The deathly pallor, the skeleton stance, the twangy voice, the love of good whiskey and also bad women—it's eerie come look at Hank Williams III without seeing this apparition the his legendary grandfather. Elizabeth Gilbert goes on the road with Nashville's prodigal grandson and also witnesses his ascent to stardom and also his descent right into despair.

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I say, "Just speak your mind, Hank-3. Don't permit me stop you."

Me and the nephew of Hank Williams space sitting in part honky-tonk dive in downtown Nashville, listening to some mediocre band churn with some weepy old set of country-music standards. The nephew of Hank Williams bears the Christian surname Shelton Hank Williams, but he is better known roughly these components as Hank-3, therefore that's why I contact him that. Me and also everyone else in this bar. Who have all known him ~ above sight. Hank-3 is a tiny hard to miss, mental you. He's the only six-foot-two-inch, 144-pound, twangy-voiced, greatly tattooed, longhaired skeleton walking about Nashville this days who looks specifically like Hank Williams. And also you cannot hide the challenge of Hank Williams in this town. It would certainly be choose if Elvis Presley had actually a dead-ringer nephew who at some point tried to walk approximately Memphis without getting any type of attention. Not a chance. Heads would certainly turn, jaws drop.

Tonight the nephew of Hank Williams is perched on barstool, balancing ~ above his bony ass, cigarette smoking cigarettes together if there were some kind of challenge for it and drinking whiskey simply as competitively. And also he's bitching about his record label, Curb Records. He's griping about what a difficult time that had gaining Curb come put also a measly three of his own songs top top his debut album (which is a an extremely impressive and totally rocking country production called Risin' Outlaw—and the three original cuts room the very best part of it, thank you really much). Hank-3 seemes to have actually never heard that tenet about not informing journalists every solitary little thing you think, execute or want, i m sorry is why he's saying, "These people at Curb room all fucking assholes. The next album I'm doing, it's every gonna it is in filled with all my own songs, or posesthe them and I'll watch you in court. Because this is fucking bullshit. Castle tried to make my album commercial and also radio-friendly, and that is not what ns am every about, man. And also now the radio doesn't even play my shit anyhow. For this reason what was the fucking point?"

Hank-3 is really fidgety v his ponytail tonight. He's very flinchy, very dodgy. It's six o'clock in the evening and also he just woke up. This is a perfectly common timetable because that his vampiric existence. His stomach kills from the flu, an ailment he gets, follow to his calculations, "once every five fucking weeks." His complexion? Consumptive. His demeanor? Exhausted. And here's why: Hank-3 has actually been ~ above the road nonstop for 5 years now, swilling booze, smoking drugs, reconceiving American country music, resting on a bus with 5 other guys and also singing his guts the end in low-down bars where redneck invest their evenings kicking every other's dumb redneck asses. And now he's dog-tired. Dog-tired and 27 year of age.

The grandson of Hank Williams continues, "I gained this brand-new song I simply wrote. It's around how much I hate the modern Nashville establishment. It's referred to as 'I put the cock in Dixie and also the Cunt in Country,' but my brand hates the shit. They'll never let me record it. Therefore fuck them. Fuck castle all. They deserve to all go fucking fuck themselves."

"Yeaaahhhh," he drawls. "I know I have to shut my fucking mouth. My producers hate it once I speak in public choose this. They save trying to acquire me come shut up. Lock tried to send me to media college six fucking times."

Media school?

"Yeaaahhhh…that's wherein all the big Nashville stars walk these days, come learn how to turn questions around and also act like they love the family-values shit and also deflect subjects about drugs and whoring, yet I can't carry out that. Ns can't pat those games. I'll tell girlfriend what, man. Ns am no a motherfucker who does fucking lunch."

Up onstage the tape starts playing a song dubbed "I'm so Lonesome I can Cry." This is one of Hank-3's granddaddy's sweetest and also best tunes, however Hank-3 doesn't even look up. This is a truly good song in the entirety Hank Williams canon. Yet what we have actually here tonight, folks, is not perhaps the most motivated rendition that it. The win is dragging behind the attractive blond singer prefer a bum leg. Still, she has a poignant enough tremor to she voice to convey the allude of the song simply fine, and also here's the allude of the song: Life is countless pain. The bar gets real quiet. The singer's eyes are closed. She sways. Her brief denim dress and also red cowboy boots are very sexy. At critical Hank-3 manages a look up at the cute young point onstage, to sing his grandfather's many mournful dirge.

"OK, OK," that mutters under his breath. "You look at great, honey, and you gained a nice voice. Now go home and also write your own goddamn songs."

It can not honestly be claimed that Hank-3 looked specifically like his grandfather from birth. Yet that's only because newborns room not normally tall, gaunt, pallid individuals with hollowed-out cheekbones and haunted eyes. No, the healthy baby boy that was called Shelton Hank Williams was just a regular-looking infant, chubby and pink. His mama and his dad loved infant Shelton very much. Infant Shelton's mama to be a pretty lady with environment-friendly eyes and a challenge shaped favor a valentine. She flourished up on a farm in Jane, Missouri, where, every Saturday night that summer, the whole family provided to sprawl the end on the cool hardwood floor that the life room and listen to the cool Ole Opry coming in live on the radio all the method from distant Nashville.

