Jason Derulo.
The discographic portfolio of Hank Williams Jr. boasts fifty-six studio albums to his credit, as well as twenty-five compilation albums, twenty-five music videos, and 109 singles. Of those singles, ten of them were number one hits in the U.S. As a solo artist and a musical collaborator, Hank Williams Jr. has earned several accolades, nominations, and awards for his music.
With the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), he earned his first gold certification from his second album, Your Cheatin’ Heart, which was released in 1964. From 1979 until 1992, he released seventeen studio albums that consecutively earned either gold or platinum certifications, also from the RIAA. Williams Jr., just like his own father, has become a music legend himself, and it doesn’t stop there. Born to Hank Williams Jr. were five children.
His son, Shelton, has performed as Hank Williams III. Four of his children have entered the music business while the fifth, Katherine Williams-Dunning, kept out of it. Unfortunately, her life was cut short when she died in a car crash on June 13, 2020.
Top 10 Hank Williams Jr. Songs
#10 – I’m for Love
In 1985, “I’m for Love” was the first single released from Hank Williams Jr.’s thirty-eighth studio album, Five-O. It was his seventh number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and it was a number five hit on the Canadian singles chart. “I’m for Love” remained on the charts for fifteen weeks and earned a series of nominations, including Single Record of the Year by the Academy of Country Music.
In this performance, Hank Williams Jr. lyrically shared what he’s for and what he’s against, as well as how society viewed the sign of the times as they were going, and still are, going down. Hank Williams Jr., in song and in lifestyle, has always been vocal about his personal views in a rather candid manner. Among his fans, this is considered a great thing. Among those who disagree, he couldn’t care less. “I’m for Love” is what he cared about most, both in song and as part of his lifestyle.
#9 – All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight
The popularity of “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” surged when it became the opening theme to Monday Night Football, which ran consistently from 1989 until 2011. Before becoming a staple on the NFL’s most popular night of the week, it was a number ten hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart when it was released in 1984, as well as a number six hit on Canada’s Country Singles chart. The album, Major Moves, was the thirty-seventh studio recording for Hank Williams Jr.
In the music video, the song featured artists such as George Jones, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Little Jimmy Dickens, Paul Williams, Cheech and Chong, George Thorogood, Mel Tillis, Kris Kristofferson, Grandpa Jones, Port Wagoner, Jim Varney, and from the Oak Ridge Boys, William Lee Golden, and Duane Allen. At the end of the video, homage is paid to the late Hank Williams with a ghostly Cadillac that flew into the night sky.
That touching music video, each illustrating a piece of an artist’s personality, won Video of the Year in 1984 with the Academy of Country Music, as well as in 1985 with the Country Music Association. There are a few versions to “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” namely the album version, single version, and the two made-for-NFL versions.
#8 – Born to Boogie
“Born to Boogie,” both song and album, was released in 1987 and became another hit favorite for Hank Williams Jr. The single peaked at number one position on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and Canada’s Country Singles chart. Both the single and the album won him a handful of award nominations, as well as wins for Entertainer of the Year in 1987 with the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association, and again in 1988. Also in 1988, he won Album of the Year with the Country Music Association. In the single, “Born to Boogie” was a classic Hank Williams Jr., lyrically sharing his autobiography in one of the most entertaining country songs ever to hit the charts. “Born to Boogie” is designed to boogie too, word for word.
#7 – Mind Your Own Business (featuring Reba McEntire, Tom Petty, Reverend Mike, and Willie Nelson)
The collaborated performance of “Mind Your Own Business” featured Hank Williams Jr., Reba McEntire, Tom Petty, Reverend Mike, and Willie Nelson, together, paying homage to the legendary Hank Williams, who first recorded this single in 1949. The 1986 cover version earned the artists a number one chart hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the Canadian Country Singles chart. The narration of the song targeted a local busybody whose notorious for snooping around and spreading gossip. The original inspiration of the song came from his personal relationship issues with his wife and how it earned so much public attention. His delivery of the song served as a slap in the face to the media to literally mind their own business.
When he first introduced the song in 1949 he commented there was a little bit of prophecy put into that song, which turned out to be the case. As for the collaborated performance by his son, as well as McEntire, Petty, Mike, and Nelson, it wasn’t only a song that paid homage, but as a shared opinion with common ground. “Mind Your Own Business” was the second of three hit singles that came from his thirty-ninth studio album, Montana Cafe. When fans pay close enough attention to this single, there are hints of Move it On Over, which is another Hank Williams, father, and son, classic.
#6 – Eleven Roses
“Eleven Roses” was a countrypolitan ballad that was recorded and released by Hank Williams Jr. in 1972. This was the first time the son of Hank Williams earned himself a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as on Canada’s Country Singles chart. It came from the album with the same name and was the first time for Williams Jr. to reach this pinnacle as a solo artist.
