'Straight to Hell': Hank Williams III Plays with Fire Hank Williams III is the third generation of a country music dynasty. But with his new CD, Straight to Hell, Williams forges a path his famous grandfather probably wouldn't have expected — unabashedly embracing excessive drinking, fighting, drugs, general hell-raising and even Satanism.


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'Straight to Hell': Hank Williams III Plays with Fire

'Straight to Hell': Hank Williams III Plays with Fire

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Hank Williams III is the third generation of a country music dynasty. But with his new CD, Straight to Hell, Williams forges a path his famous grandfather probably wouldn't have expected — unabashedly embracing excessive drinking, fighting, drugs, general hell-raising and even Satanism.


This is DAY TO DAY, from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Madeleine Brand. His grandfather was one of the first tragic poets of country music, and his father was one of country's original hellraisers.

CHADWICK: Which makes Hank Williams III straight out of hell. That's the title of his new DVD release. Producer Trey Kay has this profile.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HANK WILLIAMS III (Musician): (Singing) Satan is real, working in spirit. You can see him and hear him in this world every day…

Mr. TREY KAY (Producer): Hank Williams III has a thing about the devil.

(Soundbite of evil laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WILLIAMS III: My grandfather always sang about the light, and for some reason, I don't know why, it even goes back to when I was seven, eight years old, I've always been attracted to the dark.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WILLIAMS III: (Singing) Well, my worn out boots are taking me downtown, and I'm looking for trouble and I want to get loud. Serve me up a drink, and I'll shoot it right down, and I'll jump up on the bar and holler one more round. I'm going straight to hell.

Mr. KAY: But we're not just talking about wild hell-raising, the grandson of perhaps country music's most beloved and sacred legend is into Satan.

Mr. WILLIAMS III: I'm involved with Satanists and activities. I'll put it that way, you know, like on 666 there's a bunch of us getting together with Anton LaVay's grandson, Stanton, and he's getting ready to tell everybody about his new order in Satanism that he's, you know, following his grandfather's tradition and all that stuff.

Mr. KAY: In case you're confused, Hank is talking about appearing at a rally with the grandson of the founder of the Church of Satan and the author of the Satanic Bible.

Mr. WILLIAMS III: And I'm sure it goes back to being raised in the Bible Belt and having a Nazi Christian mother that was shoving that stuff down my throat and trying to scare me to death, and burning my records and all that stuff. If you had a Metallica t-shirt on, you couldn't walk in our house.

Mr. KAY: Apparently, his mother made young Hank attend multiple weekly church meetings and Satan seminars--meetings where preachers would warn parents against Satanic content in rock music. Well, if his latest album Straight to Hell is any indication, he has become and his mother and his preacher's worst nightmare.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WILLIAMS III: (Singing) I've been beat up. I've been kicked around. I've been falling out of every damn bar in this old town, in this old town…

Mr. KAY: Straight to Hell is a full-on, non-stop, romantic tribute to drinking, bar-brawling, dope-smoking and general bad-ass behavior. Make no mistake, this album is not a thoughtful reflection of life in the fastlane from the safety of the Betty Ford Clinic. This is an artist testifying, perhaps naively, his love for a wild and reckless lifestyle.

Mr. WILLIAMS III: I'm pretty much in an altered state all the time. I mean, I haven't, you know, been normal probably since I was like 14. Even though it's an altered state, I'm still productive, you know. It's a different kind of--some drugs make people work harder and that's the kind of stuff I'm in to.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WILLIAMS III: (Singing) Well, I've been awake for eight days straight. Well, it must have been them pills I took.

Mr. KAY: Hank tours a lot, and says that many who come out are there to relive the memory of his grandfather, Hank Williams, Sr.

Mr. WILLIAMS III: I mean, out of every five shows we do, there's somebody saying Hank Sr.'s rolling around in his grave. You know, I mean, that's gone on for the last 10 years, man. So, I'm like, oh well, he's dead and he isn't rolling in his grave. And if he is, I'd like to see it.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KAY: Hank Williams Sr.'s death in 1952 started a tradition of Williams men having little to do with raising their sons. Hank III is no exception. He has a kid that he never sees. As a child, Hank III Coped with his lack of a dad by finding some role models of his own.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WILLIAMS III: (Singing) And I'm drinking some George Jones and a little bit of Coke. Haggard's easing my misery, and Waylon's keeping me from home.

Those are the guys, you know, every one of them I've met and got to have some true time with.

(Singing) And I'm here getting wasted just like my country hero.

Golly, I've seen Waylon on as much cocaine as any one man could be on, and I've seen Coe, I mean, I've been full-on drunk with him. George Jones, I've always been pretty sober around. Willie Nelson, got to have my big joint moment with him. Merle Haggard, got to see the drunk side of him and do a couple shots with him. You know, just got to be around the last guys, man, the last of the true--the last guys that made rock stars look like pansies.

Mr. KAY: Straight to Hell is a two-disc set. Williams says that he recorded one disc the right way, which features some of Nashville's best pickers. The other disc was recorded all wrong.

(Soundbite of children laughing)

Mr. KAY: It's a 45-minute trippy collage of sound, of songs, but there are places in this odd montage, where you can hear Hank III authentically connect with a pure country sound. There are clicks and pops in some of the poor recording, but that's just the way that Hank wants it.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WILLIAMS III: (Singing) Everybody says you'll let me down. I should be ashamed to take you ‘round. Makes no difference what you used to do. Darling, I could never be ashamed of you.

Mr. KAY: With all the fast living, drinking, and drugging, I wonder if Hank III fears leaving this world early, the way his granddad did?

Mr. WILLIAMS: I'm not thinking about tomorrow too much. I always think Hank Williams knew that he was going to die young, and that's why he did that much work. As far as my deal goes, I think whoever it is has a different plan for me. You know, I'm going to at least make it till I'm 50. I would think, but I'm definitely starting to feel the toll that it's taken on my, you know, lungs and body and all that stuff. You know, it's just one of those things.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WILLIAMS: (Singing) Even though you're proved to be untrue; darling, I could never be ashamed of you

BRAND: That profile of Hank Williams III from producer, Trey Kay.

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