Baby Shelton's daddy was a good-looking young male named Hank Williams Jr., that was trying to make a distinctive surname for himself together a country-music star. Although do such difference was probably not the simplest thing in this people to effort if her name taken place to contain the indigenous Hank and Williams.

Because that's that baby Shelton's grand was—Hank Williams himself.

The Hillbilly Shakespeare. A tall, gaunt, pallid individual with hollowed-out cheekbones and haunted eyes, that wrote close come 150 songs before murdering himself with alcohol, drugs and also sorrow in ~ the age of 29. A dirt-poor, ignorant boy born in 1923 come a dirt-poor, ignorant, drunk dad (who quickly abandoned him) top top a grim chunk the tenant farmland in landscape Alabama, Hank Williams was a most unlikely genius. A dreadful failure in school and also too sickly for hand-operated labor (Hank endured lifelong crippling pain native undiagnosed spina bifida), the child learned just how to play guitar due to the fact that it to be the one point that came easy for him. His teacher to be an illiterate black singer named Tee-Tot, who worked the roadways of Georgiana, Alabama, and who educated Hank in the mournful sound of deep-ass Delta blues. Hank take it this sound and also blended it—using the intuition the a natural-born alchemist—with the emotionally gospel strains of Baptist hymns and the simple, fiddle-drive dance tunes of the dirt-poor, ignorant white folk he knew all too well, thereby inventing modern American nation music. Hank Williams created every kind of nation song there is, and he walk it through grace, a purity and a deceptive simplicity the made his work just plain far better than the work of any country artist that has ever before followed. He composed drinking songs, cowboy songs, Jesus songs and also Devil songs. He wrote dozens ~ above dozens that meetin', cheatin' and also retreatin' songs. He composed "Hey, great Lookin'." He created "There's a Tear in mine Beer." He composed "I experienced the Light." He wrote songs in ten minutes the were immediately chiseled right into our collective social consciousness and haven't budged since.

He became the greatest musical star that his day, however he likewise fucked increase every great break he ever got: married a woman that drove the insane. Verbally abused his most steadfast audiences. Drove far his dearest friends. Pissed turn off every ecutive who tried to manage his career. Obtained fired from the cool Ole Opry for being an alcoholic lowlife, obtained beat to piece in stupid fights, obtained tossed in stupid jails because that stupid display screens of publicly drunkenness. That had, as his Nashville publisher, Roy Acuff, placed it, "a million-dollar voice and a 10-cent brain." Hank Williams sped toward death like Jimmy Dean heading because that that automobile wreck, an on new Year's Eve, 1952, he ultimately got wherein he was always destined come go. Died in the back of a Cadillac, top top his method to a show, go together up in blankets prefer a pester victim. Skinny and also wasted (did I mention he was just 29 year old?), his spirit damaged by median women and melancholy, his body ruined by booze, painkillers and excess, his lonesome heart just quit.

Exact cause of death? Well, you could say: inevitability.

So Hank Williams died, and also he left behind him a dazzling musical legacy but additionally an ambitious young widow and a fatherless toddler son, that name was Hank Williams Jr. And this negative kid gained shoved the end on the roadway at the earliest age by his mother, who placed him out there on stage to make money for the family, obediently singing his dead father's songs. Hank Williams Jr. Grew up starved for light under the lengthy shadow that his father, a guy he has actually referred to as being "something between God and John Wayne." He functioned the lone roadway hard, putting on concerts and also singing photographs because that fans who would say to him, night ~ night, "You're nice good, kid. However you're no as good as your daddy." Then, as soon as he was still simply a teenager, the met that pretty farm yard girl v the face shaped like a valentine. He married her, and also they had their very own boy, Shelton Hank Williams. Points were nice because that a while, yet then it all went to hell. There to be a rapid divorce. There there was a devastating accident, when Hank Williams Jr. Dropped off a mountaintop and also had his confront torn off and also had to invest three years in and also out that the hospital, acquiring his head totally rebuilt. Then came his very own epic period of drinking, drugs, whoring, pissing turn off the Nashville establishment and also fucking up. Out of which came his incredibly rewarding career together Bocephus, a Dixie-fried, hell-raising southern-rock redneck icon. The movie critics tended to dislike him, however he to be a big commercial start. And also not lot of a dad to his small boy.

So that bring us right up to Shelton Hank Williams. The most recent Hank. Hank-3. Fatherless child, as per the timeworn Williams family members custom.

Shelton prospered up in Nashville with the dimmest sense that there was something special around his name. Knew he had actually a dead, famed grandfather. Saw his daddy on TV all the time, however rarely in person. Shelton himself had been completely cut off from the luck of both Hank Williamses. The mama v the valentine-shaped confront raised her boy as finest she could, every by herself and also on a retail keep clerk's salary. She was a good Christian woman that loved she boy. But here's what young Shelton loved: music. And also he wasn't into that corny old-timey Nashville shit, either, yet the hardest, scariest music he might find. Even when he was 4 year old, he was currently whaling top top his drums to Kiss albums. When he got older, the music he loved got even harder—Henry Rollins, black Sabbath, the Sex Pistols, the Misfits. ("If Marilyn Manson was approximately when ns was a kid," Hank-3 says, "I would have actually listened come that and my mommy would've shit even much more bricks.") He obtained kicked the end of a decent exclusive school because his qualities sucked, and also once the hit the public-school system, he simply quit ~ above the whole education thing and also started hanging out with the really bad kids. Prospered his hair under to his ass but shaved his head ~ above the sides. Gained tattoos he liked to think his mama didn't recognize about. Joined up with some local punk bands v names choose Bedwetter, Buzkill, Rift. His mama sent out him come Christian camps, whereby they tried to exorcise the evil one from him. Castle tried to scared him by telling him just how listening come this satanic music would doom his soul to burn in hell because that eternity. Shelton thought every critical word that it, but that only made him much more attracted to the upset music since he want to it is in scared.

