Happy 50th Birthday Hank Williams III, Wherever You Are
50 years ago today on December 12th, 1972, Randall Hank Williams Jr. and his wife Gwyn Yeargain welcomed their first and only child into the world. Keeping with the family tradition, they gave him the middle name of Hank, with his full christening taking shape as Shelton Hank Williams III. Five years later, the couple would be divorced, and Hank Jr. would mostly be out of the life of Shelton, except for occasional hunting trips and visits. But a new member of the Hank Williams legacy was born.
First making his way in punk bands and installing garage doors to make a living, it appeared perhaps the third—and at that time—final member of the Williams clan who could indisputably adopt the “Hank” name may not perform country music at all. But when a paternity suit had a judge telling him to “get a real job,” Shelton acquiesced, and signed a deal with Mike Curb of Curb Records who’d been in the hospital when he was born.
Just like his father Hank Jr., at first they tried to dress Hank3 up as a Hank Williams tribute act and had him playing tourist shows in Branson, MO theaters, covering his grandfather’s songs and refining his chops. He opened for Charlie Louvin, and appeared on an episode of Crook & Chase with Mel Tillis and Glen Campbell. The first time Minnie Pearl saw the young Hank she remarked, “Lord honey, you’re a ghost” from the striking resemblance in both sight and sound to the original Hank Williams.
But shortly thereafter, Hank3 rebelled, finding his inspiration in punk music and from modern day throwback hillbillies such as Wayne “The Train” Hancock. Similar to Hancock, Dale Watson, and the throwback band BR-549, Hank3 embraced the roots of country music in a neotraditionalist approach, while also pursuing a harder style of “hellbilly” music on the side. He ran afoul of Mike Curb and Curb Records, who tried to restrict both his creativity and output, and through that action, Hank3 sowed the seeds of a country music revolution.
After the release of his 2006 magnum opus Straight to Hell, Hank Williams III inspired an underground in country music that previously had only existed in spirit. Turning thousands of punk and metal kids onto the virtues of country, and establishing a DIY attitude that stood apart from the Music Row industry, the legacy Hank3 forged and the doors he opened directly resulted in this massive success independent country artists such as Sturgill Simpson, Cody Jinks, Tyler Childers, and Zach Bryan enjoy today.
But Hank Williams III has been mostly dormant since 2014. After finally breaking free from his contract with Curb Records, he released a succession of independently released and produced albums, including his last full country album, 2013’s Brothers of the 4X4, and toured behind it into the following year. Then after he was forced to move out of his home/headquarters/recording studio called The Haunted Ranch, and shortly thereafter his favorite pooch Trooper died, Hank3 was forced to regroup, and since has been almost completely out of the public eye, and has not released any new music or performed publicly.
There has been some signs of life recently though. In 2018 he participated in a DevilDriver tribute to Outlaw Country. Just over the last few months, Hank3’s been releasing a ton of demos, scratch tracks, alternative takes, and other bits of audio on YouTube, including an entire experimental album called Grandiose Delusions.
Many are hoping that the recent activity is a sign that Hank3 is clearing the cobwebs out, getting the creative juices flowing once again, and is getting ready for a return in 2023. He also was recently spotted running sound at a Joelton Jamboree organized by Scott Levi Jones. It was one of Shelton’s first public appearances in years.
There has also recently been a new addition to the Hank Williams clan of performers. The son that Hank3 had, and that resulted in the paternity suit against him has now emerged under the stage name “IV and His Strange Band,” and released a debut album. Coleman Williams is now officially part of the Hank Williams clan and musical lineage, taking a somewhat similar approach to his father of mixing a Gothic version of country music with punk and metal influences.
Saving Country Music was started as a Hank Williams III blog called Free Hank III to help the 3rd generation performer during his tumultuous period on Curb Records. Over the now 8-year (mostly) dark period in his career, efforts have been made to get more information on what’s been happening with Hank, to interview him, etc., all to no avail. An open letter was also drafted to Hank3 to try and coax him back into the public in 2018.
