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Shelton Hank Williams III—you may know him as Hank 3—walked on to the Pappy and Harriet’s outdoor stage approximately an hour later than scheduled.

“Is it going to be one of those kind of nights?” he asked—a question which was met with a cheer from the raucous crowd. With that, the pride of Tennessee kicked off a three-hour plus set of country, punk and metal on Sunday night, Sept. 28.

Hank 3 was backed by a rhythm section with an upright bass, a banjo-player, a fiddle-player and a drummer (partially hidden by a wall of amps). The Pappy’s audience recited almost every word to every song during the country set.

When Hank 3 sprang into “Gutter Town,” good ol’ boys and gals began to form a circle pit about 15 feet from the barrier which had been erected between the stage and the audience. Two security staffers guarded the stage to prevent stage-divers without a proper knowledge of the laws of physics from hurting themselves. Indeed, the liquored-up crowd was looking to have some crazy fun on this Sunday night. A few fists were flung, and a dust cloud was created as heavily tattooed moshers wearing Hank 3 merch and flat-bill ball caps ran and pushed each other. Security (which had been doubled for the show) did a good job of keeping the circle pit contained, and it appeared traditional moshing etiquette was in place, including rule No. 1: Help your fellow mosher up when he or she falls. Hank 3 even commented on the chaos, saying before “Long Hauls and Close Calls”: “If you do not want to be shoved and pushed around, 15 (feet) in front of the stage is not the place to be.”

As he sang “Lookin’ for a Mountain,” you immediately understood why country music has endured: Yeah I’m lookin’ for a mountain that I wanna call home. Yeah I’m lookin’ for a mountain, a place to rest my bones.

“It’s starting to look like an outlaw convention,” Hank 3 commented at one point, an observation which was met by hoots, howls and what appeared to be an empty plastic beer pitcher flying through the air.

Two hours in, Hank 3 removed his cowboy hat and began his punk set. The crowd thinned a little, but the moshers kept on having fun. A projection screen accompanied the music with snippets of vintage newsreels, documentaries and nature films—all of which had dark undertones.

As the show ended, you could almost sense the ghost of Pappy, looking down on this old honky tonk and nodding his head in appreciation of the fact that Hank 3 had lived up to his pedigree.

Published in Reviews

The name “Hank Williams” is legendary. However, that name has put a lot of pressure on Hank Williams III (aka Hank 3) as he’s tried to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and his father. However, he’s found success by playing country his own damn way—and throwing in a little heavy metal, too.

He’ll be stopping by Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace for a show on Sunday, Sept. 28.

Shelton Hank Williams was born in 1972 in Nashville, Tenn. Despite his famous and successful father, Williams did not grow up in a life of privilege: He was raised in a working-class home by his mother, and his father was absent for most of his life. He grew up listening to country music, of course, but also got into punk music; he’s talked in the past before about how his mother would disapprovingly burn those punk records. Due to a learning disability, Hank 3 was not able to learn to play guitar through guitar lessons, but eventually learned by ear.

He played drums in punk-rock bands until the mid-’90s, when he decided to give country music a try in an effort to pay some back child support. He signed a contract with Curb Records—but the relationship between artist and label soon soured, due to disagreements over the direction of his first album, Risin’ Outlaw, and how he was promoted to mainstream country audiences.

During a recent phone interview, Williams discussed the controversy.

“It is what it is,” Hank 3 said. “I thought they would understand me more after working with my dad for so many years, putting out records like Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound and all that. You would have thought that after 25 years of being broken in with a pretty rebellious character, it would be a good fit.”

In 1996, Curb Records put out a compilation called Three Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts—largely consisting of Hank Williams songs with added-in vocals by Hank Williams Jr. and Hank 3—that Hank 3 has said he despises.

“The Three Hanks was what it was. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now,” Hank 3 said. “It made it look like Hank Jr. is paving the way and opening it up for me, and that’s totally not the way it’s been, if you really do your homework and research. I was against that record. It was an honor to sing with Junior and Senior, but I didn’t like it and the way they were throwing it out there.”

