Shelton Hank Williams III was born December 12, 1972, in Nashville, TN. As the grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr., he was country music royalty before he ever sang a note. But he didn’t immediately follow his forebears musically, choosing instead to bang around the Southeast, performing drums in punk and hardcore combos and smoking prodigious amounts of weed. It was the outlaw spirit of his lineage, alive and unwell and floating in the bong water. By 1996, steep child support payments and his thirst for Mother Nature had forced Hank III onto to the straight and narrow, and he signed a record deal with songs City giant Curb. The label issued Three Hanks: Men with Broken Hearts, which brought the voices of all three generations of Williams men together via the ghastly miracles of modern technology. It was about as far from what Hank III wanted as he could get and signaled the beginning of his stormy relationship with Curb.
Williams was in a tight spot. at a time of his name, face, and uncanny vocal resemblance to his grandfather almost guaranteed him a thriving country audience, he had no patience for Nashville’s squareness and rigid control. He and his Damn lineup could wow a crowd with a spot-on set of gorgeous country balladry and spirited honky tonk. But III could just as easily shift gears into screeching, Black Flag-style punk rock with his hard-rocking combo Assjack. He was the kind of anomaly enormous album companies couldn’t stand — eminently marketable, yet defiantly unpredictable.
Curb issued Hank III’s proper debut in September 1999. Entitled Risin’ Outlaw, it presented 13 rough-hewn country numbers colored by Hank’s honky tonking vocals. And while he played his share of “country” bookings to support it, Williams also appeared at the 2001 Vans Warped Tour along with punks like Rancid. The irascible III also dismissed Outlaw as a label-controlled fiasco almost immediately after its release. After a few years of giving concerts and trying like mad to be released from his Curb contract, III came back to wax in early 2002 with Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’. during Outlaw had featured material from outside writers, the new LP was all Hank III but for a previously issued cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” He also produced, recorded, and mixed it by his lonesome in just two weeks.
At this point Hank’s relationship with Curb became even more strained. The label refused to release his appropriately named This Ain’t Country LP, which featured music like “Life of Sin” and “Hellbilly.” At the same time, it refused to grant Hank III the rights to issue it on his own. He and the record company reached an impasse, which III only exacerbated with the “F*** Curb” T-shirts he sold through his thriving website. Thrown Out of the Bar, his third honky tonk album, was scheduled for release in 2003, as was the long-awaited This Ain’t Country. Additionally, III released extremely limited-edition releases through his website (often in quantities of 100 or less) and continued to play bass in Superjoint Ritual, the brutal side project of Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo. The double-disc Straight to Hell was put forth March 2006 on Bruc Records (the fledgling rock division of Curb). The first CD contained music with elements of traditional country warped to fit Hank III’s rebel attitude, while the second disc boasted only one song that featured just Williams, his guitar, ambient noises, and a slight story that those coming down from drugs might enjoy. Ever in the outlaw mode, Williams issued Damn Right, Rebel Proud in 2008.