Hank Williams Jr. Nearly Died After Falling 500 Feet Off a Mountain in 1976: Here’s What Happened

by Keeli Parkey
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The fact that Hank Williams Jr. is alive today is a miracle.

While many country fans are familiar with his family heritage – he is the son of the legendary Hank Williams – many may not know that he once fell 500 feet off a mountain.

Against all odds, he lived to tell the tale. According to an article by The Tennessean, Williams decided to go to Montana during August 1975 to enjoy the great outdoors hiking and mountain climbing. He was 26 years old at the time. Earlier that year, he had recorded “Hank Williams Jr. & Friends.” It would be this album that would show the world that he was not the same kind of singer that his father was.

However, on Aug. 8, before Williams began showing off the album to the world, he and a friend were hiking near Ajax Lake in Montana. While searching for goats on some difficult terrain, according to the article, the singer lost his footing and plummeted approximately 500 feet.

During the fall, Hank Williams Jr. hit numerous rocks and suffered major injury to his head. The Tennessean carried a report of the incident on the front page of its Aug. 11, 1975 issue.

Six men were needed to carry the singer to a helicopter that had to land approximately a quarter-mile away from where Williams fell. According to the article, it took six hours to get him to medical professionals. Once in the helicopter, Williams was taken to Missoula Community Hospital.

Hank Williams Jr. Awakes in Hospital with Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash Watching Over Him

Five doctors and seven hours of surgery were needed to treat him. Hank Williams Jr. suffered injuries to his face and head. Interestingly, the first faces he saw when he awoke after surgery were Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

Citing an interview with Rolling Stone in 2015, the article reports Williams as having said: “When I fell, there were only two people I saw when I woke up in the hospital bed, and that was Johnny and June. June put a cross on me and told me it was all going to be OK. I never knew if I would sing again or not, talk again or not, let alone think about what I was going to look like. It was a scary time.”

Hank Williams Sr. died when his son was only 3 years old. However, his mother Audrey Williams was still alive. She traveled to Montana from Nashville to be with him. Sadly, she died weeks after Williams’ fall. According to the article, the financial pressure she was facing at the time was making life difficult. However, it was Williams’ fall that really hurt her.

It would take two years for Williams to bounce back from the accident. During that time he endured multiple surgeries. And, he has a beard in order to keep the scars he has from the accident hidden. That’s also why he is pretty much always seen wearing sunglasses.

‘All in Alabama’ References Williams’ Fall from Mountain

According to The Tennessean article, Williams sings about the fall that almost killed him in the song “All in Alabama.”

This song was released in 1980. The lyrics say: “I just had to show ’em / I didn’t need ’em / And so I headed out west to see some old friends of mine / I thought if I’d climb up old Ajax Mountain / Maybe that would help me get it all off my mind / I made it up to the top / Picked out a clear spot/ I thought a whole lot / About the rest of my life / I had no idea then / Soon it would nearly end / Up on this mountainside/ I would nearly die.” 

Outsider.com