After the release of Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’, his second solo release on Curb, Hank 3 wore t-shirts saying “Fuck Curb” on them. He got into a legal dispute with the label, and began performing in metal bands, most notably as the bassist in Superjoint Ritual, a side project of Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo.

“That goes back to Curb … sitting on me and not putting out my records. They were wasting my career and my time,” Hank 3 said. “I had good friends out of New Orleans such as Jimmy Bower and Phil Anselmo, who used to watch some of the bands I was in when I was younger. It was a great opportunity to work with some of my heavy-metal heroes, to be on the OzzFest (lineup) in 2004, and to be introduced to many, many legends in that world. I put everything into it and took it as serious as I could.”

In 2006, after a long legal battle, a judge ruled in favor of Hank 3 in his legal battle against Curb Records, forcing them to put out his album Straight to Hell, which became the first country-music release to merit a “Parental Advisory” sticker. As the story goes, the album was recorded in a house on a $400 digital workstation in East Nashville—and it reached No. 17 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.

Over the years, Hank 3 has won an audience of people who are not fans of modern mainstream country, as well as punk and metal fans. While he received praise from many country-music purists and session players who played with both his father and grandfather, other were not impressed by Hank 3’s punk image and vulgar lyrics. His critics also bemoaned the fact that he would play shows with a country music set that was followed by a metal set with his band Assjack.

“There’s always going to be haters, especially when you’re the underdog,” Hank 3 said. “Straight to Hell is legendary in its own way. I was on a major label, and pretty much put out a very independent record on a major label. As far as the cussin’ thing goes, there’s not that many cuss words. If you compare me to someone like Eminem, I’m a choir boy, and if you look at all the old legends like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and even Hank Jr., those guys have cussed during their live shows. They might not have done it on their records, but cussin’ was an everyday thing for those guys.

“I’ve had a lot of old-school Nashville people come up to me, especially within the last 10 years, (and say), ‘I might not understand your work ethic, but I appreciate how you try to keep the roots of country music in the records that you make.’”

While Hank 3 is not necessarily a fan of Curb Records these days—the label continues to release albums of Hank 3 material from recordings he did during his Curb days—he can laugh about the fact that he made Curb release his metal project Assjack’s self-titled album in 2009. For a label that largely focuses on country music, this was definitely out of the ordinary.

“It is an accomplishment, but I was also giving them a chance to do something new in the music business,” Hank 3 said. “Instead of looking at me as this guy who’s causing problems, I look at it like, ‘Here’s a guy who’s doing something new for us.’ They could have just taken that to a whole different level. If you look at all the people they’ve had on their docket, I was bringing something a little different. I will go on record and say that … if you look at someone like Tim McGraw, who has sold them millions of records, he and I still had the same problems with that label. LeAnn Rimes had the same problem with that label. Merle Haggard had the same problems with that label. It’s just one of those things: They don’t respect their artists very well. Even if you sell them a billion dollars of music, they’ll still give you a hard time.”

Today, Hank 3 is free from Curb Records. Under Megaforce Records, Hank 3 has his own label, Hank 3 Records. He recently put out two new albums, a country album called Brothers of the 4x4, and a punk album called A Fiendish Threat. He said there are no current plans for another Assjack album, but that he’s willing to work with them in the future. 

As Hank 3 prepared to play at the old-school venue Pappy and Harriet’s, he mentioned his haunted home ranch—appropriately called the Haunted Ranch.

“There have probably been about 15 to 20 incidents with different people over the years,” Hank 3 said. “It can be something as simple as getting tapped on the back, and turning around and looking, and there’s nothing there, or it can be something as serious as I’m getting a call at 2 in the morning saying to take someone to a hotel room, because they’re that sensitive to it. I’ve had a lot of different people see different things.”

Hank 3 will perform at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28, outside at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

A growing segment of country music is going against the genre’s mainstream—and one of those rebels is Joe Buck (real name: Jim Finkley).

Buck has been playing obscure country music since the beginning of his music career as the guitarist for Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, and as the upright-bass player for Hank Williams III. Now he’s bringing his one man show, Joe Buck Yourself, to The Hood Bar and Pizza on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Joe Buck’s involvement with Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and Hank Williams III included punk-rock attitude, outlaw country and even tinges of early Americana. Hank Williams III sounds more like his grandfather than his father—only with lyrics that are similar to those by David Allan Coe. Joe Buck brings a similar attitude and performance style to Joe Buck Yourself.

