By Jeffrey B. Remz, March 2006
Hank III does not perceive himself to be the next coming of Hank Sr. "The Hank Williams of today is Wayne the Train Hancock as far as the pure Hillbilly Shakespeare. He's the man that is carrying that torch...and I think we're carving our own niche. When you see us live, we do our 20 minutes of paying respects."
"It's not out there for people trying to sit and ride coattails. It's not like Jett Williams (saying about Hank Sr.) 'he was my daddy, and I never knew him'. She'd be better off writing a book, which is the way it is."
"With all the metal projects I've done, all of the road (shows) I've done, I've separated myself from trying to rip off of Hank Williams."
Hank III grew up in Nashville, the son of Gwen and Hank Jr. But by the time Hank III was about three years old, the marriage was over, and Hank III grew up without his father around.
"He fell off a mountain in 1975," says Hank III of the accident in Montana that nearly killed his father. "He was already divorced from my mom by then. His dad died when he was three. Mine almost died when I was three. He was just doing his thing. He didn't know (about parenting). He never had a father to raise him. It's just one of those deals."
"I'd only get to see him about two weeks out of the year. It'd normally be on the road. So I got to feel the thrill of the loudness and the crazy crowds. First time on stage, playing 'Family Tradition,' I was 10 years old. So I got to feel that excitement and be very curious about it also."
"When I was younger, I got to back Hank Jr. and Lynyrd Skynyrd up. That's something I'll never forget. I just got to meet a lot of cool people. That's how my relationship with Waylon, Willie and David Allan Coe was, of course, through him. But at least I got to be around the last batch of real outlaws and perform with them."
He describes his upbringing as being "really normal. I went to public schools."
"Everybody was like 'there's Shelton. His dad is some big, huge country entertainer, but he's just this normal guy who doesn't have much attitude. He's just hanging out just like we are'."
"I didn't have any family saying you got to do this or you got to do that. It was my decision always to be in punk bands or metal bands or country bands. It was no pressure from the mother."
And that's what he did in high school. He knew his country roots, but he didn't have that much to do with playing the music until the legal system intervened.
Williams had a one-night stand. Three years later, he learned the result - a son. "They served me papers on stage when I was playing with one of my punk bands, saying you've got to be in court."
Williams claims he had an unfriendly judge, who ordered him to pay $50,000 in child support "when I'm making anywhere from $75 to $150 a week."
Apparently looking for a challenge, he accepted one from the judge.
Hank III says the judge told him that "playing music ain't no real good job so you're going to have get out there and get a real job. From this day on, I'm not getting back in a f----n band. I was 19."
"Back then, all I cared about was one thing - drums. I was a player. I wasn't thinking being a front man or about being a songwriter or about being a singer. I wanted to be a drummer in a heavy metal, punk rock band. That's what I'd been doing since I was 10 years old."
The court decision changed that.
"I went down to Music Row and shopped (my music) around. Unfortunately ended up going with Mike (Curb). That's what officially got me into country at first."
His first Curb recording was the "Three Hanks" album with his father and grandfather, not his idea. "I never listened to it one time," he says.
His solo debut came in 1999 with "Risin' Outlaw," 13 songs of country. But he made it clear from the get go that he was not happy with the result, at odds with his label in promoting the CD.
Part of the problem was that Williams felt he gave into the label by using outside writers instead of his own material. Williams wrote 4 of the 13 songs, while he covered three of Hancock's.
The sound is far smoother and cleaner than Williams usually delivers. Hank III sounded a lot closer to the sound of his grandfather than he does now.
Williams also underwent drug rehabilitation at Curb's insistence, but he remains a user. "I've never been able to let go," he says matter of factly.
Williams continued pursuing his very hard rock music side, appearing on the 2001 Vans Warped Tour.
After his debut, Williams tried getting out of his record deal with Curb, which didn't happen, but eventually led to his second release, "Lovesick Broke & Driftin'" in 2002. Williams wrote every song except for a previously released version of Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City," which had appeared on a Springsteen tribute album.
Williams produced, recorded and mixed his own album in only two weeks at what he says was a far cheaper cost than the debut.
Despite exercising more control, the Williams/Curb relationship did not get any better. Williams wanted to release a third record, "This Ain't Country LP," but Curb refused and wouldn't let him self-release the music either.
Why does Curb bother with Hank Williams III?
"Because he's the real deal," says Cavanaugh. "There are thousands of wanna be country artists, but he's got the genes. He is the real deal, and sometimes he comes across as this angry outlaw, and that's part of the persona, and that is part of who he is, but he is also an incredible musician with an unbelievable gift, and we recognize that and want to be the people who bring it to the public. We're very proud to have him on Curb."
"He's amazingly talented and smart as a whip," she says. "There's good old boy there."
"Over the years, I've hear him say everything he has to say about Curb Records, He is the way he is. He doesn't pretend to be anybody else."
Hank Williams III looks at sharing the family name as a mixed bag.
"It's definitely a blessing and a curse," he says. "It doesn't matter if you're Dale Earnhardt's son or Frank Sinatra's kid. That's always going to play as factor."
"Hank Jr. had to deal with it big time. 'You're good, but you ain't Hank Williams'. He had to deal with that forever. Since I look a little bit like Hank Williams and maybe on a good day sound a little bit like him, there are some of those people who come out there expecting to see Hank Williams, wand when they see 'he cusses, he's rebel and little bit wilder', they might come up to me and say 'you're a disgrace to the family man.' I say " Well, that's fine, there's only one Hank Williams, and if that's who you're coming to see, he's already gone, and he's already dead. Everybody has got to find their own path. I've been working on mine."
"It keeps me going. I'm going to beat this road down until I'm 50 and then I'm going to enjoy the other side of life. I'll still tour...I'll definitely enjoy having a little piece of land and raising a goat or cutting some grass, the normal grass."
"I've chosen to live on the Lost Highway as Hank Williams would say," says Williams. "I feel that's my path, even though I plan on being around for awhile."