PARTY TIME AGAIN

Hank Jr. takes his rowdy friends to the streets

Are you ready for some football?

Hank Williams Jr. is.

That's why he's come to Nashville on this sweltering summer night - to shoot a new opening for ABC's Monday Night Football, on which he's been a staple for 14 years. Soon, Hank will climb atop a bus parked at the city's Coliseum to lead a pack of rowdy revelers and Tennessee Titans cheerleaders through the city for ABC's cameras.

"We haven't done one of these in three years," Hank reports. Now, with legendary sportscaster John Madden added to the MNF lineup, he says, "ABC wanted to see some improvement - and so did I."

Hank is happy to be a part of that improvement. Since he began singing the Monday Night Football theme song, he's become inseparable from the TV institution. He's also discovered that a lot of pro football players have become hard-core Hank Jr. fans. "You've got guys like Tim Couch of the Cleveland Browns on ESPN saying, 'I love Hank Jr.,' " he says. "I'm lucky, I've got guys in my camp. Black, white, yellow, red - people from all walks of life."

ABC viewers also recently saw Hank on the network's July 4 special, filling in for Toby Keith after producers objected to Toby's fiery anthem "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)." Hank flatly denies the substitution caused friction between himself and Toby.

"If you talk to me and Toby about it, it's all bull," he says. "I don't give a damn about that, and neither does he. We're buddies, so people can talk forever."

Hank plans to have fun with some of his other buddies for his next album - friends like pop legend Stevie Wonder, rappers Run D.M.C. and rockers Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker. "We've got a little plan," he says. "We're gonna get together and have a little fun."

Hank plans to record the album sometime next year, and has already written a couple of songs for it. "What will all those guys from all those areas of music sound like together?" he wonders. "That's the whole thing right there. People like Stevie and me have to look for something that pushes us. That's fun to do."

But what's on Hank's mind right now is this evening's filming. The crew is calling him back onto the bus with all his rowdy new friends, and there he'll be for a few more hours. In the morning he'll fly back home to Montana, where his family - and some peace and quiet - await.

-- Chris Neal

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