Randall Hank Williams was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on May 26, 1949. A month later, his father made his Grand Ole Opry debut, singing “Lovesick Blues” and drawing six encores. Hank Williams, who nicknamed his son “Bocephus” after comedian Rod Brasfield’s ventriloquist dummy, had three and a half years left to live. He spent much of that time performing for the fans who would celebrate his contributions, but during radio performances he would send a message to his boy, closing shows by saying, “Don’t worry, Bocephus, I’m coming home.”
Raised in Nashville, Hank, Jr. learned music from the finest of teachers. Earl Scruggs gave him banjo lessons, and Jerry Lee Lewis showed him piano licks. And with rock ‘n’ roll in full flower, Hank, Jr. began playing a lot of electric guitar (though not onstage, where he was taught to do Hank Williams’ songs, in Hank Williams’ style). At age 11, he made his own Opry debut, walking across the same wooden boards his father had walked on, and, just like his daddy, singing “Lovesick Blues” and encoring.
In 1987, Hank, Jr. 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 CMA’s album of the year in 1988, the year he won the CMA and ACM’s top entertainer prize. Hank’s star rose far beyond the country world in 1989, when manager Merle Kilgore arranged a deal with ABC’s Monday Night Football to have Hank, Jr. rework “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” into a theme song to be played before each Monday’s game. Two years later, the Monday Night theme won the first of four straight Emmy Awards, and Hank, Jr. would be the singing voice of Monday Night Football for 22 years.
With the Monday Night Football deal in place, Hank Williams, Jr. was now known to millions who had never even listened to country music, and he’d become an ambassador for that musical genre. He’s held that position through the 1990s and up to the present, with hard-charging songs that speak to his truth, his “unique position,” and to our lives. His room-shaking voice is as identifiable to fans as that of his father, and he has passed the family music tradition down to son Shelton and daughter Holly, both of whom are recording artists in their own right.