Hank Williams III wishes he was a better businessman. He mentioned his missing manager, lack of health insurance, and its toll on his creativity. The problem? He blames it on being a “stoner musician.”
“It’s part of the curse,” he said, laughing.
Hank III is the most controversial figure in country music. He’s the son and grandson of country royalty but has no claim to the estate of his legendary grandfather, Hank Williams Sr., and has said the only thing his absentee father (Hank Williams Jr.) bought him was a drum set. Hank III mocks his dad’s buddy Kid Rock on the song “Not Everybody Likes Us.” It’s from “Straight to Hell,” the first country music CD to earn a parental advisory warning for “explicit content.”
“It cost us a courtroom battle but, yes, we released a record with a parental advisory warning,” the 33-year-old said. “Even though there’s not that much cussing on it we’re finally able to be ourselves. It’s a step in the right direction where we’re having fun on record.
“We recorded it ourselves on $500,” he continued. “No record like that came off Music Row.”
“Straight to Hell” was released on Curb, which is also home to his dad and pop country acts like LeAnn Rimes and Tim McGraw. It features song titles such as “Thrown out of the Bar,” “Pills I Took,” “Smoke & Wine” and “Crazed Country Rebel.” Despite minimal marketing from Curb and virtually no airplay on mainstream country radio, the disc still cracked Billboard’s Top 20 country album chart thanks to Hank III’s incessant touring and dedicated fan base.
The album begins with the Louvin Brothers’ “Satan is Real,” a cautionary tale released in the 1950s. The song is interrupted by a demonic laugh and then comes Hank III’s high lonesome yelp detailing a life of sin across a wave of honky tonk sounds including flying fiddle and steel guitar. Rail thin with an angular face, Hank III sounds and looks like Williams Sr., the man dubbed the Father of Modern Country Music, who died of a doctor-administered morphine overdose in 1953. He was 29 years old and en route to a performance. Hank III has sought out his grandfather’s close friends, like the late Minnie Pearl, to better get to know the man he so closely resembles in terms of music and personal demons.
“He had (his wife) Audrey there and that worked, helped him keep his (expletive) together. Just having that one right-hand person is a huge deal,” Hank III said.
“I’ve yet to have that. I’ve come close, but I’m still looking. Still doing the laundry, running the business, doing shows and cutting the grass,” he continued. “Audrey played a big role. When she left things got messed up.”
Although Hank III has a genuine affection for classic country music, he never abandoned his first love, heavy metal. He opens his show with material from his three country albums. The band takes an intermission and then returns as Ass Jack, a speed-country-metal band influenced by acts like the Melvins. Hank III’s been struggling to get Ass Jack on record for the past five years.
“I think its finally gonna happen,” he said.
Hank III was at the end of a nine-day tour break when he answered his mobile phone on his way to the Nashville International Airport to pick up band mates. He had spent the down time “on his back ... coughing up the green and blowing it out.
“It usually takes a month to fully recuperate, to shake off the dizziness, I’m still a little zombified,” he said. “But it’s the ‘Straight to Hell tour,’ we started June, 6, 2006, it’s the 666 year, this one is gonna burn.” Hank III laughed wickedly.
// Notes from the Road
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