All the while, though, there was this physical adjust coming end his entirety being. His mama began to notice it once Shelton Hank Williams was about 12 years old. He acquired real tall on her every one of a sudden. Starvation-skinny. And also there to be something about the huge Adam's apple farming out the his long throat, something about the unlimited thin line of a mouth, the arresting cheekbones, the tragic and also cavernous eyes. He was beginning to look similar to his grandfather, and—believe you me—this is no type of look because that any small kid to have. Shelton appeared to it is in morphing earlier in time, reaching back in some lost genetic history book because that his identity. And odd, too, that in spite of all his fascination for satanic music, the was constantly nagging his mommy to tell the stories around Hank Williams Sr. And also his mama tried come oblige, however there was only so much she it s her knew. The male was a legend, she told Shelton, and also so you'll constantly hear legend stories around his legendary talent, his legendary drinking, his legend downfall. If you want to truly understand the guy though, Shelton's mama said, make certain you seek out the world who actually knew that personally. Questioning them what he to be like.

And so, when Shelton hank Williams was 15 years old—an angry, sensitive, scrawny, fatherless boy v a bony body and eardrums numbed by the unremitting screams of thrash punk music—he chose he want to meet Minnie Pearl. He'd hear the Minnie Pearl was among his grandfather's finest friends in the Nashville music step of the 1950s, and he want to understand who exactly his grandfather was as a person. For this reason he dubbed up Minnie Pearl, and also she said, sure, she'd fulfill him at her Methodist church in Nashville. His mama journey him over there on the appointed day. Shelton stepped out of the car. He to be an pure calamity of a teenager, pull on in part aggressive heavy-metal concert T-shirt, with long and also dirty hair and a dope smoker's bloodshot eyes. Minnie Pearl walked over to greet him. She to be an old, sweet-faced lady, wearing a prim gingham dress and one that her famed Hee Haw hats with the dangling price tag. She take it one close look in ~ this kid and went distinct pale. And it wasn't because of the method he to be dressed either.

"Lord, honey," Minnie Pearl stated to Shelton Hank Williams. "You're a ghost."

The manner whereby Hank-3 became a country-music artist is together a perfectly standard country-music story (full of dirtbaggery, poverty, woe, booze, out-of-wedlock births and also sheriffs) that it practically feels prefer a jukebox created it. Destruction this. Shelton Hank Williams struggle his at an early stage twenties. And nobody was ever less associated to country music the he was. The male was play in punk bands, living through friends, making around $30 a night turn off his music, doing every kinds of drugs and screwing every kinds that girls. (Well, one kind.)

He'd been in trouble through The Law, but only because that "stupid shit" the he doesn't desire to discuss because "they clearing my record, and also nobody would ever understand anyhow." yet life to be sweet. Playing on the bill v bands like Corrosion of Conformity, bad Religion and also Fugazi when doing drugs and also chicks—that was around the breadth that the ambition of the grandson of Hank Williams. ("I never did number on being a university man," he makes clear.) for this reason one night the was play a punk show, and also "here come these two pigs, v a bunch that punk kids following behind to see what the crap is up. The cops asking me if I'm Shelton Williams, and also I say, yeah, I'm Shelton Williams. And also then they serve me v the fucking papers."

Seems Shelton had took pleasure in a one-night stand with some girl about three year ago, and she'd waited until currently to let him know there had actually been a kid born as a result. Cute little boy. Son was 3 years old now, and also the young mommy wanted some child support paid. Not just in the future, but back into the past. Come the tune of $24,000. Now, wherein the hell is a punk lowlife prefer Shelton Hank Williams supposed to come up v $24,000?

Clearly it was time to cash in top top the name. There was nothing come it however pure mercenary need at first. He strode right into a showbiz manager's office in Nashville and also introduced himself. He basically said, "My name is Hank Williams the third, and also I have to raise part money." He probably didn't also have come say every that; his arresting physical resemblance come Hank Williams Sr. To be his genuine calling card. No problem. The manager promptly sent Hank-3 off to Branson, Missouri—the kitsch-country funding of the world—and acquired him one act. Put him in a white hat and also a white suit (that nicely covered up the tattoos) together if he to be the Ghost that Hank Williams. The act sold out every day, rudimentary together it can have been.

