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Keeping family traditions alive is the main reason they are handed down to younger generations. They can range from a skill to a trade, to heirlooms. In Shelton Hank Williams’ III (aka Hank 3) case, music has trickled down through the generations.
His grandfather Hank Williams was a country western musician. His father, Hank Williams Jr. followed in those footsteps and brought his own form of “outlaw” country to the limelight. Hank 3 is paving his own way, however, mixing his country roots with punk and rock, making a kind of “hellbilly” fusion of diabolical country/punk/rock music.
“The career of Shelton Hank Williams III (aka Hank3) has doubled as a sort of crusade in which he breaks all the rules of country music while somehow managing to honor its traditions at the same time. As he put it back in ’06, ‘Everybody calls themselves outlaws and all that stuff, but that’s what’s missing in country music. Everything’s so clean and pretty and perfect, and you need a couple of people in there that aren’t perfect and that don’t sound the best. That’s the way some of the best guys were, man,’ ” according to a press release.
In 2010, he put out “Rebel Within,” on Curb Records. Since then, he launched his own label, Hank3 Records, distributed by Megaforce. Under that label, he released four albums at once, “Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown,” “3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin” and Attention Deficient Domination” in 2011.
On the heels of his releases, Hank 3 has embarked on a tour — one of which will come to Albuquerque’s Sunshine Theater Aug. 14. He’s been running a bus and crew since 1995, so he’s no stranger to life on the road or to playing Albuquerque. In fact, he’s played the Sunshine several times.
“I’ve always toured to tour, basically. It’s just that I try to route my shows where every 4,000 to 6,000 miles, we pull over and do another show,” he said of his Albuquerque stop. “We’ve always had a strong, loyal fan base in Albuquerque … as far back as I can remember, I’ve always played there and always had a good time there.”
He also said that he once attended the Native American Music Awards in the Duke City, where he accepted an award on behalf of Hank Williams.
Fans familiar with his band Ass Jack might be disappointed to know they won’t be part of the show this time around. Instead, he’s touring with Hellbilly/Attention Deficit Domination and 3 Bar Ranch.
“Right now it’s the country part of the show … Ass Jack is not on the road. We’re playing the heavier album stuff,” he said.
His musical roots run deep. He first became interested in music when he was six years old.
“I got my first drum kit when I was six or seven. It was kind of natural, I started making noise on it,” he said.
He got a taste of what it’s like to be on stage when he was 10-years-old and played drums while his father sang “Family Tradition” during a concert in Atlanta.
“Through my teen years, I was always in rock and punk bands, touring in vans in Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina, doing shows,” Hank 3 said.
Though most musicians can easily name their influences, it’s not so easy for Hank 3. He’s into all kinds of music.
“It’s hard for me to just say one,” he said. “It depends on what kind of mood I’m in.” He said he listens to everything from rap to classical and jazz. “I’m basically an all-around listener. I even listen to electric and techno stuff.”
However, he cited the Melvins, Jimmy Martin, Earthride, Waylon Jennings, Black Flag, David Allen Coe, Adam Ant and Gary Numan as some of his influences.
He said he’s particularly interested in how artists create and record their music and likes to look at it from different perspectives. Hank 3’s audience is a varied as his musical taste. The age of concertgoers can vary from 18- to 80-year-olds and people from all walks of life seem to enjoy his music.
“All Williamses have always had a rowdy crowd because most of us played in bars our entire lives,” he said. “I tell ladies not to wear sandals or open-toed shoes when they come out and see us.”
Despite the fact that he’s part of a well-known musical family, Hank 3 wanted to blaze his own trail.
“Basically, I did it to stand on my own two feet. People that wrote about me a long time ago would say ‘he’s riding his (family’s) coat tails,” he said of critics. “Those same people now say, ‘he’s doing what he wants, you can tell by his records.’ If I was just another country singer, our audience wouldn’t be as special.”
He said the biggest pay-off as a musician is when a fan approaches him and tells him that his music has helped them through a difficult situation. He said on their last European tour, a kid that was fighting cancer approached him and said that Hank 3’s songs helped him pull through on some of the hardest days.
“Fight for life. It’s harder to stick around than take the easy way out,” he said.
Unlike some musicians, Hank 3 wants to remain approachable, so he does a meet and greet after every show, during which time he takes photos with fans and signs autographs.
“I’ve always done that, ever since 1995,” he said. “It’s the old country way. You do your show and say hello. After a three-and-a-half hour show, I put on my sweatshirt and cap, go down to the barricade and shake every hand. It gives the fans an opportunity to feel connected to the artist.”
He believes that his after-show approach is what has built a loyal fan base over the years.
“Hank 3 is just like us. He goes out, works hard and does his best,” he said of what his fans might think. “I’m approachable. I’m not gonna be a rock star. I think it’s really made a big difference in what I do.”
Hank 3 does have one rule that he hopes fans will follow: be on time when arriving at the show.
“ … I don’t have an opening band and we play for so long, we try to start on time. That’s the main thing. Be there at the time posted and we’ll have a good night,” he said.
In keeping with his grassroots approach to music, he and his mom package and send out orders for vinyl records placed on his website hank3.com.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. show at the Sunshine are $20 and available at sunshinetheaterlive.com. Doors open at 7 p.m.