"I wish I were an angel in '52/ in a blue Cadillac on the eve of New Year/ and there I could have saved him, the man who sang the blues." - Sometimes - Holly Williams.

Holly Williams
Holly Williams has only vague recollections of the three movies featuring her dad and grandpa.

But the singer is having no trouble turning her grandpa's long lost lyrics into song for a fourth movie.

Holly is completing a genetic lineage that started with Hank Williams Sr and erupted in her equally talented sire Hank Williams Jr.

But when the singer first began performing live she kept her identity a secret to avoid the pressure of her rich family past.

''When I first played in Nashville, I never told people who I was because I wanted to know if they liked me for my music first," says Williams, just 23, who enjoyed that same anonymity on a recent W.A. tour with Kasey Chambers.

"Even at my shows now not many people know who I am unless I tell them."

Williams was touring here to promote her solo debut disc The Ones We Never Knew (Universal South) that followed a five track EP she unleased on a 2003 European tour with Ron Sexsmith.

And, apart from ABC and community radio, there has been little exposure here for any of the Hanks.

Holly and stepbrother Hank 111, born Shelton, are mere names in the unlucky radio country where not even the unrelated Lucinda has fared much better on radio.

And we certainly didn't have a chance to catch any of the Williams movies.


George Hamilton played Hank Sr in Your Cheating Heart, Richard Thomas played her dad in The Living Proof and Hank Jr performed in and wrote the soundtrack of A Time To Sing when he was just 17.

"I have a little secret,' Holly told Nu Country TV in a phone call from Bunbury on her whirlwind tour with Kasey Chambers.

Williams toured the U.S. for three weeks with Chambers who returned the favour on the W.A leg of her recent tour.

Holly plans an east coast tour of Australia later in 2005 or in 2006.

"I have never seen A Time To Sing. It's so hard to find. I asked dad and we looked on E Bay but it's completely out of print. I remember seeing Your Cheating Heart as a little girl.

Hank did have a light humorous side that people didn't see. They only saw the dark side.

They're exploring a new movie to show the whole character. I have some Hank Sr lyrics that he never finished the music to. I've been writing music for them recently on the piano.

We talked about writing that for the movie. Bob Dylan thought of doing some too and Willie Nelson may have done a few but it's all up in the air. The lyrics are amazing - entire poems and song lyrics."

Williams is diplomatic on the portrayal by Richard "John Boy Walton" Thomas of her dad in the NBC telemovie The Living Proof.


"That was a very interesting choice to play my dad," she joked, "I don't think he even looks like him. They portrayed the mountain fall and that was very true - when he fell off Ajax Mountain in 1975."

Holly's mother had only just met Bocephus when he almost died and had to have his face and body rebuilt after the horrific fall from the Montana mountain range.

"My mum Becky had been on one date with dad before the accident," Holly revealed.

"She said he was too wild and was never going out with him again. When he fell off the mountain she felt sorry for him and nursed him back to health again. She was at his bedside all the way through his recovery and nursed him when he came out of hospital."

Although Holly's mother raised her after her parents split when she was two she attributes her success to both parents.

The singer, who once had modelling aspirations, emulated her father by writing songs at eight.

"I had a book called Holly's Song Folder and I wrote about things I knew absolutely nothing about - from husbands leaving wives, people cheating on them and people dying," Holly recalled.

"It's very strange to go back and read it now. I was the happiest kid in the world but I wrote about a lot of things I hadn't necessarily lived through. I think I was maybe born with a sense of the darker side of things. I don't really understand where it came from."

The singer, born in Nashville on March 12, 1981, added guitar to her piano-playing repertoire at 17 and fell back in love with music and wrote more than 500 songs in a spirited burst of creativity.


"I read pain from a young boy whose father left too early/ whose mother tried to mould him into what she'd love to be." - Between The Lines - Holly Williams.

Williams confessed that Between Your Lines was inspired by her father being sent on the road to sing his dad's song by her grandmother Audrey when he was just eight.

Audrey raised Hank Jr after Hank Sr died in the back of a Cadillac on New Year's Eve, 1952, en routé from Austin, Texas, to a concert in Canton, Ohio.

By then Hank had married second wife Billy Jean who later became widow of fellow country star Johnny Horton who also died after a gig at the Austin club The Skyline.

< Hank Williams Jr

"Yes, it is about him and his relationship with Audrey," Williams said.

"But the song came from a place of love and compassion - more than anger or anything like that. I wrote that song when I was a lot younger - he was on tour a lot and I was trying to figure out our relationship and get to know him a lot more. I was about 18 when I wrote that. A lot of those songs are fairly old."

Williams says her dad, on the road up to 300 days a year when she was young, was protective.

"My dad kept us very sheltered from touring," Williams admitted.

"He was pretty wild back then. But he would always tell us 'I'm not Bocephus - I'm daddy.

We would go hunting, fishing and watching football. His live shows were great."

She was not surprised he stole the show when I saw him perform at a Willie Nelson July 4 Picnic in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1983.

"I'm sure he was mooning the crowd, taking his shirt off and firing his gun while he was standing on the piano," Holly said.

"That's how it was back in the eighties."