The focus of the story revolved around giving his love interest a bouquet of one rose short of a dozen, which was his hope when she looked into the mirror she’d find the missing twelfth rose staring back at her. The remorseful tone in Williams Jr.’s voice as the lyrical narrator made his tale not only gut wrenching believable but an easy favorite for fans of music that already saw a hint of blues, country, and a bit of rock already emerging from the artist before he officially became an outlaw in the music industry that was about to take the music industry by storm.
#5 – Ain’t Misbehavin’
Originally, “Ain’t Misbehavin” was a 1929 swing jazz song designed for the Broadway musical comedy, Connie’s Hot Chocolates. It was first made famous by Louis Armstrong’s trumpet solo, who admitted it was one of those songs a person could just cut loose with and swing with. There were a number of jazz greats, such as Leo Reisman and his orchestra, Bill Robinson, Gene Austin, Ruth Etting, and Fats Waller that each did “Ain’t Misbehavin'” justice with their own recordings.
It also inspired a number of artists from other musical genres to give this song a go, including Hank Williams Jr. In 1985, he recorded his outlaw country spin on the classic hit for his album, Five-O. In 1986, his version topped the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as Canada’s Country Singles Chart. It also earned him several accolades and award nominations.
#4 – All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)
In 1981, from the album, The Pressure Is On, “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)” peaked at the top of the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as the Canadian Country Singles chart. What started off as a song became a trendy catch-phrase as “All My Rowdy Friends” would appear again in a song title a few years later in an altered version that became almost as iconic as Hank Williams Jr. himself. It also appeared in a few other singles belonging to the artist, including “Born to Boogie” and “Keep the Change.”
The theme of the song focused on a disillusioned singer who used to enjoy a rowdy lifestyle with his friends before they all opted to settle down and abandon those old wild ways. However, in the lyrical tale, there’s a part of him that longs to relive those old times, which made direct references to his days in the music industry’s outlaw movement that saw himself, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and his father, Hank Williams.
#3 – Family Tradition (featuring Charlie Daniels)
“Family Tradition” was a single that shared the same name as his twenty-ninth studio album, which was released in 1979. For Hank Williams Jr., it was a number-four hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and a number sixteen hit on Canada’s Country Singles chart. It also became an RIAA-certified gold seller. This musical statement of rebellion was another masterful delivery that made Hank Williams Jr. the iconic superstar he is today.
This served as his notice that he was now forging his own path in the music industry instead of staying on the same path his father took as a world-class entertainer. As proud as he was to be his father’s son, he also needed to become his own man, which he did. During the third and second verses of “Family Tradition,” the fiddling talent of Charlie Daniels livened up the song to add more power to its lyrical punch.
#2 – There’s a Tear in My Beer (featuring Hank Williams)
As father and son, Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr. perform the duet, “There’s a Tear in My Beer.” The original recording belongs to Hank Williams, who performed this during one of his Nashville sessions between 1950 to 1951. However, he chose not to release it at the time. The demo of this recording was eventually given to Hank Williams Jr., who took it upon himself to have this re-recorded and released in 1989 as a duet with his father by using electronic merging technology.
In the original by Hank Williams, it is just himself and his acoustic guitar. In the remix, Hank Williams Jr. filled in the gaps, instrumentally and vocally. There was also a music video shoot for the song that combined old television footage of his father and present-day footage of himself to make it appear as if the two were performing together as a duet. Both the song and the video won over tremendous critical acclaim, as well as commercial success. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, “There’s a Tear in My Beer” peaked at number seven. It also won Video Of The Year by the Academy of Country Music, as well as the Country Music Association. It also won a Grammy Award in 1990 for Best Country Vocal Collaboration, crediting both father and son.
#1 – A Country Boy Can Survive
The RIAA-certified platinum hit, “A Country Boy Can Survive” deservedly earned top honors, and not simply as another hit song. Released early 1982, it climbed as high as number two on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and on the Canadian Country Singles chart. This is one of Hank William Jr.’s signature songs, despite the fact it did not reach number one like some of his other hits did.
In addition to its 1982 accomplishments, a rewritten, re-recorded, and retitled version of this song, now “America Will Survive” was the artist’s proclamation after the 9/11 attacks that took the twin towers down on September 11, 2001. This resulted in this version of the song peaking at number forty-five on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. In 2007, the original version was released again to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its original release, which saw “A Country Boy Can Survive” hit the same country music charts again at number forty-five. There was also a music video that was shot for the 2007 re-release.
The theme behind this single saw a reflection in the changes to the lifestyles of Americans that corresponded to rural concerns due to the impact of increasing urbanization, which is reassured by the power of self-reliance among country boys. It also brought up how true friendship mattered more than cultural backgrounds. Both in the original song and the patriotic remake, the victim in the musical story summed up how easy it is for human lives to be taken away when an individual or organization has no regard for it. It also, however, brought forth the importance that true survival of the fittest comes from personal character and not by allowing tragedies to get the best of our better judgment and who we really are as people.
Top 10 Hank Williams Jr. Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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