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Hank Williams Jr. to perform in Billings

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Posted at 4:47 PM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 18:47:36-05

BILLINGS - MetraPark announced Tuesday that country music star Hank Williams Jr. will perform in Billings.

Williams is set to perform at the First Interstate Arena on Friday, May 27. Lainey Wilson will open the show.

Tickets for the show start at $35 plus applicable fees and are on sale Friday, March 11 at Noon.

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MeraPark released this information about Williams and Wilson:

About Hank Williams Jr:

“Stop and think it over,” the big man with the hat and glasses has asked, from a thousand stages, in front of millions of people. “Try to put yourself in my position.”

We can’t. We can imagine, but we can’t know. We can’t know what it’s like to be the only son of Hank Williams, the long gone and lonesome singer whose brief life transformed country music. We can’t know what it’s like to be linked to such a transformative force by blood and name but not by memory, to learn about a famous father from books and photos and others’ stories: Hank Williams died at age 29, when his son was three-years-old.

We can’t know what it was like to wrestle with that legacy, to try to honor all that came before, but not wind up a pale approximation of country’s greatest ghost. Born Randall Hank Williams, but singing as Hank Williams, Jr. before he was 10, the son never had much in the way of a career choice. The choice wasn’t whether he’d sing, but what, how and why. “Other kids could play cowboys and Indians and imagine that they’d grow up to be cowboys,” he wrote in his Living Proof autobiography. “I couldn’t do that. I knew that I would never grow up to be a cowboy or a fireman or the president of the United States. I knew I’d grow up to be a singer. That’s all there ever was, the only option, from the beginning.”

At the beginning, mother Audrey Williams worked to mold her son into a miniature version of his late father, and for 20 years he struggled, uncomfortably, to break the mold. When he finally found his own sound and style, he reached sales plateaus that his father never dreamed of: 20 gold albums, six platinum albums (one of which has sold more than five million copies) and 13 chart-topping albums. He has been selling out massive venues for a longer period of time than his father spent on earth. He has done more than honor his father’s legacy; he has extended it, enriched it, enhanced it and elevated it. “My name’s a reminder of a blues man that’s already gone,” he once sang. But the name “Hank Williams, Jr.” is much more than that.

Randall Hank Williams was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on May 26, 1949. A month later, his father made his Grand Ole Opry debut, singing “Lovesick Blues” and drawing six encores. Hank Williams, who nicknamed his son “Bocephus” after comedian Rod Brasfield’s ventriloquist dummy, had three and a half years left to live. He spent much of that time performing for the fans who would celebrate his contributions, but during radio performances he would send a message to his boy, closing shows by saying, “Don’t worry, Bocephus, I’m coming home.”

But when Williams came home in January of 1953, it was in a casket. Audrey Williams was left with a family to raise, and with a son who was soon squealing for a guitar of his own. At age eight, Hank made his music debut, dressed in a black suit for a Swainsboro, Georgia show, singing his father’s songs to wild applause. At nine, he was touring in earnest with his mother’s Caravan of Stars.

“We listened to Hank, Jr. sing some of the songs which made his dad so famous,” wrote an early reviewer, in 1957. “The similarity of style is haunting. He has the same lonesome quality, the same break in his voice, the same pronunciation.”

Raised in Nashville, Hank, Jr. learned music from the finest of teachers. Earl Scruggs gave him banjo lessons, and Jerry Lee Lewis showed him piano licks. And with rock ‘n’ roll in full flower, Hank, Jr. began playing a lot of electric guitar (though not onstage, where he was taught to do Hank Williams’ songs, in Hank Williams’ style). At age 11, he made his own Opry debut, walking across the same wooden boards his father had walked on, and, just like his daddy, singing “Lovesick Blues” and encoring.

“Went on the road when I was eight years old, when I turned 15 I was stealing the show,” he wrote, accurately, in his 1987 No. 1 single, “Born To Boogie.” And after stealing the show, he was often offered the drinks and pills that were so prevalent among country performers (and that had killed his father). Often as not, as was family tradition, he accepted the offers. He’d also accepted a $300,000-per-year recording contract, and at 15 his version of his father’s “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” climbed to #5 on the country singles chart. Also while 15, he wrote his first serious composition, a slice of autobiography: “I know that I’m not great/ Some folks say I just imitate/ Anymore, I don’t know/ I’m just doin’ the best I can…..It’s hard standing in the shadow of a very famous man.”

That shadow grew darker, as Hank, Jr. entered his 20s. The fans that came to see him on the road wanted, and expected, him to do his father’s songs, his father’s way. Yet he yearned to explore the musical changes that were happening in the early 1970s, the melding of country, blues and rock that made the music of Waylon Jennings and the Marshall Tucker Band so distinct. He also grew increasingly dependent on pills and booze, and increasingly upset about his life’s path. “I just felt all this loneliness and depression,” he told interviewer Peter Guralnick. “I was all tore up about the direction I was heading. Every time I’d play one of Daddy’s records, I’d just start to cry.”

An attempted suicide in 1974 was the low point. Had he died then, at 23, his music career would have been a historical footnote, an addendum to his father’s biography and little more. He moved from Nashville to Cullman, Alabama, rethought his life in and out of music, and recorded his first truly original work, an album called Hank Williams Jr. and Friends that featured Jennings, the Tucker Band’s Toy Caldwell, and others who weren’t in the traditional country camp. And Williams’ songs “Living Proof” and “Stoned at the Jukebox” were his most searing, emotional works to date. But while prepping for a tour, he went mountain climbing in Montana.

