9/12/2021

The Lost Bloodline of Hank Williams & The Search for Hank IV (Country History X)

dawnsears.com - Could it live that the most of import and influential bloodline in land music history actually has a lost branch? Country History X Episode #eleven delves into this complicated in addition to convoluted floor, piece now a 4th generation of performers have got emerged looking to acquit on the Hank Williams legacy.

Hank Williams


Editor’s notes:

  • The Country History X Podcast looks to tell the history of land music, i floor at a fourth dimension. It primarily lives hither on Saving Country Music, on YouTube (encounter below too subscribe), together with is also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, as well as Anchor.
  • This is a story Saving Country Music has been next as well as reporting on inwards 1 shape or some other since 2011. This is the most updated, together with most thorough telling of the storey to date.
  • A adept companion to this episode is the Hank Williams Family Tree of Performers.
  • This is ane of those Country History X episodes where listening is especially encouraged, since the episode is enhanced alongside interviews together with other audio, but a full transcript as well as sources can be institute below for those who prefer reading.

Transcript:

The King of Country Music. The Hillbilly Shakespeare. In a discussion, Hank. There’s a argue Hank Williams was an inductee in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s real kickoff course. In a curt menstruation starting inward the early forty’s and ending abruptly inwards 1953, he would transform country music from hillbilly hokum to an fine art shape revered across the USA together with World, too impart a songwriting legacy that looms as big as any other, and silent to this twenty-four hours.

Sure, dying poetically in the back of his Cadillac on New Years Day, 1953 has allowed the legacy of Hank Williams to achieve mythological status, and leaving us at the age of 29 meant there was no opportunity to sully his grandeur past a late-career decline. But hither many decades after, in that location is no sign Hank’s retentivity in addition to influence will ever fade. If anything, fourth dimension has reaffirmed his lasting importance.

When talking virtually the famous families of land music, The Carter Family is and always should be given deference as the official First Family of Country Music. There are other of import bloodlines inward state that have given way to three or more than generations of performers equally well, like the Cash family, which has close ties to the Carters, as well as the performing legacy springing from the family tree of Willie Nelson. But arguably the most important together with influential bloodline inwards land music history is that of the Hank Williams clan.

Considering that assessment, what if I told y'all at that place was potentially a missing branch on that family unit tree, together with ane that has gone mostly overlooked and unreported for years due to the taboo as well as intrigue surrounding it? This is the floor of the lost bloodline of Hank Williams, too the search for Hank Williams IV.

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We know for sure that Hank Williams had at least 2 biological children: performer, superstar, and Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Williams Jr.—who was the entirely child from the tumultuous human relationship betwixt Hank in addition to Audrey Williams. And so there is Jett Williams. Jett is the daughter of Hank Williams too love involvement Bobby Jett that Hank was bunking amongst between his marriages to Audrey Williams as well as Billy Jean Jones. Jett Williams was born v days after Hank Williams passed away. Initially she was adopted by Hank’s mother Lillie, but when Lillie died inward 1955, Jett became a ward of the State of Alabama, as well as later on was adopted, not knowing that Hank Williams was indeed her male parent until the early 1980’s.

Though Hank Jr. initially fought it at every turn, Jett Williams was finally recognized every bit a legitimate heir to Hank Williams inward 1985, as well as became co-executor of the Williams estate amongst Hank Jr. Since and then, the ii have got had a “locomote along to acquire along” relationship, as well as Jett Williams has worked extensively to help maintain her male parent’s retention alive. Jett Williams has also been a performer in addition to recording creative person inward her ain right, toured amongst a version of Hank’s backing band The Drifting Cowboys for a spell, in addition to has released multiple albums.

But depending on who yous speak to, in that location’s the potential that a tertiary biological kid of Hank Williams is out there. That’s right, at that place power live some other branch on this legendary family tree in land music.

Hank Sr.’s mother Lilly made a living past running boardinghouses in Alabama when Hank was growing upwardly as well as getting started inward the music business concern. Often helping Lilly alongside these boardinghouses was Hank’s cousin, too Lilly’s niece, a adult female named Marie McNeil. But some claim that behind-the-scenes, Lilly’s boardinghouses were also bordellos. According to Hank Williams biographer Colin Escott, one of the numerous sources for this information is a man named Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald.

