The other day I was watching old video clips of Hank Williams Jr. on YouTube.
It’s something I probably don’t full understand, but I’m not sure if there will ever be another true outlaw in country music ever again. I don’t think we’ll ever have another Hank Williams Jr. in country music again. It just seems like record labels are too afraid to bring in a wild man (or woman) that is ready to go crazy and just let it all go when they’re recording and performing.
From my observations of these old videos, Hank Williams Jr. was one of the true independent artists. He was a little crazy. He liked to drink and have a good time. I have a feeling he still does today. He spoke his mind. He was incredibly smart even when he put on the country redneck hat for the fans. He was able to do his own thing when all the experts in the industry were trying to tell him that he couldn’t be himself.
Hank Jr. ruled the 1980s in country music. Rockin’ Randall tore up the stages. He wasn’t the best singer. He was a hell of a guitar player. He had little nuances like hanging his guitar strap on his right shoulder only. No one else did this. It was different. Hank was different.
Being different scares people. You will run into people that simply dismiss you for being different. They don’t understand what you’re doing. There are also people that will tell you you’re crazy for being different because they have a vested interest in the status quo. This phenomenon happens in a variety of cases.
Hank scared people. He changed things. He found a huge audience of fans that took him to the biggest heights of the country world. He was a true original and a true country outlaw.
I’m not sure we’ll ever see one again.
Today’s country music is pretty basic. There are artists that do what they want, but for the most part the music is safe. And that’s understandable. It’s risky to try and change things when something is working so well. You can’t always try to change things and take the risk of bringing in some wildman outlaw that has the chance to succeed, but has an equal chance of destroying his life.
Today’s closest acts to outlaw status are probably Brantley Gilbert and Hank Williams III. They are unique. They are different. Brantley has found mainstream success. Hank III has found a niche for himself on the outskirts of various genres.
Gilbert has been able to bring new elements to country radio. He’s been one of the rare cases of someone that can truly bring a new sound, a sound that scares some people, to the mainstream radio audience. I’m happy to see him succeed. He’s about as close to an outlaw as we will see in the mainstream country world.
I’m not sure if it’s the labels or the radio folks or maybe even the fans. There just doesn’t seem to be a want for that outlaw, crazy, wildman in the country world right now.
But maybe that’s a sign that someone should take a chance on this generation’s Hank Williams Jr. Maybe there is a label out there willing to take the risk to bring an act that is dangerous, but passionate to the mainstream.
I would like to see someone that likes to drink. They live hard. They make mistakes and they sing about it. People connect to that stuff. In real life people get a little crazy. Even those that don’t like to read about and listen to people that do. It’s a little crazy, but I think there is room in country for someone that is wild.
We need an outlaw in country music. And we don’t just need someone on the edges. We need a mainstream country act that takes things to the extreme.
I’m not sure who it will be, but if the labels are out there looking for the next big thing.
Look for someone that’s wild and crazy.
We need an outlaw in mainstream country music.