When asked about his music career, Joe Buck responded with a laugh.

“Have I had a career?” he asked. “I’ve been playing since I was a kid. I thought I could be an athlete when I was a kid, and I hurt my leg. I saw Eddie Van Halen in 1980, and I thought, ‘That looks like a good job.’ I got myself some gear, and I went to town.”

He joined Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers in 1998 as a founding member, but left in 2003 after meeting Hank Williams III in a bar in Nashville.

“It was a good time in my life,” he said. “I thought the music we were doing was important. I didn’t think ‘it’ so much or ‘us’ so much. For us, it was all about Southern kids having something that didn’t suck.”

Buck said mainstream country music has become somewhat of a sideshow act.

“I grew up with the old country guys, along with the punk-rock bands,” he said. “But the old country dudes … they were very strong, proud men and great writers. You listen to Hank Williams Sr., and there’s a reason why they call him ‘The Hillbilly Shakespeare,’ man, and we’re left to believe in our world today that these are illiterate hillbillies. Yet none of our kids going to public schools these days can fucking read or write.”

He also feels that the country music of today is largely missing the art aspect.

“It makes me physically ill,” he said. “I believe that art is important to our culture. If music is music, it’s art. If it’s not art, and it’s not music, it’s math, and that’s what (mainstream country musicians) got. It’s like giving a cancer patient a salt tablet: It doesn’t heal their soul, and it doesn’t do anything to them. … (Old music) is the reason why I dedicated my life to music—because it did something to me.”

The Independent spoke to buck shortly after Miley Cyrus’ infamous performance at the MTV Music Video Awards.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life, and playing thousands of shows—and I’m in the same business as THAT? I don’t know what that is with the Smurfs, or whatever the hell those things were, and the post-adolescent bit. Any time when goodness happens, it’s corrupted immediately and used in devious terms for commercial value.”

Buck said that he never sacrifices his independence or artistic vision.

“Yes, I need to make a living making music to go around and play shows. I have to put gas in my tank; I have to eat; and I have to buy T-shirts to sell. There’s an economy of this, but when it becomes strictly for-profit, then it has nothing to do with music.”

Buck is also working on a book, and he talked about his recovery from a near-fatal car accident.

“I had this car wreck that almost killed me,” he said. “My little hometown people at the hospital were great at putting me back together. My legs were crushed, along with one of my arms. They put me back together great, but they gave me Demerol during six days of being in an induced coma; when they got me off of that, they tried to give me an OxyContin—when I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. I was mad at them. I got all this shit drilled into me and a halo in my leg. They’re really good at fixing you, but they wanted to send me to a psychiatrist, because I had a tour with Hank in three months, and they thought I was delusional about going back to work.”

During his recovery, he went to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville for physical therapy.

“I had to go to Vanderbilt for physical therapy, where everybody is an invalid. … Everybody has shit getting drilled into them; you have your own special wheelchair, and the whole thing. What they saw with me was dollar signs. They pushed dope harder on me than drug-dealers do. I’ve never been to medical school, and I just wanted to go back to work. I refused their dope, did it my way, worked out for eight hours a day, and went back to work in 3 1/2 months. Had I done it their way, I would have been on dope for the rest of my life; I would have made minimal progress; and I never would have gotten better.”

Joe Buck said that when it comes to making a living, he’s one of the fortunate ones.

“I’ve been lucky, and I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing when I play,” he said. “I hear this every day about how I have inspired people. I know what they’re saying. I love what I do, and when they see people reveling in their jobs and doing what they’re supposed to be doing in life—they don’t see that very often.

“When I go to the store, I don’t see the people there reveling in their jobs. What I’m trying to do for people with my songs is convince everyone that they can do whatever the fuck they want. Lose the fear, and there’s nothing to be afraid of. Failure is how you learn your most valuable lessons.”

Joe Buck Yourself will play with Shawn Mafia and the 10-Cent Thrills at 10 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission to the 21-and-older show is free. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or track down the event page on Facebook.

Published in Previews