The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Hank Williams Jr.

Tragedy is subjective, not to mention transitory. That seems like as good a place as any to start. Any life can be touched by tragic low points. Some are lucky enough to bounce in an equal and opposite direction. By way of example, most people have gone through the agony of losing a loved one, but how many of us can claim to have had an entire bevy of rowdy friends, each willing and available to come over on a Monday night?

The man born Randall Williams has experienced both states of being, at least one of which hit him at a young age. His father and stage namesake, Hank Williams, passed away at 29 years of age in the wee hours of January 1st, 1953. Randall was three years old at the time.

Not long after, a newly rebranded Hank Williams Jr. was put to work by his mother, picking up where his dad left off — Biography states that he made his first on-stage appearance at 8 years old before premiering at the Grand Ole Opry when he was 11.

Tragedy is a family tradition

Hank Williams Jr. found some success, working more or less as a tribute act and playing plenty of his old man's standards. Critical reception was lukewarm — The New Yorker pointed out that he "was raised to be an echo, not an influence," changing his name to better pull a nostalgic crowd.

Struggling to find a unique identity in a field that demanded he be more like his father, Hank Jr. got decidedly interested in drugs and alcohol, only stopping after a rock climbing accident in 1975. Falling a reported 500 feet onto rock after the snow beneath his feet gave way, Williams sustained multiple fractures to his skull. The accident led him to years of rehabilitation and the adoption of his signature look: a beard, sunglasses, and a hat, all of which help to cover his facial scarring.

The hits, tragically, keep coming, as on June 13th, 2020, Williams' daughter Katherine died at age 27 in a car accident in Tennessee, according to CBS News.