Shelton to be barely a guitar player at the time, and he knew basically nothing around the nation genre, for this reason he had to learn the old Hank Williams songs together he went. Any educated Nashville audience would have hurled him turn off the phase in disgust, yet the retirees and Korean battle veterans and grandmotherly tourists of Branson ("Hell," Hank-3 wasn't some reluctant 8-year-old boy out over there on stage. Right here instead was a young man with a heartily undamaged self-identity, who already had developed a innovative (although completely "other") music aesthetic. Shelton Hank Williams, a genuine student the rock and punk, was clearly a person capable of being moved by music. Together such, what else might he do but fall in love through his grandfather's work? It was inevitable. Due to the fact that it's no as if they were making him sing Don Ho tunes up there; these to be the songs of Hank Williams, which are (and i can't imagine anybody in the civilization contradicting me ~ above this) the ideal songs ever before written. Therefore, what taken place to Hank-3 in Branson was no a humiliation; it to be an education.

His managers paired that up with a young man named Jason that played stand-up bass and also who, choose Shelton, was raised on tough rock favor it to be mother's milk. The two of lock strapped on your hillbilly spelunking gear and climbed deep, deep down into a full-out study of the dark and rich caves that old-time country music.

"What you need to understand," Jason states today, "is that, also to punks, Hank Williams Sr. Is revered in a manner the is past reproach. He's viewed as a damaged hero. He was an individualist who fought the commercial Nashville system. He was a genius who transcended genre, on the level that a mile Davis or a Robert Johnson. Us were both for this reason green earlier then, however doing that display in Branson was exactly how we learned to play country music. Shelton's tribute to Hank senior became a genuine tour de force. That all came so organic to him. That could instantly do what Hank senior could do. Ns think maybe it's because he's so likewise constructed genetically. He can just sound prefer him, yodel like him, beat guitar favor him v such ease. Or perhaps he has some the Hank's soul in him, ns don't know. However he gained it under fast."

Look, the would have actually been sufficient just to have actually been a good impersonator. What a gimmick! There's a woman wandering the human being right now called Jett Williams, who, after years of ugly lawsuits, has ultimately been able come prove the she is the illegitimate daughter of Hank Williams Sr. These days Jett Williams travels all over the country, singing the song of the daddy she never met, donate by a tape that has actually featured members the the Drifting Cowboys, Hank's original band. And it's a an excellent living, even if its no the most original or dynamic plot in the world. (Here's Hank-3's critique of Jett Williams, as delivered with his usual gentle decorum: "She's fucking bullshit. She's not even a actual musician. I'm sorry, however if you're 50 year old and also you can't sing a fucking note and you obtained something come say about your life or your family, climate go write a fucking book, but get off the fucking stage.") OK, point taken. Yet the truth is that Hank-3 could have done this act just as easily, or even an ext easily, 보다 Jett Williams. If all he was really after was the quick money, then he can have chose to be the Ghost that Hank Williams forever, put on the white suit and also singing the old songs and also cashing check at the an initial National bank of Branson until the finish of time.

Instead, this.

Shelton Hank Williams take it on the mantle of country music as if it were the herbal inheritance fate had constantly had in mind because that him. He started writing his own country songs. He wrote drinking songs, train songs, jail songs, mama songs, honky-tonk songs, Jesus songs and Devil songs. He composed meetin', cheatin' and also retreatin' songs. It came so straightforward to him, this songwriting. And also what tiny about it didn't come easy, the studied with a deliberation and a emphasis that damn near made a college man out of him after all.

He take it one rapid look approximately Nashville and recognized there to be nothing being tape-recorded in Music Square this days worth listening come for an ext than 3 minutes. What the hell are you an alleged to do of modern country music, anyhow, once the best star of the work is the abs-of-steel spokesmodel Shania Twain? The whole commercial pop-crossover sanitized an equipment of Nashville made Hank-3 instinctively barf. Therefore he officially named his grand as the center of his musical universe and also then collection out to discover the grizzled mainly bodies the orbit Hank Williams Sr.: Johnny Cash, Merle haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, George Jones, Wayne Hancock. He immersed self in every one of it. And also then this boy of punk rock took his researches on the road, perfecting his nation style as he embarked on a punishing and also apparently everlasting tour schedule, playing every venue there is—small towns, punk clubs, honky-tonk bars, redneck joints, county fairs and also even the grand Ole Opry. He played every weekend and also four nights a mainly for five years, building up his fan base and honing his own musical style.

Furthermore, as part of his cultivate to it is in a standard country-music star, he started living the standard country-music-star lifestyle, big-time. Very first thing he did was deliberately step up the drinking. "I never drank at every hardly before I began playing nation music," that explains. "I just smoked a ton that pot and did drugs through my punk friends. However when I began playing country, ns just had actually to end up being fucking drunk. Just so I could understand the music, girlfriend know? simply so I can understand all the various other old fucking drunks."

He likewise left his girlfriend of seven years, not because he didn't love her but because he want to experience "that type of pain, for this reason I might have other vto create about." He to be miserable there is no her, exactly as planned, and got a whole heap of songs out of it. He driven his body to the sheet of collapse through hooch, drugs, insane hours, shit food and every other manner of abuse. It gained so bad that when his girlfriend staged an intervention, Hank-3's father and also his father's great buddy Waylon Jennings (speaking that old fucking drunks) showed up, deeply concerned. And also that's speak something, folks, since Hank Williams Jr. Had actually not specifically been play the duty of doting parents thus far in the kid's life. Still, also the old man obtained worried and stuck Hank-3 into rehab in California. Hank-3 enjoyed rehab immensely, in that he met "some really cool motherfuckers in there," yet he acquired fed up through the program and also walked the end on day. Walked out and informed the adorably came to Bocephus and also Waylon Jennings that he had no intentionally of return to rehab because that years yet, if ever.

