Was Hank Williams Jr. destined to become a country star like his dad? From a young age, it sure seemed this was true.
Some may even say he’s better than his famous father, Hank Williams.
Today, we’re bringing you the King of Country Music’s son and his rise to stardom.
The Story of Hank Williams Jr.
Randall Hank Williams was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on May 26, 1949, to Hank and Audrey Williams. Wiliams Sr. died when his son was just three years old. Jr.’s mom encouraged him to follow in his dad’s footsteps and develop his musical talents.
So, at age eight, Hank Jr. stepped onto the stage for the first time to sing his dad’s songs. His early influences and personal music teachers included Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Merle Haggard.
Hank Williams Jr. debuted on The Grand Ole Opry stage at age 11. Four years later, he recorded his first Top 5 single, Long Gone Lonesome Blues, a song made famous by his dad. Around this same time, he appeared on the musical variety shows Shindig! and The Jimmy Dean Show.
Hank Jr. successfully continued down the musical path his dad carved out ahead of him. In the early 70s, he began using drugs and alcohol, much like his father. It led to an attempted suicide in 1974, when he was 25 years old.
Unlike his dad, he managed to get himself on a healthier path after this dark time in his life. Over the next year, he focused on his music which blended blues and Southern rock. Having spent most of his earlier years in the shadow of his dad, he was finally stepping out to create his own identity.
In the first half of 1975, Jr. recorded songs for his breakthrough album Hank Williams Jr. and Friends. Once finished, he went on a mountain climbing trip to Montana. He fell about 500 feet during the climb, resulting in several skull and facial fractures.
He spent the next two years learning how to talk and sing again. After several reconstructive surgeries, Hank Jr.’s appearance dramatically changed. At this time, Hank Jr’s signature look of a thick beard, sunglasses, and cowboy hat was born.
Hank Jr’s Success and Legacy
The 80s was a busy and successful decade for Hank Jr. He often released multiple albums at once, with several of them reaching multi-platinum status. Singles like Family Tradition and Born to Boogie put him in the county music spotlight and at the top of music charts.
He won the Country Music Association’s (CMA) Entertainer of the Year Award twice in 1987 and 1988. He won a Grammy for There’s a Tear in My Beer the following year, one of his dad’s classic songs. He recorded it as a duet with his dad’s vocals dubbed in.
From 1989 to 2011, Hank Jr. was the face and voice for ABC’s Monday Night Football. He performed the theme song based on his previously-released 1984 hit song All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.
Something that sets him apart from his dad is Hank Jr. is a multi-instrumentalist. His father played guitar and fiddle. While Williams Jr. plays both instruments plus the banjo, keyboard, dobro, drums, and harmonica!
Between 1964 and 2016, Hank Jr. released 53 studio albums. Many of them performed well on both country and pop music charts. In 2020, he joined his dad as an inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Hank Williams Jr. married twice and has four living children who have their own music careers. Sadly, Katherine, one of his daughters, died in a car crash in 2020.
Besides music, his other passions aside from music are hunting, fishing, and collecting guns. A true country boy!
Hank Jr.’s Best Known Songs
Released in 1979, this song marked Hank Jr.’s most significant step away from his father’s music tradition. The lyrics describe his feelings about being the son of a legendary musician:
I am very proud Of my daddy's name Although his kind of music And mine ain't exactly the same
It reached #4 on Billboard’s country music chart and is often heard as a raucous sing-a-long at country bars.
A Country Boy Can Survive
This popular Hank Jr. tune talks about the country boy’s will to survive just about anything. The lyrics also seem to include all the stereotypical images found in many country songs:
I live back in the woods you see My woman and the kids and the dogs and me I got a shotgun, a rifle and a four-wheel drive And a country boy can survive
It’s a song about hope and survival. It’s no surprise that it reached #2 on music charts when Hank Jr. released it in 1981 on The Pressure in On album.
How Did Hank Williams Jr Get the Nickname Bocephus?
Hank Williams Sr. nicknamed his son Bocephus after a Grand Ole Opry ventriloquist’s dummy. Comedian Rod Brasfield was a regular on the variety show and often performed with Minnie Pearl and June Carter-Cash. He occasionally brought Brocephus out when doing a solo comedy routine.
How Did Hank Williams Sr. Die?
Hank Jr.’s dad was only 29 when he died of heart failure in the backseat of his Cadillac. He was being driven from a hotel in Tennessee to a show in Canton, Ohio, on New Year’s Day 1953. Years of drug addiction and wild living caught up with one of country music’s biggest stars.
So, is Jr. Better Than His Dad?
To say that Hank Jr. is better than his dad might best be left to personal opinion. But some facts might lead people to say he’s better.
He has outlived his dad by 43 years already. He’s released more albums and received more awards than his dad. But while his musical style differs from his dad’s, the roots of his music are undoubtedly from Hank Sr.