"If the shoe fits, wear it." -Hank Williams III
Hank Williams III is a man with a lot on his shoulders. He is the grandson of honky-tonk hero and country music legend Hank Williams Sr. He is the son of country music rebel/superstar Hank "Bocephus" Williams Jr. And he himself is a musician. Another man might bow under the pressure of such a lineage, but Hank III seems to have inherited the "devil may care" attitude that made his father and grandfather great. While he lives up to his honky-tonk heritage by writing and performing classic honky-tonk songs that are eerily reminiscent of his grandfather, he shows the rebel in his blood by mixing punk with his country, indulging in speed metal side projects, and railing against Nashville, the mecca of the music he loves so well. He has made a full-time occupation of thwarting standards and expectations while attempting to revitalize country music, keep fans and critics on their toes, and amuse his whimsical fancies all at the same time.
Hank Williams began performing at an early age. Though he lived with his mother after her divorce from Bocephus, Hank III performed several times on stage with his father around age ten. Throughout his teens he performed in various small punk bands in the Southeast, trying to find his place in the music world, always wary of the enormous shadow his family has cast.
In 1996 he participated in the making of an album entitled “3 Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts,” a technological collaboration that involved original vocal tracks from Hank Sr. over new music and vocals from Bocephus and Hank III. It would be his first appearance on a major recording. Though the album was greeted with mixed reviews, it was generally well received by die-hard Hank Sr. and “old school” honky-tonk fans, and it opened the door that allowed III to begin his career as a country musician.
He walked through that door in 1999 with the release of his first solo album, “Risin’ Outlaw” on Curb Records. A true throwback to the work of his grandfather and his country heroes, “Risin’ Outlaw” showed that III had inherited the talent and soul of his forbears in full. There are stories of Hank Williams Sr. fans weeping upon hearing III’s music, telling him, “Boy, you sing like your granddaddy,” and rumor has it that upon their first meeting, Minnie Pearl told him, “Lord, honey, you’re a ghost.” It was his connection to the roots of country music, however, that made III critical of his own album. As he said in an interview with Salon, “It's a Nashville record… everything that's done in this town gets ruined. If you're gonna use a $100,000 studio and the best equipment and all these players and this and that, it's not gonna sound pure. It's gonna sound slick. Me and my producer had a big fall out. We went around and around and around and around. And then he left. That's the way it goes, I guess."
Dissatisfaction with Music Row is a constant theme both in III’s music and his commentary. He feels that commercialization has ruined the heart of country music, that it has no feeling any more. He loathes what he terms “pop country,” and is viciously critical of it, especially in his songs “Trashville” (a.k.a. “Texasee”) and “Dick in Dixie.” He has claimed Austin, Texas as his home and the home of “true” country music. In his own words, “Everything is happening in that town. You have a million studios and a million producers. One of my biggest quotes is ‘I’d rather have the respect of Texas than Tennessee any day.’”
Although tensions with his label continued, Hank III released another album on Curb in 2002, “Lovesick, Broke, and Driftin’”. His sophomore effort reinforced his already well established stance as the new honky-tonk torch bearer. While reviews cited that he might have tried too hard at times to bring the Williams brand of rebellion and low-down drunken misery to the fore, most agreed that the album was solid, and a refreshing change from the slick pop country that Nashville was churning out.
Hank III has released two honky-tonk country albums and infused punk elements into his roots music while on tour with the “Damn Band.” All the while he’s been leaving his indelible mark on country music history, however, he’s also been engaged in various side projects that show a baffling diversity and incredible energy. Starting in the mid 1990’s Hank has been playing bass for “Superjoint Ritual,” a speed metal band fronted by Phil Anselmo (formerly of “Pantera”). The band has two major releases out, and Anselmo has actually quit both Pantera and his other band, “Down,” to focus on Superjoint Ritual full-time. Hank has also assembled his own speed metal band, “Assjack,” and runs combo tours where the Damn Band and Assjack play as two bands at each show. While none of his side projects have been considered “major” successes, he consistently earns credibility in every musical genre and forum he explores.