Hank's little girl

March 05, 1997


Staff Writer

Jett Williams isn't standing in her father's shadow; she's following in his footsteps.

That's a tall order for the daughter of the late Hank Williams, the country music legend whose songs still inspire fans all over the world.

"Dad's music is alive and stronger than ever," Jett Williams said in a telephone interview from her studio on her farm in Hartsville, Tenn., where she and her band were rehearsing their stage show.

She will perform three shows with her band Saturday, March 8, at North Hagerstown High School.

Fans remember where they were when Hank Williams died on New Year's Day 1953, and they want to talk about it, she said.


"People come up and say `Thank you for keeping his memory alive,' " she said.

The singer, songwriter and guitarist describes her musical style as new traditional. She has added her touch to the songs her father made famous, while keeping his style with the help of some of his former musicians.

Don Helms, the steel guitar player for Hank Williams' Drifting Cowboys, now plays for Jett Williams and The Drifting Cowboys. Jerry Rivers, who played fiddle in the original band, also performed with Jett Williams until his death in October.

Jett Williams said Helms has shared many of his memories about her father and has helped her get to know him.

"Even though I never met him, I know he loved me and did all he could to ensure my health and safety," she said. "He just didn't count on dying at 29."

Williams, born five days after her father died, spent years trying to find out who she was. She documented her struggle to learn and prove her paternity in her 1990 autobiography, "Ain't Nothin' as Sweet as My Baby."

Her biological mother, Bobbie Jett, dated Hank Williams between his two marriages. She gave custody of Jett to Hank Williams' mother, Lillian Williams Stone, who adopted her but died two months later.

Jett Williams was adopted a second time by Wayne and Louise Deupree, an Alabama couple, and she learned on her 21st birthday that she could be the daughter of Hank Williams.

Williams started her search in the early 1980s. She hired Keith Adkinson, a Washington, D.C., attorney, who found she had been defrauded out of her father's estate and his copyright royalties. Adkinson also discovered an agreement in which Hank Williams acknowledged paternity of his daughter and his plan to take custody.

Adkinson sued on her behalf, with one of the defendants being her half-brother, country singer Hank Williams Jr. A 1987 court order declared her to be the daughter of Hank Williams. Later rulings awarded her shares of her father's estate and his copyright royalties.

In 1986 she married Adkinson, who also is her manager. They divide their time between their Tennessee farm, a home in Wheaton, Md., and a 72-foot yacht moored at Gangplank Marina in Washington, D.C.

Jett Williams, whose names over the years included Antha Belle Jett, Catherine Yvone Stone and Cathy Louise Deupree - and Cathy Deupree Mayer and Cathy Deupree Adkinson as a result of her two marriages - chose her stage name as a tribute to her birth parents. She said her struggle proves there is justice in the American system.

"You can stand up and fight for what you believe in," she said.

Williams, 44, released her second album, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," last year.

She said people who come to see her concerts are a mix of her fans and those of her father. The shows are fun for members of the audience because they are filled with the songs they grew up singing, she said.

Williams, who made her professional singing debut in 1989 at a memorial celebration in her father's honor, said her shows continue to improve.

"I like to think I'm like wine - I get better with age," she said.

The Herald-Mail Articles