But as that open letter stated, even if he never releases a lick of new music again and never plays another live show, Hank Williams III’s contributions have been critical to the country music resurgence we’re enjoying today, and his contributions to the Hank Williams legacy are undeniable. His 50th birthday is a good time to reflect back on all we owe to Hank Williams III as independent country music fans, and to say thanks.
Happy 50th birthday Hank3, wherever you are. We’ll be patiently waiting here for whenever you’re ready to return.
December 12, 2022 @ 12:55 pm
Here, here…I certainly hope Hank III does see this and realizes his importance to the music that we love. His voice is missed and I know I certainly hope I hear it again.
Danny Autry Sr
December 14, 2022 @ 8:51 pm
Happy Birthday to one of My Country Hero! I hope you have a great birthday Hank 3
December 12, 2022 @ 1:15 pm
Happy Birthday, 3! We miss ya. Hope all’s well.
December 12, 2022 @ 2:16 pm
It was Hank 3 that drew me to this site, and I was excited about everything he released up to and including Straight to Hell. But everything since has been one disappointment after another. Poor production value and lack of editing makes it mostly unlistenable. Maybe I have just aged out of his Target demographic?
December 12, 2022 @ 2:30 pm
He’s done some great stuff, but “PFF” was where he lost me. I’m an old punk, sure, and I’ve got my share of GG Allin stuff… somewhere. But I just thought that it was embarrassing.
December 13, 2022 @ 8:32 pm
I totally disagree. That’s the best song to play on a jukebox. And the 2nd, slowed down version is great
December 13, 2022 @ 7:16 am
I agree 100 percent. However the thought of Hank 3 emerging and making more mature music is very exciting.
December 13, 2022 @ 7:37 am
Happy birthday to you love all your family’s songs have all your day taps .Good luck with you life.
December 13, 2022 @ 9:07 pm
Bon anniversaire ( hbd) to Hank3
Much gratitude for his phenomenal et pivotal contributions
December 18, 2022 @ 10:56 am
3 Shades of Black is one of my favorite songs.
December 12, 2022 @ 2:24 pm
December 12, 2022 @ 2:33 pm
Happy Birthday III! May the universe bless this man with a long life, healthy spirit and sane mind. Thank you for all that you’ve done to help real Cuntry Music stay alive in the souls of so many and what you’ve done help inspire a new generation to keep playing that good ol timey shit!
Honestly don’t know where I’d be and prolly not the same man I am today if it wasn’t for his records on a lot of lonely nights, dark holes and binges I never thought would end.
Love you Hank III.
December 12, 2022 @ 2:46 pm
Happy 50th! Time flies, it’s kind of weird to say but Hank’s music is now considered to be “Classic” I know Straight to Hell is his most successful album but his sophomore album Broke, Lovesick, & Driftin’ is my personal favorite love that album. I often tried to think which song of his is my favorite I can’t name them all but here is a list of some of my favorites not in this particular order however.
1.) Gutter Town
2.) Rebel Within
4.) Country Heroes
5.) I Wish I knew
6.) Mississippi Mud
7.) The Sun Comes Up
8.) 5 Shots of Whiskey
9.) Ramblin’ Man ( Hank Sr. Cover)
10.) Wild & Free
11.) Lonesome For You
12.) Looking for a Mountain
13.) Gone But Not Forgotten
14.) Hillbilly Joker
15.) Runnin’ & Gunnin’
16.) Louisiana Stripes
17.) The Grand Ole Opry
18.) Dick in Dixie
19.) Things You Do To Me
20.) Getting Dim
I’m a fan of all three Hank’s but 3 is probably my favorite of them although I could easily claim Hank Sr. as my favorite…hmm…🤔…I can’t choose between just I’ll just call it a tie between SR. & 3. 😂
December 12, 2022 @ 4:10 pm
His version of wreck of the ol 97 was just as good as the one cash did at San Quentin. I like How he had his harmonica player play the first few notes of “Dixie” when the train jumped at Danville. It made it sound like Bo and Luke Duke were driving the train
December 12, 2022 @ 4:14 pm
Miss you man. Still hanging on to all ur music. Thank you
December 12, 2022 @ 6:02 pm
Thanks a lot, Trig
I sure miss Shelton and his musical contributions to our genres
December 12, 2022 @ 7:57 pm
Happy birthday 3. I admire you to this day for your courageous and excellent contributions to country music. Even if you never record again, I will be grateful for what you’ve done. Having said that, please come back soon. Hurry up also. I’m 73 years old that I probably don’t have much time to wait around for you. Bless you Hank
December 12, 2022 @ 8:17 pm
Saw you at Pop’s about 10-12yrs ago and been waiting to see you again ever since. HAPPY 50th Birthday!! Please get back to St. Louis area someday soon. Need to hear some real County Music!
