LONG GONE DADDY

Hank Williams Jr. looks back at his legendary father

Hank Williams died 50 years ago this New Year's Day, leaving behind some of country's greatest songs - and a 3-year-old son he nicknamed "Bocephus." Here, Hank Williams Jr. considers the legacy he inherited - and what might have been if his father had survived.

One thing about Mr. Williams: he goes on and on and on and on. Those songs are good. And what a wonderful American story: he came from nothing, from a log hut in Alabama, a young boy learning to play the music that he wanted to play.

If Daddy were alive today, I don't think he would believe what's happened to country music. It's a lot different than touring on a two-lane highway in a '47 Packard, like he did it. He became one of the first acts to make $5,000 a night - unheard of at the time, and today it would be nothing.

Now we've got something like 1,000 albums a month coming out, and 400 acts in Nashville - it's a little more competitive! It would be hard for him to comprehend. And I probably wouldn't believe what's going to happen. That's just the way it goes.

What would he have done musically? That's the toughest one of all. He was wiggling his legs around a whole lot onstage, before Elvis - he was really gyrating around on "Lovesick Blues." And a lot of the rock 'n' roll guys - Keith Richards, The Allman Brothers Band, Kid Rock - say, "That guy was the first rockabilly of all."

But this was also the boy who had a lot of religious beliefs, who wrote wonderful gospel songs, so it's very hard to say. I think he had a lot more to do. I don't think he would have gone into producing - he didn't need to produce anybody else, he was only 29.

I don't remember finding out Daddy was dead. I was just way too small. It was just a fact: "Daddy's gone, he died a long time ago." But I've relived it many times - me and a whole lot of other people.

Still, you think, 'What if?' Have you done your best work at 29 - or have you just started? My son, Hank III, turned 30 on Dec. 12. He's older than his granddaddy.

Hard to believe, huh? Time doesn't wait for any of us.

-- Hank Williams Jr.

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