It was 30 years ago this week on June 13, 1987, that the Warner Bros./Curb label released Hank Williams Jr.’s rockin’, self-composed hit Born To Boogie.
The autobiographical song from Williams’ album of the same title goes in part: “Went on the road when I was eight years old. When I turned 15 I was stealing the show. Money to burn and the girls were pretty. It didn’t take me long to learn that I was born to boogie.”
Actually, it was just down the road from Augusta that Williams in 1958 at the age of eight did make his public stage debut at the Nancy Auditorium in Swainsboro, Ga., singing his daddy’s classic song (I’ve Got The) Lovesick Blues.
It was an appropriate venue since the 1,600-seat auditorium also was the home of WJAT-AM radio station bought the year before by country music legend Webb Pierce and talent booker Jim Denny, who had been close friends of Williams’ father.
Three years later in July 1961, Williams would be making his first appearance in Augusta with a package show at Bell Auditorium that also featured George Hamilton IV, The Louvin Brothers, Buddy Thomas, Ken Marvin, Alex &Elmer, Gary Deeb, John Bennefield and Danny Dill.
Advertisements in The Augusta Chronicle for the show proclaimed: “Extra! Extra! Salute to the late Hank Williams. Featuring first time Hank Williams Jr.”
The younger Williams would be returning to Augusta many times over the years including in 1965 with a show featuring Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn and his singing mother billed as “Mrs. (Hank) Audrey Williams.”
He headlined both a matinee and evening show in January 1972 at the Bell that included Faron Young, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner.
This week, Williams will be making another stop in Augusta with a show at 8 p.m. Friday, June 16, at James Brown Arena. Tickets are $89.50, $59.50, $46.50 and $34.50.
Just a few weeks ago Williams agreed to reply to some questions submitted by this columnist via email.
One of those asked, “Your recording of All My Rowdy Friends (Are Coming Over Tonight) is known to millions of football fans who don’t know that much about country music. Do you think that recording again will be used to promote football or other sports games?”
Williams responded, “Well, since you asked, yes. I think it will. As a matter of fact, stay tuned this year to Monday Night Football. You might be surprised at what you see.”
And guess what the national news services reported a few days ago? Here’s what the online site broadwayworld.com said:
“ESPN’s Monday Night Football will feature the return of its iconic anthem this fall when legendary country singer Hank Williams Jr. kicks off the weekly Monday primetime game by asking NFL fans: ‘Are You Ready for Some Football?’
“Every Monday night during the 2017 NFL season, Williams will perform his hit song All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Monday Night with superstar duo Florida Georgia Line and multi-platinum recording artist Jason Derulo.
“Williams returns to MNF for the first time since 2011 to perform the show’s opening anthem for an unprecedented 24th season, a ritual that has earned him four Emmy awards (1991-1994) and national acclaim among legions of football fans.”
Here’s more from my Q&A with Williams:
RAMBLIN’: Now that you spend so much time with your grandbabies, do you still have “rowdy friends” coming over or have things changed at the Williams’ household?
HWJ: The Williams household is pretty calm these days. Not many people come to Paris, Tenn. (about 90 miles northwest of Nashville). You know when I lived on Franklin Road (in Nashville) with mother, lots of friends came over; everyone from Johnny Cash to Fats Domino to Earl Scruggs. Nowadays, I just take the little ones out on the farm and still enjoy my hunting and fishing.
RAMBLIN’: Were the positive reactions to your latest album, It’s About Time, a surprise to you? Are you working on a new one? Have you ever thought of doing an album just about outdoors life or any other concept album?
HWJ: You know nobody really sells records anymore. As an artist, you still want to make music and new songs are still in you, but the radio game has changed and with everything being on the computer, people just don’t go buy albums anymore.
But to answer your question, yes, I was very thrilled that the album got rave reviews and people loved it. Hell, it did debut at No. 2 on the Billboard (magazine) chart! I have had an album on the Billboard chart throughout the past 50 years so knowing I can still do it, makes you feel pretty good.
No, I am not working on any new music right now. I might do a blues album. Thunderhead Hawkins (a name Williams has used for blues recordings) might make an appearance somewhere. I just don’t know what the next project will be or when. I got lots to do between now and then.
RAMBLIN’: We have lost so many legends in recent years with Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Little Jimmy Dickens, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, etc. Other than Willie Nelson, who do you regard as some of the legends still with us?
HWJ: Ahh, you know I just saw Bobby Bare and John Anderson at the Haggard event (a tribute last April in Nashville to the late star, Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard, at which Williams sang I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink).
The last time Bare and I did shows was in Germany when I was a little boy. That sure brought up some memories. But you know all my friends are slipping away.
I got to see Loretta (Lynn) that same night. She is a legend. You know, it’s hard for me to pick one or two because I have known these folks for such a long time, and we have either done shows or they were over at mother’s house when I was a kid. So I see them very differently.
RAMBLIN’: You have been performing publicly since you were 8. What have been your personal basic guidelines for giving an audience a good show?
HWJ: Well, you know I only do about 25 shows a year. I am one lucky guy. I get to pick and choose who I play for, when I play, and where I play. So when I do play a show, my loyal hardcore fans come out, and I know they are there and they know I am there to make them have a good time.
I like it when the fans are close to the stage and having a good time. You really feel the energy from the audience. That makes for a great show.
TAKE YOUR KIDS TO SEE IT: It is so unfortunate the newly unveiled World War I exhibit at the North Augusta Arts &Heritage Center will be on display only until Aug. 18 because the wonderfully researched display is something every student (and adult) should see.
So many teachers and students out for the summer will not have the chance to take field trips to see it in the balcony gallery in the Municipal Building, Georgia Avenue at Center Street. Hopefully it can be moved to some other place in honoring the 100th anniversary of the “war to end all wars.”
The exhibit, on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays July 2 and Aug. 6, centers on the involvement of soldiers and citizens on both sides of the Savannah River.
Admission is free.
SHARON JONES’ VIDEOS: The life and times of the late, great singer Sharon Jones will be explored with her music videos at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 15, at the Nancy Carson Library in North Augusta, 134 Edgefield Road. I’ll be giving a free talk in the library’s meeting room remembering the world famous rhythm &blues superstar. She lived the last six years of her life in North Augusta and died last November of strokes and complications from pancreatic cancer.
TRAVIS AND GRETCHEN COMING BACK: Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee Travis Tritt and Grammy-nominated country singer Gretchen Wilson are heading back this way for separate shows.
Tritt will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 1, at Bell Auditorium. Tickets are $47, $37, $27.
Wilson will perform for the Gurls’ Night Out concert at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 7, at the Columbia County Amphitheater in Evans. Tickets are $25.
ARTS COUNCIL’S ANNUAL SALUTE: The Greater Augusta Arts Council annually recognizes individuals and organizations for their “outstanding” contributions to the local arts community.
The awards ceremony and annual GAAC meeting is open to the public. Tickets are $40 tickets for the meeting and dinner from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at the Enterprise Mill Events Center, 1450 Greene St., reserved online at augustaarts.com.
The Morris Museum of Art will receive the President’s Award. Other honorees will be illustrator Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman, sound specialist Trey Maxwell, volunteer Sue Alexanderson, media professional Mary Frances Hendrix and corporate sponsor Gold Mech.