Hank Williams III continues family tradition

June 27, 1997


Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - With a name like Hank Williams III, perhaps it was inevitable that he would follow in the country music footsteps of his famous father and grandfather.

But for about 10 years, all he wanted to do was play punk rock.

"It's a totally different scene here," said Williams, who performed Thursday night at the Smithsburg carnival. "I just miss the energy. There is so much energy in a rock show."

But after struggling in small clubs, Williams said he found his way back to his country roots.

His first country performance was in October 1994 and he said he did 53 shows that month. This year, he has 95 dates but he said he would like about 200.


Williams comes by his affinity for country naturally.

Williams' grandfather, country legend Hank Williams, had a number of big hits in the 1940s and 1950s, including "Cold, Cold Heart," and "Your Cheatin' Heart." In 1953, at age 29, he died of a heart ailment on his way to a concert in Ohio.

His son, Hank Williams Jr., picked up the family trade and has become a country legend in his own right.

Hank Williams III, 24, said the family name is both curse and blessing. Venues like the Smithsburg concert often are packed with fans who want to listen to his father's and grandfather's hits.

"Half these people probably never heard of me and they're here to hear Hank Williams songs - and that's fine," he said. "But I'm blessed with the family name."

The name draws curious crowds, but Williams said he still has to prove he can perform in his own right. He said he also has to deal with critics who think he's just trying to ride the family moniker. But he remains philosophical about such challenges.

"My dad put up with the same junk for years," he said.

Williams' first instrument was a set of drums, which he started playing at home in Nashville at age 10. It was at that age that he appeared in a concert with his father.

Williams moved on to other instruments, the bass and the guitar. He said he took a handful of lessons, but basically taught himself to play by strumming along with Kiss albums.

"I never could grasp the theory of it," he said.

Although he listened to the music of his father and grandfather while growing up, Williams said he had little interest in country music. Even now, he said, most of his compact disc collection consists of performers like the Beastie Boys and Ozzy Osbourne.

But Williams said he has begun to listen much more to the legends of country. His band's bass player, Jason Brown, played in a heavy metal band for years - making for some interesting listening between stops. One day, he mused, he may return to heavy metal.

Williams has the genes and the name, but he said his father had little to do with his career. Growing up, his father was rarely around and, in fact, did nothing to help his career.

Williams said that is probably partially because he wanted his son to make it on his own. And what about the punk rock? Did that bother his father?

"It had to," he said. "He didn't say it, but it had to. It was the most angry music you can imagine."

In recent years, thought, Williams said he has become closer with his father. Last September, he released his debut album with his father - "Three Hanks" - a "computer-generated, once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing" that features songs from all three men.

Williams hopes to have his own album later this year or next.

As for the touring, Williams insisted the grind has not gotten to him.

"Not yet," he said. "Here soon it might, but I still love it all."

The Herald-Mail Articles