"You guys simply gotta give me time to max out," the told them. "I'm just doing the same thing you fuckers did."

Wretched, lonely, broke, drunk, physical depleted—it was every coming together for Hank-3. And also then, just to make things even much more country-music perfect, the actually had actually to offer of his pickup van in bespeak to pay his bills. And also then his dog up and also died on the one day. Best there in front of his very own eyes. The kindly god of Nashville were obviously smiling down on him.

And, mine God, were civilization ever prepared for him. With the release of that rocking debut album, Hank-3 came to be a critics' beloved darling overnight. They love his authentic hillbilly sensibility and his hard-core, ceo lyrics. (I been roughed-up, win up, I've been cut, I obtained a tattoo in ~ a soft age….) The critics, full of nostalgia because that his grandfather (and complete of wake up over years of his father's lowest-common-denominator are-you-ready-for-some-football musical shenanigans), tripped over their own tongues trying to articulate their praise. They claimed that Hank-3 had "the songwriting skills and life appeal that his forebears," that he to be "goose-bumpy good," that his songs suggested Hank Sr.'s "emotional ache and longing, and also they perform it over a many refined sense of melody," the "talent skips a generation."

It all may sound hyperbolic, however truly, the album swings. And as because that the live act? There's nothing prefer it. Because Hank-3 has actually never left his punk roots behind him. Occasionally if the atmosphere is right, he plays on collection of his extraordinarily good country music and also then the graciously cautions all the older persons in the crowd the they can want to get the hell out prior to it gets as well loud and also then the kicks right into a hard, upset thrash-metal punk set. The line dancing stop abruptly, and the mosh pit forms, and the night turns an extremely surreal indeed. Hank-3 and also his band space equally comfortable in both styles of music. And the crazy point is, lock don't even adjust their instruments when they readjust their form. The very same stand-up bass, fiddle, guitar and also drum that developed a smooth, authentic Texas honky-tonk sound one minute transform right into a strictly rendered, pounding buzz witnessed of screaming fury the next. Difficult to also know what to contact this transformation. I've heard it described as punkabilly, psychobilly, hillbilly, cow punk…. It kind of defies description.

It's miscellaneous that just Shelton Hank Williams have the right to do. And it's kind of unbelievably great.

The way he lives? oh boy.

Hank-3 provides as his resolve this ramshackle old house external Nashville the he shares with a bunch of various other people. Tough to tell who really resides in this house and who's simply dropping by this house for the evening to market pot or eat pizza or have actually sex through someone who actually does live in the house. Hank-3 self is hardly ever before home, due to the fact that he basically stays on his tour bus. However he does have a bedroom here, i beg your pardon looks prefer the bedroom the a disgruntled teenager—all posters and also porn and also filthy laundry. He's "home" right now, for what that's worth. He's had three days off from his tour, although he hasn't appreciated it much, because he's to be puking in agony native the flu the totality time. Hank-3's tourism bus is parking in the front yard of the residence at the moment, relaxing in the uncut grass amid the crickets and also fireflies, wait for him. The tape members are slowly gathering at Hank-3's house, gradually rejoining after their time off. They're all showered and also rested, because that now and also for once. The plan is to leave roughly midnight because that the fourteen-house drive to Texas and the next leg of this endless Hank Williams III tour.

As for Hank-3 himself, he's in his shanky bedroom, surprise behind a closeup of the door door, deep in a service meeting v his entertainment lawyer. Hank-3's entertainment lawyer is an smart young woman called Elizabeth Gregory, that might show up to have the toughest client in all of Nashville. (Consider this frequently discreet Hank-3 nugget the wisdom: "I have actually the respect of every the players and also old hands, however not the lawyers and also businessmen, and also that's fine. I offer them the finger, and also that's exactly what they need—more civilization giving castle the finger.") So, yes, he's a little bit of a pains in the hole, what v his knee-jerk, punk-rock, white-trash mistrust of noþeles corporate and also his reactionary refuse to acknowledge that anybody that holds a real job can ever possibly hold a real opinion. And also that does tire the end Elizabeth Gregory and make her lawyering pretty hard. Yet she deals with Hank-3 nonetheless, for two reasons. Very first of all, she adores him. She adores him because that the same factor everyone that works v Hank-3 at some point adores him: since he's together a funny strange, renegade but oddly tenderhearted character. He's together a fragile doofus, under his fuck-this, fuck-that exterior. Really sweet and also polite, in his way—"always jumping up to obtain the door because that you or provide you his seat," claims his best friend, Jason. V that physical frailty around him (his body has actually no much more meat on it 보다 a damaged umbrella) and also with that confront (the baby-soft skin looks together if it's never been shaved, but the eyes are famished), he begs to it is in cared for.

Hank-3's grand inspired this same kind the affection in people, utilizing that exact same trick of appeal helplessness concealed under outrageously poor behavior. Everyone who operated with Hank Williams Sr. Adored him, too, even when he remained in full-out fuckup form. ("I to be trying come be her friend 'cause I recognize you need a friend," composed Fred Rose, Hank's famously steadfast manager, in a heartbreaking 1948 letter to the nose-diving hillbilly genius. "The guys that room drinking through you are not your friends, they just like the whiskey friend buy and when you run out that money enough to buy castle whiskey they will certainly leave you all by yourself and tell anyone you space a drunk…. Don't get the idea I'm trying to bawl you out due to the fact that I'm just trying to view you end up being what I know you have the right to become.")