December 13, 2022 @ 7:49 pm
Pops rocks! Keep it classy,Sauget
December 12, 2022 @ 9:06 pm
We love you Shelton, enjoy your birthday!
December 12, 2022 @ 9:41 pm
Happy birthday to a legend and one of the most important influences in my love of country and americana music. We love you 3!
December 12, 2022 @ 11:13 pm
Always kind to his fans. I was probably the most annoying kid he ever encountered 20 years ago. But he was so kind, to me and the whole crowd. Just a good, good dude.
Jerry Clower's Ghost
December 12, 2022 @ 11:14 pm
Slackeye Slim is getting back in the game too. Could this be the beginnings of a second wind for the legends of underground country?
Claude A Craft
December 13, 2022 @ 12:54 am
Happy birthday Hank! 3, I had almost written country music off until I ran across your music. By way of watching the Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, You are one of my favorites ever since.Do it your way…. HAPPY BIRTHDAY
December 13, 2022 @ 6:12 am
I’ll never forget when I saw Hank III play at a small college town bar with his Hank3/Assjack set. There was a woman about 80 in the front row and Hank III let her know that the front would get rowdy for the second set. She just smiled and nodded. Well, the set started and so did the moshing. Luckily, all those punks and metal heads created a protective wall around the older woman so she could safely escape. It was a nice bit of humanity all the way around that I think about from time to time.
December 13, 2022 @ 7:30 am
We miss u. Would love to see u.
December 13, 2022 @ 8:01 am
Happy Birthday 3, hope it was a good one.
December 13, 2022 @ 8:05 am
The Happy birthday to the legend🤘🔥🤘. Got to see you once in Bakersfield and it was a game changer. Was gigging alot locally at the time and your dedication was inspiring. You go all in every song, or why bother. Much respect brother.
December 13, 2022 @ 8:27 am
Happy Birthday Hank 3
December 13, 2022 @ 9:23 am
Appreciate the article, excellent overview. One minor quibble, “After the release of his 2006 magnum opus Straight to Hell, Hank Williams III inspired an underground in country music that previously had only existed in spirit”.
Jason & The Scorchers would like a word…they were doing this 20 years prior. Not saying, the style is exactly the same but JATS were certainly one of great cow-punk bands. Maybe the best live band I have ever seen. They were my gateway to country and alt-county. Severely under-rated band, especially as influencers.
Any, cheers for all the great work and artists who you have exposed to me over the years.
December 13, 2022 @ 12:58 pm
Their version of “Absolutely Sweet Marie” certainly makes my list of best Dylan covers ever. The Fervor EP and Lost & Found album are essential. Listened to those incessantly when they were released in the mid 80s.
December 13, 2022 @ 9:36 am
Happy birthday Shelton!
I’ve never had the opportunity to see his live show, but I am a huge fan. His voice can be heard coming from my home a few times a week, at least.
Regardless of what it is that is keeping 3 away from the music business, I hope that he is well and enjoyed his birthday.
December 13, 2022 @ 10:35 am
I was on that HankIII board for years. Some interesting conversations definitely went on…I saw him 7 times in 2 years and enjoyed each and every show!
December 13, 2022 @ 4:51 pm
That was the best fan forum ever.
