On This Day: Hank Williams Jr. Makes Stage Debut as an 8-Year-Old

by Jim Casey
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Hank Williams Jr. made his stage debut as an 8-year-old on March 22, 1958, when he performed “Lovesick Blues” in Swainsboro, Georgia.

No one in the history of country music had bigger shoes to fill than Hank Williams Jr.

Of course, his father, Hank Williams Sr., ruled the radio airwaves in the early 1950s with songs “Hey Good Lookin’,” “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and more. Hank Sr. was the biggest star in country music when he died at age 29 in 1953. At the time, Hank Jr. was only 3 years old.

Hank Jr. Takes the Stage

Born Randall Hank Williams on May 26, 1949, the son of Hank Sr. and Audrey Williams was raised as Hank Jr. After his father passed, Audrey taught Jr. to sing his father’s songs in his father’s style.

When 8-year-old Hank Jr. made his stage debut at a show in Swainsboro, Ga., on March 22, 1958, he performed his father’s “Lovesick Blues.” Hank Sr. had performed the same song at his Grand Ole Opry debut in 1949, earning six encores.

By age 11, Hank Jr. made his own Opry debut, again singing “Lovesick Blues.” By age 14, he was making national TV appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Blazing His Own Trail

Hank scored his first No. 1 single, “Eleven Roses,” in 1972. But he didn’t achieve stardom until he found his own voice. In 1975, he released Hank Williams Jr. & Friends, a collaborative album with Charlie Daniels and other Southern rockers. Hank Jr. called the album “my music, not Daddy’s, not Mother’s or anybody else’s.”

Hank Jr. began cultivating a high-powered country-rock style that was all his own. The son of legend was becoming a legend in his own right with songs “Family Tradition,” “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down),” “A Country Boy Can Survive,” and more.

With a bold, rocking style, Hank Jr. took the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year awards in 1987 and 1988. In 2020, he was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“Bocephus has been eyeing this one for a while,” said Hank Jr. “It’s a bright spot during a difficult year. I have been making Top 10 records for 56 years. I fell off a mountain and tried to reinvent myself as a truly individual artist and one who stepped out of the shadows of a very famous man…one of the greatest. I’ve got to thank all those rowdy friends who, year after year, still show up for me. It’s an honor to carry on this family tradition. It is much appreciated.”

Hank Jr. has released more than 30 albums over his six-decade career, selling more than 19.5 million units in the U.S., according to the RIAA.

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