And the brings us to the 2nd reason Hank-3's to chat lawyer, the an extremely intelligent Elizabeth Gregory, at some point sticks around: because she's just trying to check out him become what she to know he can become. Because she wake up to think he's a genius.

"I think we're all sort of fear to to speak what we think he could become," Elizabeth speak me later that evening, as soon as Hank-3 has actually holed up in his room every alone come smoke pot and pack up his garments for the ride to Texas. "He's making music here that simply does no sound choose anything rather anyone has ever done. It's not just that he plays punk and country separately; he's beginning to integrate them much more and an ext into something completely new. That's what his next album will certainly be all about. Think around it—a hard-rock sound v that twangy country voice of his? It's incredible. My an enig belief is the he's qualified of becoming an additional American icon, someone whose magnetism is so an effective and who individual musical layout is for this reason immune to the fads the time that he might endure forever. I think he could become a legend."

Legend, the course, is not a native to it is in tossed about like some cheap Frisbee. Although it is tempting to imagine legendary status for Hank-3, because he damn sure has the pedigree for it. And then there's what Merle Kilgore said. Merle Kilgore is a well known songwriter and also Nashville legend in his own right. That traveled with Hank Williams Sr. Earlier in the 1950s, and he's handled the career of Hank Williams Jr. For years now.

"What carry out I think that Hank Williams III?" says Merle. "I think he's really talented, and also I think he'll make it big. If that doesn't die."

Yeah, well. He's obtained the pedigree for that too.

Living top top a tour bus is prefer living in a submarine. Smells like it, feels favor it. A compact, airtight steel confine, rocking gently in the deep currents the travel. Each man in the band has actually his very own coffin-size berth ~ above the bus with a curtain because that privacy and a wee analysis light to make it feeling all homey. The prior of the bus is a typical living space, where the males sit and also drink beer and also tell stories. The ago of the bus is a dark tiny caboose the a room, and that's whereby Shelton Hank Williams lives. The spends his life earlier there, working on brand-new songs and listening come tapes of previous shows to puzzle out improvements. He's acquired a an excellent stereo device in this small room, in addition to guitars and a TV and a VCR and also bottles the whiskey and tons of pot. It's not that I desire to harp on the pot, but it is for sure amazing exactly how much pot this man smokes. The smokes joints the method chain-smokers acting cigarettes—one after another after another—and the chain-smokes cigarettes too. I honestly don't understand where he finds all the moment for that all.

The bus leaves Nashville for Terrell, Texas, roughly one o'clock in the morning, i beg your pardon is just the start of a new day because that Hank-3. Once we're on the road, ns hang out earlier there in his room v him for a great long while. Us drink some whiskey together. And also I don't typically indulge, but we acting a entirety lot that pot together, too. (What the hell, ns figure. Once in Nashville…) Also, I'm hope if I acquire plenty doped up, it'll assist me shake off the chilly edginess ns still have about this guy. After 2 days of being roughly Hank-3. I'm still unable to obtain over the emotion that I'm in the room through a phantasm. That hungry face, the skeletal form, the twangy Depression-era nation voice through so lot drawl in it that it sounds choose he's pulling taffy with every word, that pallor, that weariness, that undertone of melancholy—it's all so Hank Williams.

It's a an individual curse the Shelton Hank Williams the he often tends to freak world out like this. He to be booked once to play on Late Night v Conan O'Brien, and also during the sound examine he lit into an old Hank senior song to warm up. Among the males from Conan's road-weary crew simply lost his shit once he heard the voice and also saw the face. This big, solid man came as much as Hank-3's manager, every shaken and pale, rolling increase his sleeves to display off his goose bumps.

In the earlier of his bus, Hank-3 is fidgety together ever. He's still complaining of stomach cramps, and his sinuses space bothering that from the readjust in climate, and also he keeps trying come arrange his body comfortably about his brittle, yard-long femurs. He puts in a CD of one of his heroes—a mournfully hillbilly freak called Hasil Adkins that plays the rawest, most haunted music I've ever before heard exterior the Mississippi Delta. If Hasil Adkins moans, wrestles v the Devil and also howls in ~ Jesus, Hank-3 defines how he loves the man "for outdrinking, outfucking, outfighting anyone and for gift a full white-trash alcoholic motherfucker who dedicates his music come every state prison he's ever before been in."

Here's what's ~ above Hank-3's mental tonight—music, God, death and his ancestors. Hank-3 do the efforts to describe how lot he needs both kinds of music that plays; the punk come exorcise his rage, the nation to bring him some type of sad peace. He tells me around how the doesn't very own anything of his grandfather's other than one necktie, which he made the curators the a museum at the grand Ole Opry provide him ~ a show: "I to be like, 'Come on! you all got a totality shitload that hank's ingredient here, and also the males is mine fucking grandfather, and also I gained nothing!'" and then, God. Hank-3 certainly has some things to say about God tonight. Very first of all, about how completely he believes in every one of it—in Jesus, in the dark pressures of evil, in the reality of possession, in heaven and hell. "I understand I'm a sinner," the says. "Look in ~ me. Ns drink. I carry out drugs. Ns don't recognize my very own son. I cuss every the fucking time. Ns live wild and complimentary and reckless, but that's the price you have to pay because that rock. I just hope I'll live come 60, and also then I'll revolve to the Lord and also say, 'I'm ready for you now. I acquired all the time in the people to start making it up to you now.'"

