Counterpoint: It’s Well Past Time to Put Hank Williams Jr. in the Country Music Hall of Fame
"Is Hank Williams Jr. in the Country Music Hall of Fame?" is one of those facts you end up Googling mid-conversation because the correct answer just seems ... wrong.
"Hank Jr. isn't in the Hall of Fame?! No, that can't be right -- let me check the internet."
But it's true: Somehow -- despite a string of gold- and platinum-certified albums, Top 10 singles, awards show recognition and even an official petition -- Williams Jr. is not yet in the Country Music Hall of Fame. And it's far overdue: Not only is he well past eligible in the Modern Era category (for artists who achieved national prominence at least 20 years ago), he's also eligible (and then some) in the Veterans Era category (40-plus years of national prominence).
Williams Jr. first made a name for himself singing songs by his famous father, Hank Williams, and those of a similar style. In a little more than a decade (1964-1975), Bocephus released more than two dozen albums; quite a few of them charted, as did numerous singles. He was successful, but not exactly groundbreaking.
You Think You Know Hank Williams Jr.?
If he'd continued on that path, then, no, he wouldn't necessarily belong in the Country Music Hall of Fame -- but, he reinvented himself, cheated death and became the Hall of Fame-worthy Hank Jr. familiar to both country fans and music fans in general.
On Aug. 8, 1975, Williams Jr. fell about 440 feet while climbing Ajax Peak in Beaverhead County, Mont., when the snow beneath him collapsed. He suffered numerous skull fractures and needed multiple surgeries; the scars led Williams Jr. to grow a beard and wear sunglasses -- his now-iconic look. A few months later, he released Hank Williams Jr. and Friends (recorded pre-accident), inspired by his exploration of Southern rock and featuring, among others, Charlie Daniels and Toy Caldwell, a founding member of the Marshall Tucker Band. "Bocephus 2.0" had arrived.
Between 1979 and 1992, Williams Jr. notched eight No. 1 singles and six No. 1 albums, and had all of his records released during that time frame (17 in total) earn either gold or platinum certification. He won seven CMA Awards, six ACM Awards and one Grammy.
Hank Williams Jr. laid the foundation of his career by staying true to his roots, then forged his own path, allowing his star to rise even higher.
These days, Williams Jr. is a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, a BMI Icon and a winner of the ACM's Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award. He was also the first country artist to win an Emmy, thanks to his Monday Night Football theme song, "All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night." In his more than two decades as the voice of MNF's opening music, Williams Jr. won four Emmys, in fact.
A member of one of country music's most famous family trees, Williams Jr. laid the foundation of his career by staying true to his roots, then forged his own path, allowing his star to rise even higher. Hopefully, in 2018, the Country Music Hall of Fame will recognize how important that is.
The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on April 20 for another installment.
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