Who is Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald? We know for sure that he’s the son of Marie McNeil, who recall was Hank Sr.’s cousin, hence Butch would belike live inward a position to know. And who is Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald’s father? Well according to multiple sources, it really good could be Hank Williams himself.

In Colin Escott’s Hank Williams biography from 2004, it says quote, “Hank’s cousin, Marie, was some two years older than Hank, born inwards Garland [Alabama] on May eight, 1921. She’d lived amongst Lilly’s family [a.k.a Hank Sr.’s female parent] since she was twelve. Her father had never allow her move to schoolhouse because she had a withered arm too a prominent strawberry birthmark. The other kids, he thought, would make fun of her. Marie helped Lilly at the boardinghouses, cooking together with cleaning, in addition to, by some accounts, running the girls.”

Colin Escott continues quote, “In 1942 [Marie] became pregnant, too at some indicate the next year, she married a serviceman named Conrad Fitzgerald but, past all accounts, never lived with him. Dr. Stokes at St. Margaret’s Hospital delivered the boy kid on June 24, 1943. Hank nicknamed him Butch. “[From what I’thousand told],” said Butch, “when I came habitation from the infirmary, [Hank] come up in together with he said, ‘There’s my Butch.’ ” What has never been resolved is whether Hank imparted more than than a nickname.” Unquote.

One of Colin Escott’s sources for information that Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald power very good live the showtime son of Hank Williams is Butch himself. Escott says quote, “From the time Butch, or Lewis, equally he was christened, could outset call up, he insists people put the word inwards his ear that Hank was inwards fact his male parent.”

Butch is recorded proverb inwards the Hank Williams biography quote, “A lot of people walk upward, in addition to start telling you lot this, that, together with the other. Momma had told a lot of people, [too] she hinted to me a lot of times, but she would never exactly come out too say it.” Unquote.

The potential that Hank Williams had some sort of relationship amongst his cousin Marie McNeil—in addition to the potential she even had his son—has become constituent of pop lore surrounding the Hank Williams legacy, withal subtle the inferences have been. In the 2016 biopic cinema on the life too expiry of Hank Williams called I Saw The Light, there is a scene where Hank is flirting with a young lady named “Marie” on the porch of his female parent Lilly’s habitation earlier Lilly breaks the duet upwardly.

Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald is retired now, but for years he ran a small-scale engine repair shop inwards Montgomery, Alabama. The easiest way to resolve if Butch is genuinely the boy of Hank Williams would be some sort of paternity test. But past all accounts, Butch doesn’t want to bother with finding out if Hank Williams is his true male parent. Or if Butch does know for sure, he doesn’t come across the value inwards either certifying that every bit populace cognition, or making a fuss for his fair percentage of the Hank Williams estate, amongst would be handsome.

According to Colin Escott’s biography on Hank, after seeing the struggles Jett Williams went through to win a proper percentage of the Hank Williams estate, Butch precisely doesn’t want to hassle alongside the same procedure. The biography states quote, “Marie [Butch’s mother] died on Jan 17th, 1991, without ever quite telling him who his male parent was, but in that location had been plenty gossip for him to meet a lawyer. Depositions were taken, although Butch is guarded about the advice he was given equally a result. At some bespeak, though, he decided that he would accept it no farther … he understands the fiscal together with emotional toll of challenging for a portion of the estate.” Butch states inward the biography quote, “I don’t meet the sense of fighting a battle, to lose it all even if I was to win.” unquote.

What makes Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald’s situation different from Jett’s is he’s already considered a component part of the extended Hank Williams family. Fighting a legal battle would mean fighting with his own family unit members, too potentially, cementing a family unit hush-hush every bit populace cognition. So that’s how the matter has been left—a mystery for possibly the most serious Hank Williams fans to ponder over, but a interrogation to never be fully answered.

But there is a state of affairs that has arisen over the finally few years that has complicated matters, together with created renewed intrigue into whether Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald is indeed a boy of Hank Williams, too if he represents a 3rd branch on the Hank Williams family tree.

What nosotros know for sure is there’s a legitimate Hank Williams III. Born December 12, 1972, Shelton Hank Williams was the first in addition to alone kid betwixt Hank Williams Jr. as well as his and then married woman Gwen. Just similar his begetter—Randall Hank Williams—Shelton’s heart name was Hank, making it possible for him to bear on the Hank Williams call. Hank Williams Sr.’s existent name wasn’t even Hank, it was Hiram Williams. Hank was the nickname. But nobody would dispute Hank Sr., Hank Jr., in addition to Hank3 as the proper chain of custody for the Hank Williams call.

First making his way inward punk and metallic bands and installing garage doors to brand a living, it appeared mayhap the third in addition to potentially final fellow member of the Williams clan who could indisputably adopt the “Hank” call may not perform country music at all. But when a paternity accommodate had a gauge telling him to “acquire a real task,” Shelton Hank acquiesced, in addition to signed a deal amongst Mike Curb of Curb Records. Just like Jr., at kickoff they tried to wearing apparel Hank3 upwards as a Hank tribute deed, too they had him playing tourist shows inward Branson theaters to refine his chops.

But shortly thereafter, Hank3 rebelled, finding his inspiration inwards punk music and from modern 24-hour interval throwback hillbillies such as Wayne “The Train” Hancock, together with soon people though they were seeing and hearing the ghost of Hank Williams himself, that is until he’d bust into his self-described “Hellbilly” music and the fangs would come up out. Perhaps most importantly—peculiarly after the free of his 2006 magnum opus album Straight to Hell—Hank Williams III inspired an metro in country music that previously had entirely existed in spirit.

But everybody believed Hank3 was the terminus of the Hank Williams phase name, unless of course of instruction, Shelton Hank had a male son too imparted him with the Hank moniker, too that boy chose to become a performer. The kid Hank3 had that resulted inwards the paternity arrange against him was a boy, but his given call was Coleman as well as he was given the lastly call of his female parent at nascency since Hank3 wasn’t originally in the picture. And as Coleman grew from a boy to a homo, in that location never seemed to be any desire past this 4th generation member of the Williams clan to accept upward the family business.

When asked one time if in that location was whatever potential Hank IV lingering out in that location somewhere, Hank3 responded quote, “No, absolutely non. The exclusively Hank IV I’ve ever heard nigh was Howard Stern’s old midget boozer. I know for a fact at that place’s no other unclaimed children [of mine] out at that place. Anybody that was a bastard boy, y'all know they’d live coming after me for coin.” Unquote.

But and then, too completely out of the bluish, inwards early 2021, too at the age of 30, Shelton Hank Williams III’s boy Coleman decided he wanted to get into music too. Adopting sort of a similar trend to his male parent’s punk-infused version of state, possibly Coleman could have taken on the Hank call if he wanted to. But instead, he decided to circumvent whatsoever arguing it power have got caused, in addition to but adopted the Roman numeral “IV” as a fourth generation performer in the straight bloodline of Hank Williams, together with equally Hank Sr.’s great grandson. Officially Coleman performs as “IV together with the Strange Band.” He also has made the endeavor to legally alter his in conclusion call to Williams.

So that’s cool that the Hank Williams bloodline will go along in music for a fourth generation. It’s also appropriate here to refer Sam Williams, who is also a son of Hank Williams Jr. and his tertiary wife Mary Jane Thomas who Jr. married inward 1990. Sam is also a music performer, equally are his half sisters Holly Williams, as well as Hilary Williams, both of whom are highly regarded every bit good. Another offspring of Hank Jr. and the full sis of Sam Williams was Katie Williams, who died tragically inwards a motorcar accident on June 13th, 2020.

If y'all want to run into a full rundown of the Hank Williams performing clan, you tin can observe it on SavingCountryMusic.com nether the title, “The Hank Williams Family Tree of Performers.”

So that pretty much covers all of the offspring from the Hank Williams Jr. bloodline at the minute, too aside from Hank Williams III, none of them is named Hank. But there is a performer out there that is claiming the Hank Williams IV moniker, at least as a stage call. That’s right, none other than the grandson of Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald—the potential oldest son of Hank Williams Sr. himself—has stepped forrad to claim the Hank 4 name.

