The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 3, 2012

Statement songs: Country legend makes new career out of political opinion

JOPLIN, Mo. — Before October of 2011, Hank Williams Jr. was known for country rock and blues, tears in beer, rowdy friends getting ready for some football and following in his legendary father’s footsteps -- and becoming a legend himself.

Add politics to the list.

Williams has taken what started out as a perceived gaffe during an interview and turned it into a new direction for his songwriting. His political opinions have fueled a fire, such as the song “Cow Turd Blues,” from his latest album.

“When I came up with that line, ‘They made a huge miscalculation about the mood of this nation,’ I thought (that it was) time to get the iPad out and put this down,” he said in a biography on his website. “I really got pretty motivated.”

Williams himself will perform tonight at Downstream Casino. Though his concert will likely feature well-known songs such as “Eleven Roses,” “Family Tradition,” “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” “A Country Boy Can Survive” and “Born to Boogie,” the singer with more than 50 studio albums is touring in support of his latest album, “Old School New Rules,” as part of his Taking the Country Back Tour.

Williams was born and named after his father, the legendary country crooner Hank Williams Sr. Junior was nicknamed Bocephus, after a dummy used by a ventriloquist at the Grand Ole Opry. He learned music from other big names such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Fats Domino.

When he started his own musical career, he kept walking in his father’s footsteps, and found success. According to CMT.com, he and Johnny Cash teamed up in Detroit’s Cobo Hall for what was then the highest-grossing country show.

Breaking Family Tradition

A disillusionment with trying to be like his father and severance in ties with his mother began the next, most successful phase of his career.

Fueled by his new direction, he worked with Waylon Jennings, Charlie Daniels and others to release “Hank Williams Jr. and Friends” in 1975. That same year, he fell off a Montana mountain and nearly died. The injuries he sustained in that fall led to him wearing his now signature sunglasses and cowboy hat.

Starting with 1979’s “Family Tradition,” Williams surged and recorded 17 consecutive albums that went at least gold. He became known for a high-energy live show, produced albums almost yearly until 2003, and his hit “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” became the theme song for ABC’s “Monday Night Football.”

“Old School New Rules” debuted last month, and it’s the first album under his own label. It’s also written with a new, politically charged angle stemming from an interview on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends,” where he compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. The incident led ESPN to stop using his song for “Monday Night Football.”

The album features songs that express Williams’ “concern” for the country’s direction. According to his biography, many of the songs he had worked on for years and kept stashed away.

When he released “Keep the Change,” a nod to Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, he said it was the fastest downloaded country song in history.

“I saved a lot of stuff back,” he said in the biography. “People asked me, ‘Where’d this come from?’ I just had it stuck away in the bottom of the guitar case.”

Want to go?

Hank Williams Jr. will perform at 8 p.m. today at Downstream Casino. Tickets range from $50 to $100. $5 from every ticket will be donated to the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund.

Details: 888-396-7876.

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