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Which Hank Williams Said The Bad Thing - A Field Guide to Hank Williamses

Musician Hank Williams is in a flap after calling the president Hitler without filing the necessary paperwork for a Godwin license. But which Hank Williams?

Hank Williamses are like Indiana Jones films--the odd-numbered ones are best, but they're all worth watching. We've prepared a quick guide to the Hanks Williams you are likely to encounter in your wanderings.

HANK WILLIAMS, SR. If country music had a Bible, Hank Williams, Sr. would speak its first line of dialogue, and he'd say, "Let there be light."

Local street musician Rufus Payne taught him blues guitar in exchange for food, which, uh...really isn't a sound investment strategy. Payne later died in poverty.

The Hillbilly Shakespeare was a religious man, but had a lot of great nicknames that demanded he be fun at parties, like "Herk," "Harm," and "Skeets." Medical conditions didn't help. Because this was the old days, doctors prescribed him drugs that would have made Andy Dick flinch (of course, so would acting like a decent person). We're talking drugs you can't even get anymore. In the mid-century, physicians tossed morphine around like candy, especially when it came in actual candy form. Hank also drank too much, which is expected of people respectfully called "The Hillbilly Shakespeare."

His discography is a little bit gospel with a lot of honkey and/or tonk. The Grand Ole Opry rejected him, because they didn't yet realize Hank Williams was the divine avatar of country music. That or the Opry didn't realize the reason for its own existence. They probably spent the '40s thinking themselves a laundromat.

He died at 29, of, we kid you not, a literally broken heart. The coroner blamed ventricle trouble, but we suspect it's because his woman done run out on him with his best friend and took the dog. His passing occurred at midnight of December 31st, 1952, so it's entirely possible he fell between years. 

Johnny Cash, a man who could not be killed by any force less powerful than love, nonetheless knelt before Williams, coining the song "The Night Hank Williams Came to Town." 

WHERE YOU ARE LIKELY TO SEE HIM: Tough to say. Heaven can't keep up with him, and Hell can't afford him. Mostly he lives on in his music.

Hank Jr.HANK WILLIAMS, JR. 
This is the Hank currently in the headlines for his comments on Fox & Friends, but best known for his work preparing Americans for any football situations that should arise.

Nicknamed Bocephus, he's a more complex guy than his detractors would like to paint him. Sure, he released a song called "If the South Woulda Won," (we'd...still have slavery?) but he's a fellow with a lot of empathy for the working man, willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Musically trained by some of his father's friends and admirers, a.k.a the titans of country and rock & roll, Bocephus didn't find his own sound until he told his overbearing ma he was tired of being a Hank Sr. imitator. At that point he actually became much more his dad's type of musician (for example, he carried on the family feud with drugs & alcohol). Only then did the multi-instrumental Jr. find his place in country music.

He's known for his trademark hat, sunglasses, and beard, which downplay some disfigurement he suffered in a mountain-climbing accident. You know what that means? Hank Jr. fought a mountain to a draw. 

WHERE YOU ARE LIKELY TO SEE HIM: Not on Monday Night Football, apparently. Playing any number of sold-out concerts and Republican fundraising rallies, though.

Hank the ThirdHANK WILLIAMS, III 
Let's be clear about one thing -- Hank Williams, III does not care about your bullshit. The walking image of his grandfather with sleeve tattoos, Hank3 played in punk bands until destiny said "Come play country, son." To which Hank replied, "Nah," but destiny rejoindered, "No, seriously, play country or plunge into personal debt."

Fans and industry types told him to cultivate the look and sound of original flavor Hank, but rather than coast on his grandpappy's image, Hank the youngest decided to sear his own sound in your ears (which is, of course, the most Hank Sr. thing he could do). You see, there's all kinds of ass to be kicked, and Hank's got a pair of boots for each. You see him live, and somewhere in between the metalcore and the psychobilly, you realize there's great country music playing.

As proof that he's everywhere at once, he released four albums at once last month (okay, three albums, but one's a two-disc double-title). The rest of the time he decries his own label, fights to keep the swears in his albums, and, being a Hank Williams, battles substance abuse. Hank3 is proof that there's less distance than you'd think between true country and punk fucking rock.

WHERE YOU ARE LIKELY TO SEE HIM: Look around you. Are you rocking out? No? Then wait ten minutes. Hank'll be by. Yessir, Hank'll be by, by and by.

 

Brendan McGinley can't help it.