Hank Jr. brings family tradition to Cherokee

By Jessi Stone Guide editor | Sep 11, 2013
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Hank Williams Jr. performs a show Sept. 1 at Harrah's Casino in Cherokee.

Hank Williams Jr. is back on tour and made a stop in Cherokee on Labor Day weekend to share some family tradition with a packed arena.

Bocephus, a nickname given to him by his father, gave the audience exactly what there were looking for — his signature songs and his unapologetic attitude. Williams said his performances haven’t changed at all from years past.

“I am the same person that the fans supported then and the same guy they support now,” he said in an email interview. “I may have gotten older, but I have not changed at all.”

His latest album “Old School, New Rules” was released last year and was the first album he has put out under his own record label Bocephus Records.

“I left Curb Records after years of being on the label and started Bocephus Records.  We did a deal with Blaster and Warner Brothers to put it out and so far we have sold over 100,000 copies and virtually had no radio play from this album,” he said. “It didn’t take long to write the songs, as when I got the in mood to write it, the songs just started coming to me.”

After working within the confines of the major label system for more than 70 albums, Williams now has his own record label and the freedom to do what he wants on this project.

“I’m an executive CEO, man. I’ll take you fishin’, take you on tour, sell $100,000 in T-shirts, whatever, I’m a multi-talented dude. It’s fun, it’s real,” he said. “I didn’t have to sell a million albums to make money.  I just did it the way I knew how and the fans still support the music.”

Williams has been storing up a cache of songs, and now he’s ready to release them on his own imprint. He said he saved a lot of songs like “Keep The Change,” which was the fastest downloaded country song in history and No. 1 on Amazon.com the second day.

“People asked me, ‘where’d this come from?’ Oh, I just had it stuck away in the bottom of the guitar case,” he said.

Some of Williams’ new material is about the state of the U.S., including songs like “Cow Turd Blues.” The new songs express his concern for America’s economy and politics. He said the nightly news gets his creative juices flowing. Country star friends like Merle Haggard, Brad Paisley and Trace Atkins also appear on the album.

“I think people want to hear good music, no matter what the hell it’s about,” Williams said. “I have some great political songs and some great beer-drinking songs. The fans seem to love all of them.”

Wall Street, the White House, politicians in general and the state of the nation are among his targets on the album. And of course, he couldn’t resist mentioning a couple of television networks and the demise of a lengthy, Emmy-winning, 22-year relationship with Monday Night Football. ESPN dropped Williams from Monday Night Football for some controversial comments he made about President Barack Obama.

Always known for his outspoken nature, the reaction of others within the music world or outside it is of little concern to him. When asked about how he felt about the current sound of mainstream country music, he said he didn’t listen to the radio.

“So I really don’t know who is out there. I do like Eric Church. He has opened some shows for me a few years ago, and I got to know Eric and his wife Katherine,” he said.  “I took him out metal detecting for civil war relics, and we had a good ole time. He is a good guy.”

Rising above the fame of his father, Hank Williams Sr., Bocephus has little left to prove in his music career. He debuted at the Grand Old Opry when he was 11 and made his first album at 14 — a rendition of his father’s “Long Gone Lonesome Blues.”

In 1970, he signed the biggest recording contract in the history of MGM Records, and when he began to follow his own music path, his instincts led to him to phenomenal success. “Family Tradition,” released in 1979, went Gold, kicking off a long string of gold and platinum efforts. In 1987, Hank won the first of five straight Entertainer of the Year awards voted to him by his peers and won his first ever Grammy.

But it’s still hard to talk about Hank Williams Jr. without asking about Hank Williams Sr. — the most influential country music songwriters of his time. When asked how he thought his father could write such heartbreaking songs at such a young age, he said, “Like daddy said ‘You Gotta Fake It, If You’re Gonna Make It.’”

“Daddy was a great songwriter and a great artist of the time.  Since I was only 3 when daddy died, I don’t know the answer to your question,” he said. “But I do know that he was loved by so many and with the stories I heard from Little Jimmy Dickens, daddy was a one-of-a-kind songwriter and storyteller.”

The Williams’ family tradition of music continues for another generation as Hank Williams, III makes a name for himself in country music.

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