Well after scouring the internet looking for light on the subject and talking to a few people who knew more about this than I do, I can confidently say that Hank III’s next album will likely not have a duet with Shooter, and no, a III/Shooter version of the popular Waylon/Hank Jr. song The Conversation is not in the works.
In a nutshell, the tension between Hank III and Shooter boils down to Hank III being mad that Shooter ostensibly stole Hank III’s persona, or at least part of it. After Shooter’s rock band Stargunn broke up in 2003, Shooter decided to ditch the eyeliner, feather boa, and “go country,” making himself into a sort of Hank III 2.0.
(Shooter Jennings in Starrgun)
The easiest example of this is the title track to Shooter’s first album, Put the O Back in Country, which was adapted from Neil Young’s “Are you Ready for the Country” and covered by Waylon in ’76. Young also incidentally owns and plays Hank Williams Sr.’s original guitar. This was a little to close to comfort to the title and lyrics of Hank III’s song “Dick in Dixie.”
Some have tried to defend Shooter by saying that ‘Put the O” came out in 2005, and Hank III’s Straight to Hell didn’t come out until 2006. Well we have Curb Records to thank for delaying that release, but Hank III has been performing ‘Dick in Dixie’ live regularly since 2001, and some recall hearing that song as early as 1999.
Hank III on Shooter, from an interview from KNAC.com:
“KNAC.COM: I have no idea how you are going to respond to this, but Waylon Jennings son, Shooter, is making a go at country, but he appears to be using a lot of your themes and calling in a lot of big names trying to get recognition–something you don’t do. Have you paid any attention to that? Do you see any similarities with him having a famous father in the industry?
HANK III: No, no–hell no. Shooter is a kid who was born into money and always had money around him. He lived with his dad and mom and moved to L.A., and his rock band didn’t happen, and then Waylon died. It seems like he was like, “oh well, Starlight didn’t go over too well–I’ll try the country thing because I’ve got the connections and people to do it.” Me, I had a kid and a judge.
KNAC.COM: No money.
HANK III: No, I was raised by my mom, man. It was a totally different angle. Yeah, as for Shooter, he’s here to “put the ‘O’ in country.”
KNAC.COM: I was sort of curious about that because you kinda had that before.
Oh yeah, I’ve already called him on that. “If you wanna go down that road and rip us off, mutherfucker, I’ll see you in ten years and five thousand shows down the road. We’ll see where the fuck you’re at. You know, I called him out and just flat out said, “fuck you if you’re gonna rip us off like that on your first release.”
Here is what Shooter has to say about the matter, from CMT:
CMT: “I would love to know what is going on with you and Hank III.
Shooter: You know what, I don’t even comment on these things, really. I don’t even know him. I met him once, I think, for a second. And somehow all this stuff started about how he hates me. I don’t know. It’s, like, stupid. Me, I just play music, and I like his music, and I don’t understand what that’s all about. But if they decide they don’t like me, I guess that’s their problem.”
In my opinion, Shooters comments spell out what the real problem is. If Shooter had known Hank III, approached him with the “Put the O” idea before he released it, maybe there would be no problem. Musicians ‘steal’ or ‘borrow’ ideas for songs or little bits of songs or riffs or whatever from each other all the time, that is just the way it works. But with something so clear cut, at the least I think Shooter should have approached Hank III with the idea.
I know that there are a lot of Shooter fans out there that are also Hank III fans, and a lot of Shooter fans that read this blog on a regular basis. I personally don’t consider myself a Shooter ‘fan,’ but I don’t find anything objectionable about the music or the man. I don’t own any of his CD’s, but I’ve heard a lot of his music. His first two were certainly better than his last offering, The Wolf. His music is just not my particular style, and I hear a lot of standard and sometimes reused formulas in his songs. For example:
Good song, but very very similar to:
A lot of the phrasing is darn near spot on, which I might overlook if Hank III wasn’t accusing the same man of ripping him off. It is also hard to overlook that Shooter is buds with Toby Keith.
But having said all of that, I think there are some Hank III fans that unfairly rip Shooter’s music simply because they are Hank III loyalists. I would certainly rather hear Shooter than most of the shit they play on pop country radio, and I’m not going to try to hold back anybody who wants to call out the country music establishment, which in the end was the whole point of the “Put the O Back in Country” thing. And as for ripping Shooter because he comes from money? Hey, Waylon had a ton of kids, and without question he doted over Shooter way more than any of his others, but nobody can control the circumstances they are born into, and in my opinion, this should never be held against anybody.
I’ve heard some people use the feud between Hank III & Shooter, Hank III & Kid Rock, Hank III & Curb Records, to say that III must be some kind of asshole, willing to burn bridges and take names over any small problem. Who knows, maybe he is. But put yourself in his shoes. Knowing the whole story, I can’t blame Hank III for being mad at Shooter.
And as for Shooter, I say let him do his thing, and history will judge him good or bad.