The tragedy is nothing new to the family of the late country-music legend Hank Williams. You could even say that it’s a “family tradition”.
Hank Sr. passed away from a drug overdose when he was just 29 years old. His son Hank Jr aka Bocephus follows in his father’s footsteps and catches in drugs and alcohol. After a suicide attempt, he finds his reason for living. Right after he finds his own voice, he will experience a catastrophic accident that almost claimed his life.
Then his son Shelton, who goes by the name Hank III when performs his riveting brand of country-punk hybrid music. Taking a few pointers from his father and granddad, Hank III experiences a lifelong battle with substance abuse. He finds himself on the wrong end of the long arm of the law more than a few times.
Last but not least, we have Colemon Williams, otherwise known as Hank Williams IV. It must be hard being the son of Hank III and he’s the one Hank that isn’t short temper. He is contend with quite a bit of hardship throughout his life so far.
Join Facts Verse as we take a look at the tragic Hank Williams Family legacy while detailing how each Hank has gone to hell and back while simultaneously finding success in the music industry.
Hank Williams Sr.
Hiram “Hank” Williams born on September 17, 1923, Hank Sr is one of the most popular and influential American singer-songwriters.
He grew up in rural Mount Olive, Alabama, and came from very little means. His father works as a logger before being hospitalizes at a VA hospital when he is just six years old. Hank saw very little of his dad over the next decade, so he is severely ill and didn’t want visitors.
Hank’s mother, takes over the duties of running the family, manage boarding houses and moves the family to Montgomery, Alabama.
Hank Sr’s childhood shapes by his spinal condition, spina bifida. It is different from the other children his age and develops a sense of separating from the world around him. He feels like some kind of outcast, and that theme can hear in the lyrics of his later music.
After listening to the radio and church choirs as gospel melodies, he teaches himself to play folk and country music. He receives a helping hand from African American street musician Rufus Payne, who teaches him how to play the blues.
Hank makes his radio debut when he’s 13 and enter talent shows his band Hank Williams and his drifting Cowboys. His mother supported his musical dreams and would often drive him around throughout southern Alabama to play shows.
In the 40s, he discovers by music executives in the recording studio capital of the world, Nashville.
But as he continues reaching success, doing what he loves, he becomes dependent on alcohol to relieve his back pain. As a result of this, he regarded as being unreliable.
In 1943, he encounters his love, Audrey Mae Shepherd, the mother of a daughter and comes from tumultuous marriage. After she joins Hank Sr’s band playing the bass, Audrey and Williams got married in 1944. The couple would welcome their son, Hank Williams Jr, into the world in 1949.
In 1946, Williams signed with MGM, and a year later he released his first hit single, “Move it On Over’. In 1948, he wowed the music world once more with a second Billboard chart-topping hit “Honky Tonkin”.
But as he continued to find more and more success in the music business, Hank’s behavior became increasingly erratic. He shows up to gigs drunk but manages to keep things together to release a series of other hit singles. It includes ‘Louisiana Hayride’, ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’, and ‘Honky Tonk Blues’.
In 1952, he and Sheppard divorced shortly after the Grand Ole Opry had fired him. Hank then proceeded to become increasingly reliant on painkillers and alcohol to ease his ails. His physical appearance diminished. His hair started falling out, and his weight ballooned.
On New Year’s Day 1953, while riding in the back seat of his blue Cadillac, Hank Sr passed away. It’s generally agreed upon that he likely died from a lethal combination of painkillers and alcohol. But instead of his death putting an end to his stardom, it arguably only added to his legendary status. Posthumously, Hank Sr’s music will go on to take on a life of it’s own. And immortalizing him as one of the most cherished and revered country stars of all time.
Hank Williams Jr.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Hank Williams Jr would likewise become one of the most beloved stars of country music. But bearing the same name as his father helps him find success in the music world. For the longest time, he feels like if he is simply riding on his dad’s coattails. Escaping the shadow of his father’s strict attitude, he is able to find his own and make his unique path.
Hank is born Randall Hank Williams, and because of his mother Audrey, he starts performing when he’s eight years old. His 1964 recording “long Gone Lonesome Blues” climb to number 5 on the country charts before high school.
