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George Anne

Calgary Sun

Saturday, October 23, 1999

Hank III a wild one

Kid's got the devil in his genes

By DAVE VEITCH -- Calgary Sun

Like his pappy and grandpappy, Hank Williams III ain't gonna play by no damn rules.

On two separate occasions, the 26-year-old grandson of country music legend Hank Williams just didn't call for our scheduled interview.

When he finally rang yesterday afternoon -- ostensibly to "promote" his debut album, Risin' Outlaw, and his gig Tuesday at the Ranchman's -- he took the opportunity to trash his own CD and speak ill of his bosses.

Yup, this kid's a Hank, all right.

"I didn't get to have no creative input hardly at all on this album," he complained.

"I'm not real happy at all with it. I'm pretty insecure about it because anybody who's into the real hardcore country and into No Depression -- that kind of independent thing -- won't think this album is that edgy."

He is, of course, being hard on himself.

Risin' Outlaw is an impressive debut full of the roughly hewn, straight-up country songs that have more in common with Hank Sr.'s high-lonesome oeuvre than his father's high-energy southern-boogie.

Hank III even looks and sounds remarkably similar to grampa, who died at age 29 in the back of a Cadillac while en route to play a New Year's night gig in Canton, Ohio.

Hooked on booze and morphine, Hank Sr.'s heart finally gave out on him.

In a cheeky nod, Hank III is pictured in the back of a Cadillac on Risin' Outlaw.

"That's a definite nod," Williams said.

Bringing up the photo, however, just sets him off again.

"Every photo in the whole album I had nothing to do with. I made a deal with the (label). I said: I want no face shot on the album cover. What do they do? They send me 25 #$@% face shots and then a picture of my boots. I said the picture of my boots is the only thing going in.

"I did a six-hour photo shoot, 800 photos, I went to (his label) Curb to take them home and show them to my band and to whatever girls are hanging out. They said I couldn't take them home.

"I said: Fine, y'all do your complicated bull(bleep), be your Communist ways and I don't want nothin' to do with it."

You will not be surprised to know that, as a youngster, Hank III was a handful. He rarely saw his hard-livin' father and was raised by his ma, mainly in Nashville, but also in Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.

"She was a typical mom. Made me go to church until I was 18. Pretty hard on me."

Was she worried about the notoriously wild genes running in the Williams family?

"No, she was more concerned about, like, a lot of depression. A lot of self-masochism stuff. Cutting myself up with razor blades. Safety pins through the skin, you know. She was getting pretty freaked out by that kind of thing."

Poor marks and a bad attitude got him kicked out of his Nashville private school and placed in a public school which, it turned out, was a blessing in disguise. "I was around a lot more cultures, a lot more cool people, a lot more guys in bands and stuff."

Williams drummed in a succession of punk bands, with names like Bed Wetter, Whipping Post and Buzz Kill.

Then, in 1996, he recorded Men With Broken Hearts, that electronically mixed Hank Sr.'s voice with live vocal tracks by Hank Jr. and Hank III. The circle was suddenly unbroken. Hank III went country and sought to learn more about a grandfather who did nothing less than alter the course of popular music.

Strangely, Hank III didn't get much information from his father. "Dad doesn't really talk much about that stuff," he said. "It was mainly through going to see Little Jimmy Dickens, or going to have lunch with Minnie Pearl, or hanging out with Ray Price."

Still, he's hardly the well-scrubbed, clean-living country star that Nashville churns out.

He's supporting a child conceived during a one-night stand he had when he was 17. Ask what inspires him and he replied: "Being lovesick, dopin' and driftin'." He knows some people expect him to be hellbent for self-destruction, but swore: "I'd like to stick around for a while."

Hank Sr. got kicked out of the Grand Ole Opry. One suspects Hank III wouldn't even want to join.

"For the last two years, we've gotten more anti-Nashville," he said. "I'm not going to go out there and do no pop-country or nothin' like that."

A Hank, through and through.

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