(For an example of how just together a plan can job-related successfully and also on this precise time frame, see: Johnny cash. For an instance of how it can backfire horribly, see: Hank Williams Sr.)

Hank-3 talks about the elderly world who involved his reflects sometimes simply to touch him or to provide him message from his grandfather that they insurance claim have involved them in dreams. A lot of times, the says, they carry warnings indigenous Hank Sr. To take it it easy on the drinking and also the drugs. But Hank-3 talks about his very own drinking and his medicine use with a resigned lack of concern. "If you're top top the road, that's the price you have to pay," the says. "Just subtract fifteen year from her life and fucking address it." and also anyhow, he says, he's gained it under control. The loves his life and also doesn't want to die, and he's cautious not to mix different drugs together, and he's never ever missed a show because he was also fucked-up to play. That course, it hurts him to understand that his mom isn't "too happy best now" v him, what through the problem abuse and all the raw shit he states in public, however that's the fact of gift a rock star's mom. Certainly, that muses, "Marilyn Manson's mother must go v the very same thing." ns tell Hank-3 this is the an initial time I have ever considered the principle "Marilyn Manson's mom," and also he sighs and also says, "Yeaaahhhh…well, everybody's gained one."

But it's no true the his mom isn't too happy v him. Gwen Williams is proud that Shelton. Loves that immensely. Still check out him together a sweet and fun boy. She's simply worried. She to trust "there's a gift the runs through this family, however abuse is always there, too. It's nearly like a destiny with these men."

What really provides her angry, though, is the method the people seems to desire to push her delicate young son into that destructive lifestyle. There's such an alluring symmetry to the idea that Hank-3's being as self-destructive together Hank-1 and Hank-2 that civilization actually try to encourage it. At every Hank Williams III show, there's no end of human being lining as much as buy that shots that whiskey together he performs. Lock all want to take part in this dynastic downfall. Once he slams ago the shots, the crowd cheers and also Hank-3 always says grimly, "Thank you, everyone. Thank you because that applauding my addiction."

As the bus rolfes on, Hank-3 sets come talking about his dad. I mention that Hank Jr. Wouldn't be interviewed for this story, and Hank-3 says, yeah, well, what have the right to you expect? Typical. He admits he acquired a shitty transaction from Hank Jr. Together a kid. Yeah, he to be the dumped son. Yeah, the barely to know the man at all. He remembers visiting v his dad once when Bocephus was on tour, earlier when Shelton wasn't an ext than 11 year old. The wildness and thrill and also terror that it. All those drugs and women everywhere. Roadies offered to offer Shelton "finger sips" of your drinks—letting that dip his little fingers in your bourbon and also lick it off. They'd leave him in a room with a half-dressed woman and also tell her to "let the kid have some fun." the remembers an additional time, when arrangements were produced him to satisfy his father at some airport because that a quick once-a-year rendezvous and "I made my mother stop to buy me a cowboy cap so he would be proud of me, and just the one stop made united state ten minute late. For this reason he was already gone by the time I confirmed up. And also then i was left come cry all day about it." he remembers questioning his dad because that a brand-new material possession just once—a brand-new drum set. Hank Jr. Said, "Geez, son, ns don't know. That sounds quite expensive." and this, Shelton says, "from a man who was making $80,000 a night in concessions alone!"

All that which provides it even stranger that the place Shelton Hank Williams always takes with his father in the finish is the of defensive linebacker.

Conceding his own sadness in ~ not having a dad come speak of, that then actions up to defend Hank Jr.'s character. ("Think the how difficult it to be for him to prosper up under the shadow!") he defends Hank Jr.'s music. ("He can play every tool on the stage, and he's a good performer.") He also defends Hank Jr.'s decision to cut baby Shelton out of his existence. ("How could he know how to treat me? the never had actually a father. And also with me gift the boy of the divorce, he's always bound to have some resentment around me.")

Such a weird, forgiveness stance. However if you take it a closer look at Hank Jr., you'll watch that that is the person here most in need of a forgiveness perspective. Take into consideration the challenge of his situation. The spends his life struggling to produce a self-identity in nation music in spite of having a father whose discography is the really King James bible of nation music. He lastly gets out from under his daddy's firm thumb by ending up being his very own musician. OK, therefore he's no Hillbilly Shakespeare, however he is the crown prince of beer-swilling redneck anthems and also he is his own guy at last. But no sooner does Hank Jr. Acquire himself every commercially successful and separated from the original icon than this abandoned boy of his reflects up top top the music scene, looking and sounding as with the old man, and also creates a phenomenally an excellent debut album. And also every severe music doubter in the nation suddenly start saying, "Look choose talent skips a generation." What an unanticipated blow. What a cruel double-whammy ego slam. You're pretty good boy. But you're not as great as your daddy.

Oh, and by the way—you're no as an excellent as her son, either.

