WHEN THE NAME HANK III IS MENTIONED IN Nashville, the word "trouble" usually follows. Being that Shelton Hank Williams III is the grandson of perhaps the biggest legend in country music and the son of a living one, it's expected he would follow in their footsteps. And he has, if you count cussin' and raisin' hell. But continuing the country music tradition was the furthest thing from his mind for much of his life.
"I always grew up saying I wouldn't play country. 'You'll never see me do that,'" Williams told POLLSTAR from his Nashville home.
However, a wrench was thrown into that plan when he was 20 years old. Three years earlier, he had a one-night stand with a girl. "Her father called up and said, 'We think your son is responsible for our daughter and we're gonna see you court,'" Williams remembered. They sued him for $25,000 in back child support.
"I was making 50 bucks in a punk rock band every four or five days and that's what made me get into country music," Williams said. "The judge told me to get a real job and the way for me to get a real job was, instead of going to McDonald's, to deal with all the assholes down on Music Row."
Yes, it's not very hard to get Williams to voice his true feelings about today's pop- country music industry his own record label included. He freely admits that he and Curb Records have different agendas.
"They try but they're not behind me 100 percent and they're probably not that glad they have me," he said. But Hank Jr. worked with Mike Curb and Hank III's late manger, Jack McFadden, was comfortable with the label chief.
As for the 29-year-old Williams, "I've only been around Mike Curb once when I was 11 years old and once in an airplane for about five minutes when I went to take a piss in first class. And that's it out of the whole time I've been signed with them."
Admittedly, Williams isn't an easy artist to market. He doesn't want to be radio friendly and he mixes punk rock with his traditional brand of country music. He had to battle with Curb for a long time before releasing his debut country album, Risin' Outlaw.
Though he wrote plenty of his own songs, only a few made it onto the album. The rest were rejected by the label for being either too country or too controversial.
"They were really trying to go after radio with this album. And that's why it took two years to piece this damn thing together because I was being hardcore and saying, 'Let's try this song; I got this great song,'" Williams said.
Eventually, he threw up his hands and did things Curb's way with the agreement that he will do the next record his way. "This next album is gonna be so different, it's not gonna have any chance for the radio, I hope, if it's done right."
Williams could care less about getting respect from Nashville. It's the traditional country players from Austin specifically Wayne Hancock and Dale Watson that he looks up to and aspires to emulate.
Between their inspiration and his cow-punk sensibilities, Williams already has his next country album written. "If you see the song 'I'm Here to Put the Dick in Dixie and Cunt in Country,' you'll know that album was officially done my way. And if I don't get to put that on the country album, it will be on the rock album."
Williams began recording his "heavy metal/white trash punk" album this month, which will be released on an indie label through Curb.
Because his outfit is not a normal country band, finding representation has been a long ordeal. After going through more than four managers, Williams landed with Gold Mountain Entertainment about six months ago. Now, he's finally getting the mix of shows he wants half country, half rock and touring with his personal heroes like the Reverend Horton Heat.
The change in style from night to night and sometimes from set to set really makes Williams two artists in one. "It's completely Jekyll and Hyde schizophrenia, but I'm only gonna be able to do that for so long." He said it's hard screaming one night and then singing and yodeling the next.
It's also confusing to some patrons of his shows, which sometimes leads to conflicts for him. Such was the case at a Seattle rock performance.
"There's 800 freaks there and then there's two assholes with cowboy hats giving me shit up front the hardcore redneck dickheads who wanted to beat my ass after the show and waited out by my bus for three hours."
Williams handled the situation by pointing out the "jerkoffs" and having the audience give them a collective "F**k you!"
He said he's amazed at how much music can upset people.
"I've had my whole band surrounded by security and bar owners because we played a rock show in a country club, threatening to kick our ass," he said. "It makes me wish I had a few Hell's Angels out there with us keeping us protected sometimes because we can get all beat up, but then we have to take two months of work off to heal."
On the other side of the coin are the elderly Hank Sr. fans who experience a sense of nostalgia by seeing the young Williams, who looks a lot like his grandfather. He's had to turn a lot of them away from rock shows but at his country concerts, the older folks have stopped to say, "Your grandpa would be so proud."