Now there's Hank Williams III, who looks and sounds just like his famous grandfather even though he's covered in ink.
Hank III, as he's known, has been forging an outlaw country career with a rollicking update of roots country he calls "hellbilly," while also letting his hair down (literally) and performing as the heavy metal band, Assjack. He curses frequently (both in person and song) and has been through rehab, once telling a reporter that he tripped on acid more than 2,000 times while on federal probation.
A few weeks ago, his two younger sisters (also musicians) crashed their SUV and nearly died. While tending to his daughters, Hank Jr. was accused of sexually harassing a 19-year old waitress at his hotel.
Sounds like a redneck soap opera made for HBO.
Hank III also just released a powerful new double-CD, "Straight to Hell." The first disc is a fiery country-song cycle about getting loaded, while disc two features a 45-minute collage of tripped-out samples (preachers, ambient outdoor noise, dogs) interwoven with solo acoustic numbers, including Williams' haunting take of his grandfather's "I Could Never be Ashamed of You."
Even though Williams censored the album for chain retailers, Wal-Mart still rejected it.
"They're nothing but the Klan leader of today," says Williams from a tour stop in Atlanta. "Kids are dying in Iraq and they're worried about me singing about weed and acid. Whatever. If you buy your music at Wal-Mart, I feel sorry for you anyway."
You'd think Williams might be worried about his health, considering his pedigree, but he says he's too much of a workaholic and doesn't party nearly as hard as some of his friends in the music business.
He explains that he grew up with people like Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, always partying at his grandma's house for days on end.
"Nah, I haven't seen the movie ["Walk the Line"]. It's the nice, Hollywood version. I have so many memories and already know what I need to know about the man," he says.
There's a lyric on the new album that pointedly discredits the rumor that Kid Rock is another of Hank Jr.'s sons (the country singer called him "my rebel son" in a 2002 collaboration with Rock featuring the chorus: "In country music, you just don't use the 'F' word").
Hank III says the original song was "a diss" toward him from a father who never gave him much advice.
"I'm sick of people saying, 'Dude, is that kid your brother?" Williams fumes. "Hank Jr. has cussed out many an audience and wrote, 'Whisky Bent and Hell Bound.' Now he's gonna tell me the 'F' word don't belong in country? Well, f you for being so double-standard, motherer."
On a more familial note, Williams says that Richmond fans have always been loyal to him, adding that he knows the members of Lamb of God and GWAR, adding that it would be "an honor" for Assjack to open for Lamb of God some day.
His rowdy shows typically begin with an hour of country, then 25 minutes of bass-slapping hellbilly, ending with 45 minutes of Assjack.
"This record is what we're about. I'm just gonna keep doing what I do and keep going against the system as much as I can" he says, adding, "there was only one Hank Williams and he's dead."
And like grandpa once sang, "a mad dog's moving in." S
Hank Williams III performs with Assjack and Bob Wayne at Alley Katz on April 6 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance at Plan 9 and musictoday.com or $18 at the door for the 18 and older show. Call 643-2816 for info.
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