About Lainey Wilson:

Lainey Wilson has fast become one of Nashville’s most buzzed about newcomers thanks to a fiery live show and prolific songwriting. Wilson’s on-stage swagger combined with her memorable storytelling makes the singer a mainstay on countless artist to watch lists. On the Jay Joyce-produced Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’, the Louisiana native’s debut on BBR Music Group’s flagship imprint, Broken Bow Records, Wilson boldly introduces herself as a country artist unafraid to speak her truth while empowering listeners to do the same through her vulnerability. It is music with a message, delivered subtly and humbly.

A self-described old soul, Wilson has always been ahead of her time. At the age of nine she began writing songs about tequila and cigarettes. A family trip to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry that same year solidified her decision to one day move from her home of 300 people in Baskin, Louisiana, to Music City.

“I remember exactly where I was on the interstate in the backseat,” she says nostalgically in a warm Louisiana drawl. “I was staring at the Batman building and little Lainey at nine years old said, ‘This is home.’ I've always known it and I don't know if it's because I spoke it out loud and it manifested itself, but I've always known that I’d be here.”

Wilson’s childhood home was filled with music. Her father, a farmer who dreamed of a career in country music himself, would play Glen Campbell, Hank Williams, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Buck Owens, while her grandfather would take Wilson to bluegrass festivals. All these influences combined with Wilson’s unapologetic honesty and descriptive lyrics can be heard throughout Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’.

 “I feel strongly about saying what you think, saying what’s on your heart, but also thinking before you speak,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard to be honest, but at the end of the day it ain’t doing anybody any good to not be. Every song we put on the record we basically asked, ‘Is this song saying what I’m thinking?’ If it’s not, it didn’t make the list.”

Current single “Things A Man Oughta Know” reflects this honesty and self-conviction. “I can hang a picture same as I can take it down/ And how to keep it hidden when a heart gets broke/ Yeah I know a few things a man oughta know,” she croons on the track. Written with Jonathan Singleton and Jason Nix, “Things A Man Oughta Know” had the collaborators discussing the characteristics their parents taught them to look for in themselves and others.

“It’s really a song about having good character and a song about treating people the way that you want to be treated -- something that we all should know,” she explains. “It’s about standing up for what’s right. I would like for people to hear that through my music too.”

“Things A Man Oughta Know” was highlighted in NPR’s Best Music of 2019. Journalist Jewly Hight says the song, “proves [Wilson] capable of blending a thoroughly countrified vocal approach with digitally sharpened contemporary production, thanks to the suppleness and body of her honeyed, crystalline twang.” With 26 million streams and counting, “Things A Man Oughta Know” continues to make an impact on listeners.

Meanwhile, the rollicking, guitar-driven “WWDD” -- aka What Would Dolly Do -- has Wilson sharing her personal compass and delivering sound life lessons with listeners. Wilson says she always looks to Dolly Parton when she’s at a crossroads and unsure how to proceed. “She handles everything with grace, but she also does it with some grit too,” she notes.

Wilson’s own grit shines through on the ear-grabbing album opener “Neon Diamonds” where she immediately lets folks know who she is and what she wants as a traditional gal who doesn’t take herself too seriously. The song acknowledges her forthcoming maturation, embraces self-awareness and celebrates living in the moment. A prominent tv booker compared this song to one of the all-time greats saying he hadn’t “heard a more perfect ‘grab-you-in’ start to an album since Thriller with ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something.’”

The singer-songwriter’s work ethic and authenticity are apparent in each song and are further evidenced by her accolades. In 2020 she made her Grand Ole Opry debut, a dream come true for nine-year-old Lainey. Since then, she has been named MusicRow’s Next Big Thing 2021 while Strings & Spurs included her on their “Country Artists to Watch in 2021” list. An alum of CMT’s Listen Up Class of 2019 and Next Women of Country, the singer-songwriter continues to garner recognition for her distinctive music.

More recently, her music was featured for the third time in the hit television show Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner and it’s easy to see why. The striking and quietly haunting track “Rolling Stone,” would also blend seamlessly into to the ranch-based drama series with its sweeping string features and breathtaking vocals reminiscent to that of an old Western. A song about not being tied down, Wilson warns: “Baby my heart runs wild and free/ You gotta know ’fore you fall for me/ Like a feather in the wind I could be gone/ You don’t give a rock to a rolling stone.”

“Every time I play it, I feel like I'm in a movie,” Wilson says of the song. “Jay Joyce worked his magic on it and it truly makes me feel like I'm watching a movie from the beginning all the way through to the end.”

Wilson describes her music as bell-bottom country. “Country with a flare,” she explains. “Fresh, but also familiar.” Each song blends vivid country storytelling with strong female characters as heard on the deeply confessional title track “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin.’” It’s no surprise that Wilson’s music is culled from her own life and the way she was raised with strong family values.

“I was raised to go after what you want. I'm very strong-willed and I'm one of those people that I'm not going to give up no matter what. A lot of my values and why I'm the way I am, comes from my people,” she says, sharing her father’s strong work ethic as a farmer. “I get up and not every single day is the same, but it's what I do. It's what I love. It's my life. It's really one of the only things I know how to do … If you are gifted with something you need to use your gift.

“As an artist, we're there to create something that everybody can relate to, or to create something that will make people feel something at the end of the day,” she continues. “When I listen to music, whether it's making me laugh or cry, I just want to feel something. … If I can bring light in any kind of way, I think I should try to do it.”

In her own words, Lainey Wilson promises to continue Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’.