December 13, 2022 @ 5:03 pm
It pretty much had whatever you wanted! 🙂
December 13, 2022 @ 10:27 pm
You guys were assholes lol
December 13, 2022 @ 2:22 pm
Hank man,ur like a aged tequila or Whiskey,You get Better in age.dont worry I don’t think u need to slow down,o plz don’t.ur Hank 3 Nation fans Want to Wish u Happy Birth day. Amigo,just another fuckin day right,so Let’s crank up the Amps and Metal, See u on the road in Texas, ur super Support, from Galveston,thanks for Rockin our Gulf o Mexico.p.s don’t Change notthing about urse
December 13, 2022 @ 5:14 pm
Happy Birthday Hank 111..love 💘 your music.🎸❤💃🥂
December 13, 2022 @ 6:18 pm
Go see IV and the strange Band! Coleman is cool as shit, super nice. They put on a great show.
December 13, 2022 @ 6:45 pm
Happy Birthday, have a great day !!! ✌️🎸🥃🍹🍺🍺
December 14, 2022 @ 6:32 am
Hank 3 one of the only mother fuckers that didnt sell out to the asskissen music row fuckheads pop bullshit statice trend shit i love you brother smoke fucking dope drink wiskey cuntry stiyle 👹☠️🤘🖕
December 14, 2022 @ 6:34 am
👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍Hank 3 one of the only mother fuckers that didnt sell out to the asskissen music row fuckheads pop bullshit statice trend shit i love you brother smoke fucking dope drink wiskey cuntry stiyle 👹☠️🤘🖕
December 14, 2022 @ 6:55 am
Get back out and bring us some good old country you sound like your grand dad so much he would of loved your songs about pain and life. Can’t wait for the next one I would love it if you came to Australia.
December 14, 2022 @ 12:05 pm
I took his dad over to his national house back in 2017 as a chauffeur I used to drive and Junior a lot got to see a lot of fun things.
December 14, 2022 @ 1:03 pm
Do you know what years and where he’s doing he’s down there kicking it back in the honky-tonks because that’s what a real musician does. I’m up in Vermont. We got nothing like it and we need it bad. Thanks for the whole family is a family tradition to just entertain
December 15, 2022 @ 2:47 pm
Happy-Happy to Three! We love you and hope that we will get to see you again!
December 15, 2022 @ 3:41 pm
Happy birthday to the guy I saw at the Orange Peel in Asheville as the bass player for Superjoint Ritual.(Yes, they were loud.)
December 18, 2022 @ 8:18 pm
Shelton is very prolific on Facebook. At least we know he’s alive.
January 14, 2023 @ 3:23 am
Is he pretty active on there?
January 12, 2023 @ 1:12 pm
Always liked old music like Woody Guthrie, but hated Country music. Hank III’s fusion speaks to me in a way most other music, of any kind, fails. Someday I might ride my horse to buffalo and see a Hank3 show!!! Folks we’re livin at the same as a legend.
January 13, 2023 @ 4:37 am
I grew up with grandparents who knew what real music was and still is. I had a grandfather who grew up on a farm in southern Indiana. I’ll be 32 years old this year and my grandpa and I still listen to good music. I was raise on Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Waylon, Willy and I’m sure whoever reads this knows how to finish the list. Real music and real country music. Around the time straight to Hell came out I was a teenager didn’t know about Hank 3 even though I listen to his grandfather on a regular basis. I was having a hard time because at that age you go into your heavy-metal in punk heavy naturally of course. But also because I thought country music really was dead seeing all the commercial bullshit like Garth Brooks and other awful artist singing about Bud Light and being on a boat. All my friends were older and someone told me that I needed to check out this record by the grandson of Hank Williams. I can keep rambling on for basically Hank3 restored my faith in country music. I got to see him live twice and even get to meet him for a minute once. One of the most important artist in modern country music. Hopefully he comes back to show people he can still fuck up a concert hall and play real country music again. Imma stop ranting now… thanks 3!