An Open Letter to Hank Williams III

photo: Bill Ebbesen

 

Dear Hank3,

First off, I’ve got to kiss your ass for a little bit, so bear with me. Because if it wasn’t for you and your music, there would be no Saving Country Music. Without you, there would be no resistance to the mainstream in country like we see today, or the same avenues for independent artists to find the fans and support they need to launch sustainable careers without your contributions and initiative. You helped open doors, created outlets and portals of support, and perhaps most importantly, inspired many others to pick up instruments, put together a band, take to social media and voice their concerns, and join the resistance, artists and fans alike.

Part and parcel with all of this was also your important work to help preserve country music’s history and legacy, and to re-energize the roots of the genre through your music and other pursuits supporting the legends of the past. Of course there were others who came before who aided in opening up independent channels and put an emphasis on the original sound of country music, but you were the person with a very direct lineage and likeness to the most important name in country music that could inspire the imagination, and speak with authority about the issues plaguing country music today. And you did so with undying passion.

For scores of listeners, you became the bridge from punk and metal to country, or back to country where their roots always were. Like Gram Parsons and other important figures before, you proved that country music was cool, despite the lampooning of true country music in popular culture, and the aberration presented by the mainstream of the genre today.

One can only imagine the burden that our generation’s Hank Williams must have to bear though, despite the obvious benefits. There are unrealistic expectations that come with the name, along with your own insistence to not just ride off a legacy, but to be your own man. Then came the burden of being the king of the country underground that you helped create, where everyone was looking towards you for opportunities and resources you didn’t always have. The expectations from yourself and others continued to mount, and this would naturally cause one to turn inward, perhaps become distrusting, and ultimately find themselves a bit isolated from the world, especially after your experience with Curb Records, which became a legendary example of the malfeasance of many of country music’s major labels.

Look, it’s not really the business of myself or anyone else to ask why you have chosen or been forced to virtually disappear from the public spotlight for going on almost 4 years now. You owe nobody an excuse or an apology, or an explanation. Hopefully whatever is holding you up is something that is not health-related, or if it is, it is under control or in the rear view mirror now. In the past you have complained about financial concerns due to releasing music independently, which is completely understandable as music transitions to the streaming model. I also know you had to move from The Haunted Ranch, which had been your base of operations for many years, and moving can wreak havoc on anyone’s OCD.

And don’t get me wrong, even if you never released another new song or album, or ever went on tour again, your contributions and legacy would be secured. You put in your service time on the road and in the studio. From all the faces you rocked off from coast to coast, to a formidable collection of albums you’ve compiled, you turned in a career’s worth of output, if only taking into consideration all those years of incredibly hard touring, and your magnum opus Straight to Hell.

But dammit, it just doesn’t feel right that we’re experiencing all of this success throughout independent country music now, and one of the guys who helped broker this freedom and helped springboard the entire movement into action isn’t part of it in a large or small manner. I have no clue if you have even heard of Sturgill Simpson, or Cody Jinks, or Tyler Childers, or if you even care. But the movement you helped start has taken root, and has shaken up the mainstream in ways we never imagined, while legitimizing independent country music in a manner that we only dreamed of when we started this whole thing years ago.

Don’t think for a second that myself and others haven’t pondered just how different the world is since you were last out there touring. Tipper Gore and the PMRC have nothing on the maniacal regime of political correctness out there today. But there has also never been greater opportunities and more resources to support independent artists in country music than there is today, especially for someone with an established name like yourself. I appreciate that you follow the DIY code, but there are now touring agencies and festival circuits that were built specifically to support the kind of music you helped establish, and producers you can actually trust.

Far be it from me to tell you your business. I just selfishly want to see another Hank3 show, and I know I’m not alone. If anything, the appetite for a Hank3 tour has never been greater. The reason I’m pulling your ear here is not to goad you back out on the road or to release a record if it’s not something you don’t want to do, or are not in a position to fulfill at the moment. I just want to make sure that you know there are tons of people out here who haven’t forgotten about you, still have a hankering for Hank3 music, and still have a hell of a lot of respect for what you’ve done, even if you never play another lick (though we hope that’s not the case).

Life can get sideways on you real quick, especially these days. And far be it from me or anyone else to pass judgement on why you’ve been out of the public eye for so long. But just know that when the time comes, when the stars align, when marching orders come down, and all the ducks are in a row, we’ll be there, six months from now, or seven years from now. Don’t let the reason you delay a return be a worry there won’t be fans out there waiting for you, and don’t be afraid to ask for our support if that’s what it takes to make it happen.

Because you were the one that inspired this all. You were our portal into the power of traditional country. Your music was there for us during the toughest of times, and the fondest of memories, and set the foundation for scores of other artists to come later whose music has done the same. And for that, infinite understanding, and immortal support will always be there.

After all, you’re the closest thing we have to Hank Williams left walking the Earth, and that’s a legacy that should never be allowed to die.

 

—Kyle “The Triggerman” Coroneos

savingcountrymusic.com