But Holly says a dim witted young junkie who recently stole the family jewellery safe from her dad's home in Paris, Tennessee, when Bocephus was asleep with his fourth wife was lucky her sire was not armed and dangerous.

"No, none of my jewellery was there in dad's safe," Williams said, "no, that's funny. Whoever did it must have had huge balls. Seriously my dad would have shot him if he saw someone in the house. Luckily he was asleep. He took me hunting when I was young. I have never actually shot a deer yet. I never want to kill a deer but he's also into fishing and goes fishing all the time. He has this cabin just two hours north of Nashville. I emailed him today and told him about the fishing here. I beat him here and told him he should come down."

The thief's mother turned him in after her son asked to fence the jewellery.


Although Williams has not followed her ancestors into movies she has a passion for pitching her songs for movies after tours with singing actors Billy Bob Thornton and John Mellencamp.

"With Billy Bob we had interesting crowds - from beer joints to little theatres. It was a very diverse crowd. Billy Bob did a couple of Stanley Bros bluegrass songs one night. He also did some Hank Sr songs - I Saw The Light. He is a big Hank fan. I met with music supervisors for movie soundtracks and TV shows in Los Angeles. I love reading the scripts and really love dramas - especially in independent theatres. I hope to pitch my songs for movies."

Williams has dived into her rich genetic pool to harvest hay from the hell of ruptured romance.

"I wrote Cheap Parades about an old relationship of mine," Williams said, "I was young and messed up with the whole cheating thing. That type of world can make you feel horrible and makes you think you're doing something wrong. That was all about that. I also knew a lot of married couples going through divorce and friends of mine having affairs I was 19 when I wrote that."

It was a sibling song of Velvet Sounds.

"It was my kind of thoughts on things you miss," Williams said, "it was the same relationship I had gone through. It was weird. It came to me as a poem - I was writing down things."


But it was a substance abuse that spawned Would You Still Have Fallen.

"A friend of mine was going through a really bad alcohol problem," she said.

"He had been in and out of rehab for years - for alcohol and drugs. When you ask yourself it you could do more for these people. So many times you think if I had tried they wouldn't have done this. You come up to a point and you realise people can only change themselves. You can't change someone else - it took me a long time to realise that. I have known so many people who have gone through that sort of addiction. Last night a woman came up to me and told me how her husband had just died of alcoholism - it's crazy how it happens."


Williams says her song Sometimes was not intended to be about Hank Sr.

"Two years ago I wrote Sometimes," Holly recalled.

"People say I went in and tried to write it about Hank Sr but it was one of those where the words came out of nowhere. I was done with the song. I wasn't going to write another verse and the words just came out of there. I wrote the song how people use things like sex, drugs and religion as a vice. And want to get away from it all sometime. Hank Sr just popped in there. Dad was only three when he died. We only really know him through people's stories and what we hear. I don't really contemplate his death. It's so hard to feel like he's my grandfather because there's not that many people (still alive) who knew him. It's so far away from me.''

The one exception was Merle Kilgore who died at 70 in Mexico about an hour before I interviewed Holly.

Kilgore was a Louisiana newsboy at 14 when he became a guitar roadie for Hank Sr and managed Hank Jr and performed with him for over 40 years.

But it wasn't until after I interviewed Holly that I learned of the death of the icon who wrote a brace of huge hits for artists diverse as Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Webb Piece and Tommy Roe.

CLICK HERE for a Kilgore obituary.


When Hank Williams Jr was eight he was sent on the road to sing his dad's song by domineering mother Audrey.

Bocephus had left home and daughter Holly Williams mother by the time she began writing songs at the same age.

Not exactly a recipe for success but neither was Hank Sr who went to God in the back seat of a Cadillac at 29 in 1952.

The good news - Holly sings much better than stepbrother Hank 111 and has avoided genetic substance abuse.

Instead Holly, 23, exploits writing genes on her debut disc with a style vastly different to her kinfolk.

Although she pays homage to grandpa and father in these evocative songs she blazes her own trail.

Let's deal with those songs.

Holly does in entrée Sometimes - "I wish I were an angel in '52/ in a blue Cadillac on the eve of New Year/ and there I could have saved him, the man who sang the blues."

It's embroidered by Larry Campbell on steel and segues into Everybody's Waiting For A Change as she swaps acoustic guitar for piano while singing of a character's judgmental flaws.


Williams skates on jagged cornices of broken hearts - not always her own - in Take Me Down, I'll Only Break Your Heart, All As It Should Be and Memory Of Me.

This is not a country disc but Williams sings with the pungent passion of the genre in the haunting Would You Still Have Fallen and domestic abuse in Take Me Down.

Equally dynamic are the confessional Cheap Parades and Memory Of Me and sheer beauty of a lover's nocturnal breath in Velvet Sounds.

Her imagery and mood swings dominate throughout to finale Nothing More - saga of a woman at 70 whose husband has an affair.

Although raised by her mother Williams exudes a sympathy for her sire in Between Your Lines - "I read pain from a young boy whose father left too early/ whose mother tried to mould him into what she'd love to be."

Cynics sneer at Williams but peel back the prejudice to admire true talent - hell, it's a family tradition.

top / back to diary