The Hank Williams Legacy
Major New Exhibition to Trace the Legacy of Country Music's Most Iconic Figure
NASHVILLE, Tenn., September 13, 2007 - The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum's major new exhibition, Family Tradition: The Hank Williams Legacy, Presented by SunTrust, which opens on Friday, March 28, 2008, for a near two-year run, will explore the connections between country music's most iconic figure and his creative heirs both biological and musical and examine the ways in which American music continues to be measured by the standards Hank Williams set.
Presented with the full cooperation and assistance of the Williams family, the exhibition will use artifacts, instruments, song manuscripts, costumes, photographs, computer interactives, moving images and more to explore the connections between Hank Williams and his progeny, and his enduring impact on popular music.
Additional support is being provided by the Museum's official Family Tradition media partners: Great American Country Television Network, Cumulus Broadcasting and The Tennessean.
"In past years, the Museum has examined the life and music of Hank Williams through a major biographical exhibit and a two-CD collection of his demo recordings," said Museum Director Kyle Young. "As his heirs speak frankly about their ancestor's legacy and his impact on their lives, the Family Tradition story will take our visitors on a voyage to the spiritual and emotional core of the Williams family.
"This exhibition would not be possible without the blessing and participation of the family," he said. "They have opened their hearts to us and shared their stories and their journeys. They have also opened their homes and personal archives and shared a wealth of precious artifacts, many of which will be exhibited for the first time in Family Tradition."
Among the items never or rarely seen by the public until now are Williams family scrapbooks and correspondence; and awards, instruments and costumes belonging to Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr., including some of the latter's first toddler-size stage costumes designed by Nudie the Rodeo Tailor.
Family Tradition will be accompanied by an ongoing series of school and family programs, including live performances, panel discussions, films, instrument demonstrations and more. The exhibit will close on December 31, 2009.
The 5,000-square-foot exhibit will follow the Museum's exhibition I Can't Stop Loving You: Ray Charles and Country Music, Sponsored by SunTrust, which closes on December 31, 2007, after a 21-month run.
The death of Hank Williams on January 1, 1953, cut short a career that, even in its brevity, placed him high among the top American artists of the twentieth century. More than a half-century after his passing, his music and image still personify what makes country music great. Just as importantly, his creative legacy reverberates far beyond country music, reaching into every facet of popular and vernacular music. His work has influenced, and continues to influence, nearly everyone who tries to write a true-to-life song.
While his life and work had an immense impact on the world, his death hit hardest for those closest to him. It's in those direct connections‹the blood kin, the business associates and the creative community who worked alongside him‹that the Hank Williams legacy exerts the most weight. For those who deal every day with what he stands for and who he was, that legacy is a blessing and a burden, an inspiration and an impossible-to-equal benchmark.
More than anyone, Hank Williams Jr. embodies how other artists must reckon with the legacy his father left. As the only blood son of American music's most fabled figure, he has been asked to carry on a tradition, yet also find his own voice and speak to his own generation. For a while, at his mother Audrey's insistence, he tried to be his father's substitute rather than his artistic heir. Smothered by the image thrust upon him, he eventually stepped from this daunting shadow by following his father's more lasting legacy‹that is, be true to yourself, your art and your fans by telling your own story.
Hank Williams was a man, a child of the southern working class, a product of a broken family and eventually a patriarch to his own ancestral line of restlessly creative souls. As with many poor, rural, southern folk of his generation, his life was transformed by the mobility of the automobile, the growth of electronic communication, the increasing integration of the races, and the emergence of the record industry as a force that gave impoverished Americans a new voice in the nation's culture and entertainment. Other significant social issues also influenced Williams's life and found their way into his music, including the growing independence of women after World War II and the economic prosperity and footloose nature of post-war America. More than any other songwriter, Williams' songs explicitly deal with the friction between old America's traditional Christian values and modern America's wide-open possibilities and wild temptations.
Just as Hank Williams merged the Texas honky-tonk of Ernest Tubb, the Appalachian sincerity of Roy Acuff, the gospel intensity of the hymnal and the blues moan of his mentor, Rufus "Tee Tot" Payne, his son brought together different influences from his generation. Hank Williams Jr. merged his father's honky-tonk with the southern rock of the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Charlie Daniels Band and the blues of John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins and ZZ Top. In doing so, he conjured his own distinct sound that embraced the prideful independence and long-haired social freedom and experimentation running through southern youth of that era.
Hank Williams' other heirs have each adapted to the family legacy in their own ways. From Jett Williams' loving embrace of her inheritance to Lycrecia Williams Hoover's enduring respect for her stepfather and mother, and from Hank Williams III's uncompromising declarations to Holly Williams' personal testaments and Hilary Williams' determined insights, each of them has dealt with this heritage in private and public ways.
But artists beyond the family also bear the creative legacy Hank Williams bestowed upon them; songwriters who aspire to tell an honest story in earthy language must measure themselves against him. Moreover, nearly every significant songwriter to come after Hank Williams has cited him as a primary influence. To name just a few, the list includes Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Merle Haggard, Don Henley, Harlan Howard, Alan Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, John Prine, Bruce Springsteen, Ronnie Van Zant, Tom Waits and Neil Young.
Just as significantly, Hank Williams Jr. has wielded his own acute impact on contemporary country music. From the southern rock influence pounding through today's Music Row albums to the chest-beating confidence shown by modern country stars in arena and stadium concerts, Hank Williams Jr. introduced a new sound and style to a whole generation of country singers.
The measure brought to bear by the Williams legacy remains the same for all the family's creative descendants: Would Hank have done it this way?
Made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts.
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The Museum's mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the Foundation also operates CMF Records, the Museum's Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B, and Hatch Show Print.
More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.com or by calling (615) 416-2001.
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