On Hank Williams Jr.’s last album, 2016’s It’s About Time, there is a song written by Bocephus himself called, “Just Call Me Hank.” In the song, the 2nd generation country legend addresses a concern that many of his long-time fans have, and even some country listeners who enjoy his music from afar look upon with puzzlement. How in the world can a man who won two CMA Entertainer of the Year awards, three ACM Entertainer of the Year awards, sold 70 million albums, had 13 #1 albums, 10 #1 singles, and carried the most iconic name in country music into a new era still not be in the most important institution in country music, the Country Music Hall of Fame?
Don’t call me an icon, I don’t care about the Hall of Fame
Just gonna live my life in my country boy kinda way….
…says Hank Jr. in “Just Call Me Hank.” Other people who claim to have intimate knowledge about Hank Jr.’s state of mind on his continued snubbing by the Hall of Fame say that even if they did induct him at this point, he wouldn’t acknowledge the accolade, and wouldn’t show up to the announcement or the induction ceremony. He may even tell the Hall of Fame to stick their induction where the sun don’t shine.
But it doesn’t matter if Hank Williams Jr. wants to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame or not. What matters is if he belongs there, which he does. One of the reasons why Hank Jr. likely doesn’t care if the Hall of Fame honors him or not is because he’s the most obvious snubbing in the institution’s history, and he’s rightfully cheesed off. And whether Hank Jr. truly doesn’t care, or if he’s feigning carelessness simply as a way to take the power out of the Hall of Fame’s hands and put it back into his own, it should not weigh into the decision of the secret committee that decides who to put in the Hall of Fame each year. Their job is to induct the most qualified candidate, and Hank Jr. so clearly leads the pack in qualifications, it’s not even worth discussing.
A committee appointed by the Country Music Association nominates three new inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame each year. There is one Modern Era candidate, one Veteran’s Era candidate, and one rotating category for songwriters, musicians, and non performers. Hank Jr. should have been a shoo-in via the Modern Era category a decade ago or more. Now that he’s graduated to the extremely overcrowded field in the Veterans Era category, it may be impossible for him to get in during his lifetime, just like it will be for the backlog of country legends waiting for induction, many who are on death’s door. According to rumors, Hank Jr. wasn’t even on the final ballot for the 2019 inductions, meaning the most qualified individual for induction isn’t even being considered at this point.
If the Hall of Fame Committee is concerned how it will look if Bocephus doesn’t show up to their festivities, they’re inducting artists in the the Hall of Fame for all the wrong reasons. They should be worried about how it looks that he’s not in there, and how it calls into question the legitimacy of the entire institution that one of the most successful and best-selling artists of all time is not included. Only two other country artists that ever won the CMA Entertainer of the Year and are otherwise eligible for the Hall of Fame have yet to be inducted—Charlie Rich and John Denver (who have their own little history together), and they both only won it once.
Waylon Jennings didn’t show up for his Hall of Fame induction ceremony either, and as devout Hank Jr. fans will attest, Hank Jr. looked up to Waylon more than anyone. Over in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, numerous artists have stood the institution up upon induction. The Sex Pistols told the Rock Hall to piss off in 2006. Axl Rose famously dissed the induction of the Guns N’ Roses original lineup in 2012. But can you imagine the Rock Hall without these two iconic bands being included? More recently, the mild-mannered Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits didn’t show up in 2018, and in 2019, only two members of Radiohead attended their induction.
That’s not to excuse the petty, arrogant, and disrespectful move of not attending your own Hall of Fame induction. An arrogant attitude is likely the reason that Hank Williams Jr. is annually overlooked by the Hall of Fame, and for sure, Bocephus has become a polarizing character in the latter part of his career that has put him behind the 8 ball for all sorts of accolades and attention. But the body of work speaks for itself. There is nobody more qualified for the Country Music Hall of Fame that isn’t in, and there are many that are in the Hall of Fame that Hank Williams Jr. is significantly more qualified than. If Monday Night Football can make ammends with Bocephus, then country music most certainly can.
When people walk through the Hall of Fame rotunda and look at the plaques on the wall, they should be struck by awe at the talent displayed. But often, they’re dumbfounded by the amount of no name label executives who have made it while artists like Hank Jr. are still waiting in the wings. The Hall of Fame rotunda should also act like a guidepost for future generations to the artists that shepherded country music from the back porches of Appalachia and the early stages of the Grand Ole Opry to the packed stadiums of today. Nobody had a bigger hand in pushing the music to the heights it enjoys today than Hank Williams Jr.