But by the time he was 18, Hank Jr found himself desperately unhappy with life and fell into drug and alcohol abuse. After severing ties with his mother, Hank Jr tried to kill himself in 1974. Fortunately, he survived this attempt and was able to rediscover his passion for music.
After moving away from Nashville and finding a new home in Alabama, Hank Jr began collaborating with Southern rock musicians such as Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings, and the band members of the Marshall Tucker Band. Eventually, these collaborations will lead him to release his album Hank Williams Jr and Friends, which considers to be the record that saw Hank coming into his element and finding his voice.
However, tragedy struck just a year later when he was climbing Ajax Mountain in Montana. After losing his footing, Willaims fell over 400 feet, smashing his face and crushing his skull as he tumbled. It took him two years and numerous surgeries for him to fully recover, and at first, it wasn’t clear even if he was ever going to be able to talk again – let alone sing.
Fortunately, after recovering from his injuries, he began the slow process of rebuilding his career. After re-branding himself primarily as a southern rock musician, Hank Jr would go on to release dozens of albums And throughout his career, he would earn numerous awards and accolades for his contributions to the world of music while challenging the establishment with his unique blend of country, rock, and blues.
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While his granddaddy sang about Cheatin’ Hearts and feeling lonesome, Shelton Hank Williams has spent his life battling very different demons – namely, hard drugs and record executives.
Hank III, as he goes by on stage, was born on December 12, 1972, and he spent much of his early career living a semi-nomadic lifestyle while playing drums in a punk band in the late 80s and early 90s. Williams would later play bass in the heavy metal group Superjoint Ritual, led by former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo.
In 1996, he signed a contract with the Nashville label Curb Records hoping to capitalize on his family name and his uncanny resemblance to his grandfather. That same year, he would appear on the critically-panned record Three Hanks: Men with Broken hearts, which pieced together recordings of the three generations of Hanks to make it seem as if they were singing alongside each other. Hank III hated having to do that album, but he had to do it anyway since he signed his name on that dotted line.
Hank III put out his first solo album, Risin’ Outlaw in 1999, and went on to release the album Lovesick, Broke, and Driftin’ in 2002. As he continued to find more and success as an unorthodox country musician who didn’t mind dabbling in heavy metal and punk music, Hank III would begin to succumb to his party-hardy lifestyle.
He turned to hard drugs like crystal meth, crack, and painkillers to ease his troubled mind, but inevitably this began to cause him a great deal of trouble in his personal life. And while he was actively spiraling, his relationship with Curb began to deteriorate.
In 2006, he released the album Straight to Hell, which dealt heavily with his drug use and outlaw persona. Two years later, he put out the album Damn Right, Rebel Proud after temporarily patching things up with Curb. But after a series of disputes, Williams decided to put together his own label, Hank3 Records. He would go on to release several critically applauded albums, including A Ghost to a Ghost/Guttetown and Cattle Callin – the latter of which was credited to 3 Bar Ranch and consisted of recordings of cattle auctioneers overlaid with speed metal.
In 2013, Hank III put out his most recent album, A Fiendish Threat, and largely he has fallen off the map since then, leading fans to speculate that he has been continuing to fight with addiction in the eight years since. While he has managed to stay out of the spotlight for quite some time, it would seem likely that his demons haven’t magically relented – and it’s well documented that he has spent multiple stints in rehabilitation centers since then. Hopefully, the world has not seen the last of Hank III.
Hanks Williams IV
Sometime in the mid-90s, Hank III learned that he had fathered a son, Colemon Finchum. In 2021, it was confirmed that Colemon, who has since adopted the alias Hank Williams IV, or just IV for short, would pursue a musical career of his own. His debut single, Son of Sin, was released on April 20, 2021.
The 30-year-old, who has spent most of his life estranged from his father, has since released his debut EP.
After learning that he had a son, Hank III was hit with a paternity suit when Coloemon was five-years-old. He was ordered by a judge to get a ‘real job’ to help pay his child support. To pay his dues, Hank III signed with Cumusicrb and went on to become the outlaw nontraditional country singer and songwriter that he is today.
Did you know that Hank Williams Sr was such a deeply troubled man? And did you know that these troubles only seemed to be passed down his musically-talented bloodline? Let us know in the comments section what you know about the family tradition of pain and misery that seems to haunt the Williams family name.
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