And what a psychic earthquake this must develop for Hank-3, too! To it is in killing turn off his father even as that resurrects his grandfather? It's all too much. It's no wonder the young drinks.

OK, currently I really am stoned.

The small back room the this bus is blue with smoke, and also so is my brain. So currently I'm lastly in a place where I can dare come ask Shelton Hank Williams the awkward yet essential concern I've to be mulling over due to the fact that I an initial heard him to sing dolefully and also beautifully.

"Listen," i say. "Forgive me for asking, one I'm not sure exactly how to bring this up. But are girlfriend the ghost the Hank Williams? perform you ever before wonder that? carry out you ever wonder if you could be…um…him?"

He doesn't answer at first. The road rolls by listed below us. Hasil Adkins wrestles with the devil in the lift of our silence.

I say, "Just speak her mind, Hank-3. Don't permit me avoid you." the cranks his slim neck around and looks up in ~ the ceiling. The says, "I don't know. I can be. Maybe. I definitely feel him through me sometimes, as soon as I'm writing nation songs and everything is walking good. I deserve to feel the there, in ~ least."

"And what does that feel like?"

The grandson of Hank Williams smiles his tired, ancient smile and also says…



A flat brown map spot outside Dallas. There's a bar here called Rustlers, where Hank Williams III is booked to play tonight. It's among those huge-ass Texas productions of a bar, with a dance floor as huge as any type of pasture. There's weather brewing. Tornado clouds. Hank-3's fiddler says, "I obtained a poor feeling about this. Texas run hall? Low-pressure system building? ns bet we watch at least 4 brawls tonight."

By 7 P.M. Shelton Hank Williams has not woken increase yet. Fanbelt, the bus driver, says, "He won't acquire up till ten minutes before the show. Never ever does. The boy doesn't hardly ever see daylight."

By 8 P.M. Over there is noise comes from Hank-3's small room at the back of the bus. Hard, according to punk music is playing. I hear a wire of muffled yodels. He's warming up ago there.

At 8:30 the owner of the dance room walks bowleggedly out throughout the parking lot to the bus. The knocks top top the door and also asks if he can meet Hank Williams III in person. Hank-3 increase from his ago room at last, looking favor he's limping out of a hospital after a long stay. The owner that the dance room welcomes him to Terrell, Texas. Hank-3 graciously many thanks him for the welcome. The owner asks if hank-3 wouldn't mind signing this old document album he's acquired of Hank Williams songs, and Hank-3 graciously obliges. And also then the owner of the dance hall busts soon a substantial grin and pulls out a nice, huge bottle that Jack Daniel's.

"And this here's a small present because that you," he says. "Hell, girlfriend can't very well sing favor your granddaddy without acquiring all liquored up, now, have the right to you?"

"No, i guess not, states Hank-3, and he graciously thanks the dance-hall owner for the kind and thoughtful gift.

The bar is full of rawboned nation people. The men have deals with like saddle leather, and also the women are wearing your once-a-week makeup. There room a many elderly world here tonight. One old man tells me he's come the end on a rare public appearance since "country music is all around a story come tell, around the great and poor of life. The genuine times. Telling those stories is what do Hank Williams Sr. Therefore good. Ns hear this young does the same kind of point as his granddaddy, and I expect to discover it's true."

I questioning the old guy if he's heard that Hank-3 likewise sings difficult punk music, and also and he shakes his head and also says, "Well, shit-damn!"

Hank-3 come onstage without any showy moves. He's put on a cool old cowboy shirt and a beat-to-shit cowboy hat. His boots are held together with duct tape. His hair hangs under his ago in a thin braid, choose a whip. He just steps right into the light and starts singing. The band is tight together a screw, and it doesn't take it but half a tune for that old guy beside me come realize the what he had actually hoped to discover true is true. Ghost-white Shelton Hank Williams is singing in the voice together sharp and also chilling as a train whistle. The sings an amazing mix. He sings an ext of his granddaddy's song tonight than I can have expected—giving united state wonderful versions of "Your Cheatin' Heart" and also "Lovesick Blues." He even throws in one of his dad's shit-kicking tunes, "Women I've never ever Had," to satisfy that kind of fan. The plays a couple of old Johnny Cash classics, just due to the fact that they rule. It's his own songs, though, the really kill tonight. They room so good. So original and also familiar in ~ the same time. Together the an initial strains begin, you can see world hesitating ~ above the dance floor. Girlfriend can almost hear castle thinking, What Hank Williams song is that? how is that I've never heard that Hank Williams track before? They prick their heads and listen close, and then that dawns top top them; They have never heard this Hank Williams tune before due to the fact that it's new.

I'm gonna carry out some drinkin', Hank-3 wails. I'm gonna drink all the whiskey I have the right to find….

The grateful, rawboned country civilization partner up and spin around and take a break from your two-stepping just to rigid at the young guy on the tiny stage. They look up in ~ him frequently, as believed to inspect their eyesight. As though to reassure themselves the what they view is real. They all seem a little spooked. However if they have to step exterior or come privately kiss ~ above another, lock will watch something even much more spooky—the pale and also boiling storm clouds, which have moved so short to earth tonight you'd swear come God they were trying to touch the an extremely roof the this sprawling Texas run hall.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer-at-large and also the author of the commemorated lobster-fishing novel Stern men (Houghton Mifflin).

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