Hank Williams III: Country Estate

The Son of a Nashville Music Dynasty Tries His Forefathers' Suits On for Size

Hellbilly musician Hank Williams III sports the stage-costumes of three generations of his iconic musical family at his home on the Haunted Ranch in Nashville, Tennessee, in these exclusive portraits by photographer Tara Israel. Grandson of country music legend Hank Williams Sr. and son of singer Hank Jr., the 38-year-old is transformed from his usual torn and tattered look into a clean-cut Southern gent, courtesy of the immaculate country and western suits made for his forefathers by Nudie and “Couture Cowboy” Manuel. “Hank III exists precisely where one should between past and future,” says Israel. “He plays music and dresses on his own terms, breaking boundaries without destroying that which came before him.” Williams’s upbringing and career features all the ingredients of an archetypal country song, from alcohol and drug use, child support payments and bad record deals, to the legacy of a grandfather he never met and a father he barely knows. With a remarkable four albums released on the same day this month, spanning doom rock, country, and a genre-defying heavy metal record sampling the cries of cattle auctioneers, Williams talks to NOWNESS about his famous forebears and the importance of finding one’s own path.

How did you get vocals from auctioneers on your record?
I was raised around a farm and used to go to the auctioneer barns with my maternal granddad. It was part of my lifestyle and in my blood. The hardest thing was to convince these old guys that I wasn’t making fun of them, but trying to pay respect. A lot of the guys pulled out. They don’t drink, cuss, or smoke, and are very straight-laced. I promised them there would be no cussing or satanic imagery, but it still didn’t sit right with a few of them.

Which of the drastically different looks photographed by Tara are you most comfortable in?

In general day-to-day, I’m an average-looking guy—just a dark blue mechanic’s shirt and military pants. The torn and tattered clothes are my stage wear. There’s a group of street kids that follow us around the country and have worked on my clothes throughout the years

Was it weird to step into your grandfather’s clothing?

The only things I own of my grandfather’s are a tie, a fishing lure and a gun. The clothes are from the collection of the country singer Marty Stuart. People think that I come from a lot of money, but in reality I’ve never seen a dollar of the Hank Williams estate and I don’t know my father that well. 

Still, it must have been kind of cool?

It would probably mean more to me to play a guitar of his. But it was fun. I only know my grandfather through his music, just like anyone else. So I’m sure it added a little extra sparkle in my eye.

But did the suit fit?
The top part fits fine and the pants are a little short, but some of the shirts I couldn’t have gotten into without ruining them. I’m taller than Hank Williams Sr., and a little heavier.

How do you feel playing country music in 2011?

My biggest payoff in playing country music is pulling people through the hard times and helping people through their darkest hour. Country music is about feelings, about emotion. It’s about the working man, the working woman, and trying to help them get through another day. Just doing your thing and marching to your own drumbeat.

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