Making a name for yourself is hard to do when someone else has made the name for you. Hank Williams III has had some very large shoes to fill in the realm of music, considering his grandfather Hank Williams Sr. and his father, Hank Williams Jr. have already made the family name a legendary one.
Williams has collaborated with artists like Tom Waits, made friends with the infamous Whites of West Virginia, and still keeps up with the large amount of land his current Nashville home sits on. He’s managed to carve out his own niche, while dabbling in whatever genre of music he happens to be drawn to at the time—classic country, punk rock, death metal, or a mix of all three that he’s proudly christened as “hellbilly.”
“I’m very hands-on in the studio and with every genre it’s a different approach,” Williams said. “And I always play drums on all my records.”
When Williams was younger he gravitated first to rock and roll.
“I just wanted to rock as hard and as loud as I could,” Williams said. “Rock and roll and drums just always intrigued me and nine years old, I was listening to Elvis and Queen and Gary Newman, and by 10 I would play and back up Hank Jr. on stage.”
In the mid 90s, Williams was playing small bar shows for awhile and was presented with some life changing news on stage during one of his sets.
“I had a one-night stand and the girl and the family decided to wait three years to tell me that I had a child,” Williams said. “They served me the papers on stage.”
The papers demanded Williams to come up with three years of back owed child support.
“Her daddy was a sheriff in Nashville and the judge basically told me that ‘playin’ music wasn’t no real job,’” Williams said. “I had to step up to the plate and do what I had to do.”
Williams then signed a contract with Nashville’s Curb Records, in an attempt to secure a decent wage and provide for his child.
“Prior to finding out, I had been making just a couple hundred bucks a week, playing in the bars around town,” Williams said.
Shortly after signing on with Curb, the label released “Three Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts”, which was consisted of spliced together recordings of Hank Sr. Hank Jr. and Hank III, that made it sound as though the three generations were all singing together.
After the release, Williams got his first manager, Jack McFadden and started playing at county fairs, and then doing the country bar circuit through Tennessee, garnering more fans with every show. Even though Williams was primarily booked as a country act at the time, him and his band would dole out a punk song here and there.
“We were some of the first guys to have a mosh pit at a show at Billy Bobs in Texas,” Williams said. “I always try and make sure to keep my country roots though.”
In 2010, Williams met Hasil Adkins, the famous singer-songwriter from West Virginia.
“Hasil and I got to talking at one of my shows and he came and played a few songs on stage with me,” Williams said. “We’d had a nice talk and when he went back home to Boone County in West Virginia, he told some of his friends, The Whites, that he had met Hank3 and that if I’m ever in town they should come and see me play.”
Fairly soon after, Williams was indeed playing a show in West Virginia and was welcomed warmly by a couple of Whites.
“Bertie Mae and Mamie—the meanest and the baddest of them all—came out to say hi, and it was just like we’d known each other forever,” Williams said. “Everyone was very respectful and they knew I didn’t want anything from them and vice versa.”
Williams just had his equipment and his dog with him at the time he met the Whites, and was invited back to stay with the family and Jesco White, the Tap Dancing Outlaw.
“I got to record Jesco,” Williams said. “I still see him sometimes, where I least expect it.”
The Whites of Boone County were well-known for years, but the release of the 2010 documentary “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia” made them into household names.
“I’ll be the first to say it, I think people should watch the other documentary, “The Dancing Outlaw,” because it really shows the more creative side of the family,” Williams said. “Jesco’s always singing, or playing a song, or cracking a joke. There’s just a lot more to that family’s story than the new documentary shows.”
After befriending the Whites, Williams continued releasing rounds of diverse albums. In 2011, on his album “Attention Deficit Disorder,” he switched it up a little and collaborated with Tom Waits for a few songs.
“He’s always been a hero to me,” Williams said. “He’s always done things his own way to create new sounds.”
Williams sent Waits a few songs to listen to and shortly heard back. “I had sent a couple songs to him, and he liked ‘Fading Moon.’ So I was able to go to his farm and meet his family and he did everything he could to make me feel comfortable.”
Williams now spends most of his free time on his own farm in Nashville in between his extensive tours.
“There’s a lot of land there, and there’s always some things to do to keep the place up,” Williams said. “I don’t go out much unless some friends are in town. I don’t go out on the town like I used to.”
Williams takes it easy on his own, but when it comes to playing shows he goes all out, often playing for four or more hours straight.
“If it says we’re starting at 8 p.m. then it means we really will start then, because we don’t have an opener,” Williams said. “I break it up—I usually do a country set for a few hours, out of respect—I don’t want anyone to feel ripped off or anything. Then I say something like, ‘Well folks, we’re about to break into some other sounds’ and then we’ll do some punk and heavier stuff.”
The crowds often range from 18- 80 year olds, mixed with people who love the Williams family name and the sound that comes with it, and people who’ve only ever heard the punk songs or the metal anthems.
Williams appreciates the crowd no matter which side of him they prefer.
“I just really want everyone to have a good time, and maybe get a little rowdy,” Williams said.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wed. July 30
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox