Shelton Hank Williams, also known as Hank III, is 41 today! We’re celebrating with an excerpt from Susan Masino’s Family Tradition – Three Generations of Hank Williams.
Hank III signed with Curb Records in 1999, and his debut solo album, Risin’ Outlaw, spawned acidic tunes like “Trashville” and “Dick in Dixie.” Definitely not your run-of-the-mill country. This was Hank III’s country, and when he attempted to name his next record This Ain’t Country, Curb refused to release it and stopped him from issuing it on another label, the situation resulting in Hank III’s “Fuck Curb” campaign. Attitude goes a long way in the Williams family, and Hank III sold T-shirts with “Fuck Curb” emblazoned on them at all his shows. After he won in court, he came to an agreement with Curb Records and dropped his campaign.
To keep busy during his legal battles with his record label, Hank III switched to bass guitar and played in the band Superjoint Ritual with Pantera’s former lead singer, Phil Anselmo. Working with Anselmo was a dream come true for Hank III. He said, “Oh, it was awesome, just the energy of the show. He was a hero – I was workin’ for one of my heroes. So it was a great opportunity. I’ll never forget it, I gave it my all. I approached every show like it was the last. It was full-on being part of that. It went by pretty quick.
“Hats off to him for showing me all the behind-the-scenes at Ozzfest [the annual summer rock tour that was created by Sharon Osbourne to feature her husband, Ozzy]. The rock bands that I met out there. Philip is definitely one of the most interesting guys I’ve ever been around. There will never be another Philip Anselmo. It’s just kind of strange when you get to meet your heroes like that. It was a big deal for me, and in the country world and the rock world, I try to gather a little bit of their wisdom. What they have to say about it.”
Joe Fazzio, the drummer from Superjoint Ritual, toured with Hank III and played on his second album for Curb, Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’, which was released in 2002. One of the reviews declared that Hank III was “one of the few living saviors of country music.”
Two years later, Curb again refused to release his next collection of songs, called Thrown Out of the Bar, and Hank III went back to court, this time winning the right to release the album, retitled Straight to Hell. It was issued in two formats on Curb’s new rock label, Bruc. One was a censored version for sale at Wal-Mart, and the uncensored version was the first country album on a major label to have a Parental Advisory warning. One of the album’s songs, “Pills I Took,” was written by Those Poor Bastards, a Wisconsin band that Hank III has embraced. Music lover and author Stephen King endorsed the new album by saying, “I no longer drink, but I love songs about boozing, and these are beauts. The Hank III album is called Straight to Hell, and I imagine the Nashville establishment wishes young Mr. Williams would go there, posthaste. Me, I hope he sticks around. This is the real country: hollow of eye, pale of face, and bursting with the rhythm of the damned.”
Covering three generations of Hank Williams, Family Tradition is both unique and vast in scope. Beginning in the present day with Hank III – who gave the author unprecedented access – and time-traveling across the years, this examines just what kind of rebel mojo inspired this crazed family of country music, from Hank Sr. – often regarded as one of the most influential of American musicians – to Hank Jr., to this year’s model, Hank III, who has somehow found a way to reconcile his legacy’s deep-rooted twang and high-lonesome sound with particularly searing strains of punk and heavy metal, launching an all-out war with traditional Nashville in the process.
Listen to Susan Masino live at Book Expo America on the BEA Podcast.