11.02.08, 04:37 PM #1
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Hank Williams III Takes on the Grand Ole Opry
We're stoked that Hank Williams III's new album Damn Right, Rebel Proud just debuted at Number 18 on the Billboard charts (and #2 on the country chart), his highest chart position ever!
The S.S. had the chance to chat with the hillbilly hellraiser, grandson (and spitting image) of country legend Hank Williams, and son of Bocephus.
Hank elaborated on his grandfather's unfair dismissal as a standing member of the Grand Ole Opry -- Nashville's home of country music -- and about the grassroots movement to get his grandfather reinstated. Hank Williams' Opry membership was stripped in 1952 (many speculate it was due to his alcoholism), yet despite being booted, his grandson claims that the Opry, "continues to put out records saying, 'This is Hank Williams live from the Grand Ole Opry' and using his image and likeness."
Hank III said there are plenty of ways for people to help stop this exploitation. "We have a petition that anybody can sign, and just spreading the word, letting people know, that's the biggest thing."
On Damn Right, Rebel Proud, Hank III included the tune, "The Grand Ole Opry (Ain't So Grand)," which boasts the following verse:
"To most people listening to this sit might seem like we're talking shit
But if you look behind the scenes to see who is pulling strings, goddammit it will make you sick
Hank Williams still ain't reinstated and I'll tell you that's fucking bullshit."
Tell me about writing the Grand Ole Opry song.
I tried to be respectful in the beginning. I tried to do it behind the scenes, and I guess I tried to do it the right way. Then I got so much attitude from some of the folks there and I was like, "Well if you’re going to be like that I’ll let you hear what the people have to say about it."
And for the movement we have going on, yes, it’s definitely an immature song that’s probably not going to help, but that’s just the way it is. The biggest thing is just calling them out and trying to get respect where respect is due, simple as that. More than likely it’ll probably never happen, but at least we get to let them know that that’s bullshit. There’s a lot of folks getting behind it.
That’s the only song, it seems like, live where everybody puts their hands together and claps along and keeps the beat for us. That’s basically the main foundation on it.
For someone who doesn’t understand how the Grand Ole Opry works, what does that mean to be kicked out of the Grand Ole Opry?
The Grand Ole Opry is kind of like the mother church of country music, and to be kicked out…if you got reasons to be kicked out -- you’re falling down onstage, being a little too drunk, a little too mouthy -- ok, that’s understandable. The biggest thing about this is they kicked Hank Williams out, and then towards the end of it was written that they were planning on reinstating him a few months later, once he got his act together. Then naturally he passed on before that could happen, and it all just kind of disappeared.
The thing with the Grand Ole Opry is they just don’t care about reinstating dead people. That’s kind of bullshit because you’re not preserving history the way you could. Why was Hank Williams the first inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame? He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Then you’ve got your little secret club here in Nashville that will put out records saying, "This is Hank Williams live from the Grand Ole Opry," or having the impersonator down in from of the Grand Ole Opry, or having his pictures all around town, using his image and likeness, but you still don’t want him in your club! That’s just something that doesn’t sit right with me.
They did the same thing to the living guy, Jimmy Martin. If you study his career, he was a little too mouthy, he would sip on Seven and Seven, and just kind of tell it the way it is, but when it came to show time, he would always do his thing—make people laugh, make people smile. But when he’d walk off that stage, that’s when some of the problems would happen. They’re just a little too strict. Back in the old days, the Grand Ole Opry was a young, rocking event. Over the years, it’s become like church, and that’s fine, but you need to keep a little bit of fire in there, or preserve the history. That’s the main thing--just show respect. He’s been getting disrespected and I’m just trying to step up for him a little bit.
You’ve been saying he’s been kind of exploited by the Grand Ole Opry...
Yes, to be such an icon as he is. If you’ve lived in this town and seen what I’ve seen, they definitely have exploited him and disrespected him at the same time. There’s no kind of official, real tribute to him, except for maybe a couple of pictures on the wall. It’s just not done right, and it’s done real cheap.
It sounds like it’s important to you to have your grandfather fairly and accurately represented by the Grand Ole Opry, where he not only spent so much time but where he formed a lot of his identity.
That’s true. If you look at the way the Louisiana Hayride treated him and the way the Grand Ole Opry’s treated him throughout the years you can see the difference. We just got an interview that’s never seen the light of day with Hank Williams talking about not being a member of the Opry. So that definitely shattered him even more so when that went down, and he knew he fucked up and that was just the way it is. He had said, "You know if I’m not a member, as long as people keep talking about me, I’ll keep on going."
I started this thing like 5 years ago. I said it last time I was on the Opry stage, I said it live on TV when they were doing a 50th anniversary for Hank Williams. I was like, "Well, folks, here’s your big 50th anniversary and he’s not a member. Don’t you think it’s about time to change that?" Not like it makes a difference, but at least I got to say that live on TV on the stage, and that’s kind of when it started.
And you said that there’s actual footage of your grandfather saying that it meant a lot to him to be in the Grand Ole Opry.
It’s him discussing not being, this is after he’s been kicked out, him talking about. "Well, Hank, how does it feel not being a member of the Opry?" I haven’t got to hear it yet, but this guy just came forth like two weeks ago, and he’s like, "I’ve never let this interview out for anybody and I really respect y’all’s cause, and you’re the first guys I want to hear this." It’s cool little things like that that pop up along the way that make it all worth while.
So you’ll get to hear it soon enough.
Yeah, he’s going to send it to Blake. Blake Judd and Keith Neltner’s been helping me on this whole project, and we’ve got a little DVD coming out on it, and we’re going to try to make a day or two music event that might be on like internet radio, where people from punk bands to country bands, whoever wants to be involved, show up and play. We’re just paying respects to him, just kind of letting him know, just trying to keep the musicians involved in it as much as possible.
And you guys are working on a DVD?
Yeah, from Henry Rollins, to David Allan Coe.
So they’re all talking about the influence of your grandfather?
Yes, and what they have to say about him not being a member.
So, you know, we’ve got all kinds of people talking about it, man, and it’s an open door to whoever wants to be involved, so…
So what’s the best way for a musician to get involved?
It would be, that, pretty much. We have a petition or we have the real book, you know, that anybody can sign. And the other way is really just to support this music thing, just getting together and playing for Hank for a day or two. And just spreading the word, really, without asking for money to make billboards and stuff like that. I mean really it’s just word of mouth and letting people know. So, that’s the biggest, biggest thing, I would say.
I mean we’ve got all the other stuff we’ve been working on, the DVD and the awareness page and the petition and the t-shirts, and all that stuff, so, it’s at least, rubbing them wrong down on Broadway. You can see the people that are allies with them, and the people that aren’t. It’s been, whatever happens, it’s been fun and you know, it’s just keeping it alive, as long as we can.
Last edited by voivod; 11.02.08 at 04:45 PM."Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton
11.03.08, 04:02 AM #2
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01.05.16 @ 07:47 AM
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Not being a tried and true country and western fan per se but I am a fan of his granddad's legacy and work and I think it is a bunch of shit that Hank Williams is not a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Even though he is everywhere and all over the Hall of Fame there, to me the right thing to do would be to reinstate him and call it good. I have in fact signed the petition about it.
11.05.08, 01:14 AM #3
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09.23.16 @ 02:27 AM
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I heard some of Hank III's stuff awhile back....that dude is freakin' insane.
He sounds like Senior, and seems to be trying to party harder than Senior and Junior combined.
I heard a song called "Crazed Country Rebel", I believe.....well, he'll never make it on Country Top 40 radio, that's for sure.
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