ESPN No Longer Plans To Use Hank Williams Song

ESPN is parting ways with Hank Williams Jr. The network will no longer use his signature song "All My Rowdy Friends," to introduce Monday Night Football.

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GUY RAZ, host: It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. You've heard the last of Hank Williams Jr. and his signature song on "Monday Night Football." ESPN and Williams have parted ways after he gave an interview on "Fox News" in which he used a Hitler analogy in speaking about President Obama. NPR's Mike Pesca has the history of the song and the discordant note it went out on.

MIKE PESCA: When the normally glib triumvirate at "Fox & Friends" threw it to Hank Williams Jr. during an interview on Monday morning, you had to wonder were they ready, were they ready, were they ready? There is no way they were ready for this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX & FRIENDS")

GRETCHEN CARLSON: You mean when John Boehner played golf with President Obama?

HANK WILLIAMS JR.: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

CARLSON: What did you not like about it?

JR.: Come on. Come on. It would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu, OK?

PESCA: Not OK. "Monday Night Football" immediately decided that night's game would not include Williams' traditional preparatory admonition.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL")

JR.: (Singing) Are you ready for some football?

PESCA: Today, ESPN made it permanent. No longer would the bearded scion of country Western royalty provide the kick-start to the Monday night party. And at more than 20 years since Williams first established himself as the troubadour of the touchdown, it's been a long-running fiesta. The song was rooted in Williams' 1984 country music hit "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight." George Greenberg, then an executive with ABC, remembers when he first heard that.

GEORGE GREENBERG: I saw a video, and I heard the first two chords, and my neck snapped. I said, what's that?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL MY ROWDY FRIENDS ARE COMING OVER TONIGHT")

JR.: (Singing) Do you want a drink? Hey, do you want to party?

PESCA: So Greenberg, who've been assigned the task of finding a theme song for "Monday Night Football's" marketing campaign, called Hank Williams' manager, who was either a shrewd businessman or a decent judge of quality football.

GREENBERG: I wanted it for the USFL first. And he goes, no, I don't want it - I'm not going to waste it on the USFL. I called him back a week later. I said, hey, would you do it for "Monday Night Football"? He goes, now we're talking.

PESCA: Greenberg retooled the lyrics, essentially changing beer references...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL MY ROWDY FRIENDS ARE COMING OVER TONIGHT")

JR.: (Singing) We cooked the pig in the ground, got some beer on ice, and all my rowdy friends are coming over tonight.

PESCA: ...to football references.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL MY ROWDY FRIENDS ARE COMING OVER TONIGHT")

JR.: (Singing) From opening kickoff to the grand finale, it's a Super Bowl season on ABC.

PESCA: And a hit was born. What was intended to be a marketing song for "Monday Night Football" was added to the show's open. When "Monday Night Football" migrated from ABC to...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL MY ROWDY FRIENDS ARE COMING OVER TONIGHT")

JR.: (Singing) ...ESPN.

PESCA: ...the Williams' ditty came along. Over the years, some TV sports critics have panned the song, but fans always seem to appreciate it, or at least they thought of it as much a part of the soundscape of the game as defense, defense. Of course, the author of "Let's Go Rams" never invoked Hitler on morning television. Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL MY ROWDY FRIENDS ARE COMING OVER TONIGHT")

JR.: (Singing) ...the time is right. All my rowdy friends are here on Monday night.

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