The Late Movies: The Hanks


Summer's got me feeling like a southern boy stuck in a Yankee's body. All I wanna do is drink bourbon, eat barbecue and listen to the Hanks, by which I mean Hank Williams, one of the most iconic figures in country music, who set the agenda for the genre for years to come; his son Hank Williams Jr., whose exposure of mainstream audiences (all together now: "Are you ready for some football?!") aided country's rise as a major musical and cultural force; and his grandson Hank Williams III, whose heavy metal tendencies and prominence as a performer of neotraditional country in an era dominated by pop country has kept the genre from sliding off the deep end completely in recent years.

If you're in Philadelphia, just follow the scent of booze and pork to my place and we'll have a great time. If you can't join us, you can at least enjoy the tunes.

Hank Williams Sr.

"Hey Good Lookin'"
Recorded in 1951, "Hey Good Lookin'" had to wait half a century to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Like many of Hank's best songs, it's been covered by a diverse array of other artists, including Jimmy Buffet, Johnny Cash, Joe Pass, the Minutemen and Buckwheat Zydeco.

"Long Gone Lonesome Blues"

This was Hank's second number one song on the Country & Western chart, and Hank Jr.'s cover of it, recorded when he was 14, peaked at number five. This is also the song that, when played on the stereo at work, prompted my boss to observe that I "listen to some real redneck @#%$."

"Move It On Over"
Hank's first major hit, which reached #4 on the Country Singles chart. Was later covered by Ray Charles, Bill Haley (as in Bill Haley and the Comets), Hank Williams Jr. and, most famously, George Thorogood.

"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"
Rolling Stone ranked this #111 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, to which I say, "You ignorant hippies, cut your hair and get a job." (While we're at it: "Satisfaction" at #2? Seriously? Did you guys never get a copy of Exile on Main Street?) "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" has been covered by Bob Dylan, Elvis, Little Richard, and Terry Bradshaw. The song inspired me to formulate "Hank's Law": "the quality of a country song can, more often than not, be judged by the amount of time it takes for the singer to mention a whip-poor-will."

Hank Williams Jr.

"The Conversation" (w/ Waylon Jennings)
Two country greats sit in a dark bar, drink, smoke, and heap praise upon Hank Sr. "You know when we get right down to it still the most wanted outlaw in the land."

"All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming over Tonight"
Even if you've never heard Hank Jr.'s '84 album Major Moves, you probably know this song (the version below is from a Tupelo, MS concert last July) from Monday Night Football. Williams reworked the tune ABC Sports in the late 80s and it can still be heard on MNF on ESPN.

"That's How They Do It in Dixie"
Between the setup, the stereotyping, the aping for the camera and the appearance of the late Ronnie Van Zant's brothers, this is a country music video highlight.

"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)"
This song was made popular by Hank Sr., though the origins of the songs are a little unclear. Here, Hank Jr. performs it in concert with a four-year-old kid named Hunter Hayes. If anyone's wondering what to get me for my birthday, an accordion with a crawdad design on it will do just fine.

Hank Williams III

"Pills I Took"
This is Hank III's version of a song by a Wisconsin group called Those Poor Bastards. The original is much noisier and more aggressive, but the subject matter is right at home in a country song. (Contains a few NSFW words).

"Low Down"
This is a personal favorite from Hank III's 2006 album, Straight to Hell, which was recorded in lap steel player Andy Gibson's East Nashville home on a $400 Korg digital workstation and produced and engineered by Williams, Gibson and another bandmate.

"My Drinkin' Problem"
Live at Ziggy's in Winston-Salem, NC, in October 2006. Notable for being the Damn Band's first live appearance with a banjo player.

"Cocaine Blues"
The Johnny Cash classic, sped up and roughed up, live in Spartanburg, SC.

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