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From Bocephus to Hank Jr, He Learned from the Best: Hank Williams

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Randall Hank Williams was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on May 26, 1949. He was the only son of the back then country music icon Hank Williams. Williams affectionately call him Bocephus, but growing up, he became known in the music world as Hank Williams Jr.  At a young age, he already knew that he was born to sing. He believed it’s his only option.

Young Bocephus: An Echo not a Voice

Not long enough, Hank Williams died at the age of 29, leaving his wife Audrey and his three-year old son, Bocephus, nickname of Hank Williams Jr. striving on their own. Audrey, in the course of time made her son a miniature version of his father.

At age eight, Bocephus made his music debut, singing his father’s songs. He was only eleven years old when he first appeared at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. At age 15, Williams made it to the Top 5 hit on the country charts with a cover of his father’s song, “Long Gone Lonesome Blues.”

He carried the legacy of his father as he performed before large crowds and on national television. Also at 15, he wrote his first serious song composition, a part of autobiography: “I know that I’m not great/ Some folks say I just imitate/ Anymore, I don’t know/ I’m just doin’ the best I can…. It’s hard standing in the shadow of a very famous man.”

That shadow grew darker, as he entered his 20s. His fans came to see him on the road wanted him to sing his father’s songs, his father’s way. Overwhelmed with these expectations, Williams attempted to once and for all take his life in 1974.

Hank Jr. – Unexpected Detour

Life is not yet over for Williams, despite of a real challenge on his musical identity, he managed to find his space distinct and personal. While in Alabama, he recorded his first original work, an album called Hank Williams Jr. and Friends that featured Waylon Jennings, the Tucker Band’s Toy Caldwell, and other artists whose genre was not just a country music but a blend of country, blues and rock. His songs Living Proof” and “Stoned at the Jukebox” were his most searing, emotional works to date.

In 1975, Williams almost died, falling several hundred feet down at old Ajax Mountain in Montana. Severely wounded, with face disfigured, and barely alive, he went through an excruciating pain of multiple reconstructive surgeries to his face and skull. These surgeries and recovery went on for two years.

Hopeless and an end of a promising career as it may seem, this whole process, however, made a new branding for Williams. It resulted to his new trademark look, with his full beard, cowboy hat and dark glasses. The new crowd liked this newly bearded Bocephus image.

The Silver Lining

Everything changed with that 1975 dive off Ajax Mountain. The music industry took notice on those changes around 1979.  Williams released his first million-selling album, Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound, along with his autobiography, Living Proof. In the 1980s, he catapulted to stardom with myriad multi-platinum albums and countless chart-topping singles, including “Family Tradition,” “Texas Women” and “Born to Boogie.”

In 1987, he won his first of five country music Entertainer of The Year awards, and the two albums released that year – Hank Live and studio effort Born To Boogie – were platinum sellers. Born To Boogie was the Country Music Award’s Album of the Year in 1988, the year he won the CMA and ACM’s top entertainer prize.

Williams’ popularity went beyond the country world in 1989, when his manager Merle Kilgore arranged a deal with ABC’s Monday Night Football to have him revise “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” into a theme song for each Monday’s game. The song was rewritten into All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night.”

After two years, the Monday Night theme won the first of four straight Emmy Awards, and became the first ever country artist to win an Emmy. Williams would then be the singing voice of Monday Night Football for twenty two years.

The Roller Coaster Ride

With the unprecedented career high records and awards received by Williams Jr., in 2011 a sudden downward change of his singing stint in Monday Night Football. This was after his controversial remarks against President Barack Obama. He appeared on FOX News’ Fox & Friends and compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler in his comments on the said program. It made a controversial year for Hank Williams, Jr. that the Monday Night Football had to end ties with him.

Bocephus Today: Standing in the Shadows No More

After several years of portraying his role as a miniature version of his father, Bocephus does not have to stand in the shadows anymore. His unique style of country with rocks and blues brought him in the spotlight.

He is a star in his own right when at long last found his distinct and special comfort in his music. His father could never be more proud of what Hanks Jr., his little Bocephus, has achieved. When he finally found his own sound and style, he reached record-breaking sales that his father never dreamed of: 20 gold albums, six platinum albums (one of which has sold more than five million copies) and 13 chart-topping albums.

In the year 2000, he had The Bocephus Box collection that features highlights from a career that has included 10 No. 1 singles, 13 No. 1 albums, 20 gold albums and six platinum albums. Williams Jr. has been selling out massive venues for a longer period of time than his father had experienced.

Aside from these record-high sales, Bocephus also received plenty of awards and recognition from prestigious award-giving organizations such as CMT, Emmy’s, etc. He was given the Johnny Cash Visionary Award by the CMT Music Awards in his celebration of his ground-breaking career.

Needless to brag about his achievements, Bocephus brought pride and honor to his father’s heritage. A legacy that he can bring on to the next generation of great musicians. His son Shelton, and daughters, Holly and Hilary, were being honed to also reach their full potential as they discover their individual place in the music industry.

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