His existent call is Ricky Fitzgerald, and he wasn’t raised by his biological parents, but by his grandpa Butch. When Ricky Fitzgerald was 4 or 5-years-old, he started performing Hank Williams songs, including at picayune festivals in addition to functions held inwards Montgomery, Alabama at the Hank Williams Museum. Ricky at i betoken fifty-fifty had a white arrange with dark notes downwards the sleeves exactly similar Hank Williams, together with Ricky made a CD amongst his quote/unquote “Lost Highway” band. Though he ever performed nether the name Ricky Fitzgerald, the name Hank Williams IV was also thrown around every bit a phase call.

In 2011, when Saving Country Music starting time started researching this story, a telephone phone call was made to Butch Fitzgerald’s pocket-sized engine shop inward Alabama to try and get more than information virtually the utilization of the call. The phone telephone call was non returned initially, but nearly half-dozen months afterwards, Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald did finally render the phone call after finding the lost phone message, together with said that “Hank Williams IV” was no longer beingness used in relation to Ricky.

However, past 2016 when Ricky Fitzgerald was 17-years-old, he was operating a Facebook page under the call “Hank Williams IV,” was posting videos every bit Hank Williams IV, together with the questions started anew.

What is for sure is that Ricky Fitzgerald is not a son of Hank Williams III and was non named Hank at nascency, meaning that he in all likelihood has no indisputable claim on the “Hank Williams IV” phase name. But does he hold Hank Williams blood inwards him, as well as is he a legitimate not bad grandson of Hank Williams? There is surely a skilful gamble that he is. If goose egg else, the fact that Marie McNeil (a.k.a. the cousin of Hank Williams Sr.) is Ricky Fitzgerald’s peachy grandmother, agency that he is at to the lowest degree blood kin to the Hank Williams family, even if there are some degrees of separation.

So trying to acquire some solid answers, inwards 2016—with Ricky Fitzgerald at present grown in addition to using the Hank IV name, and the Hank Williams moving-picture show I Saw The Light from that twelvemonth creating renewed interest in Hank Williams—I ran downward Hank Sr.’s potential boy Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald one time once again to come across if he had whatsoever new calorie-free to smoothen since speaking with biographer Colin Escott inward 2004.

(audio plays of telephone phone call)

“Everything’s lies,” Butch Fitzgerald insists on the telephone. “I have a lot to add, but I tin can’t add together, and I won’t add. Me as well as Colin Escott sat hither correct in my store one mean solar day for 4 hours. Everything I told him, he went back as well as re-wrote, together with everything he wrote was lies. That’s just like the novel film that’s out right now about Hank is all lies. Hank was non like that, menses. I’ve been around 73 years, in addition to I’ve heard all kinds of stories in addition to heard all kind of things, as well as I’ve heard precisely nearly everything that tin can live told.”

Obviously, Butch denying everything said virtually him or attributed to him inwards Colin Escott’s volume doesn’t assist solve the mystery, it complicates it fifty-fifty more. Butch did verify that, quote “Lilly’s [Hank’ Sr.’s female parent] youngest sister was my mother’s female parent.”

That way that Lilly’s niece Marie McNeil was Butch’s mother. Butch goes on to say that he spoke to Hank Williams Jr. near the utilisation of the “Hank Williams IV” stage call, as well as that Jr. was fine alongside it, and that it was more a name others started calling Ricky equally opposed to something they had planned out.

(sound plays)

“That’s the argue Ricky gets the call Hank Williams IV. Me, Hank Jr., neither one tending, ’crusade me as well as Hank Jr. has talked well-nigh it together with he said, ‘Hell, move for it.’ Ricky is carrying on a family tradition. He’s almost the solely 1 left to really move on alongside the Hank Williams music. Ricky works difficult at it. Ricky just keeps on working at material over in addition to over until he gets it right.” Unquote.

What’s for sure is that over fourth dimension, Ricky Fitzgerald has matured to sound precisely like Hank Williams, or Hank Jr. whenever he wants.

(audio plays)

“Hank Williams IV is zilch more than than a stage name,” Ricky told Saving Country Music inward 2016. “My real name is Ricky Fitzgerald as everyone knows.”

Just like Butch, Ricky explains that “Hank Williams IV” was something that was adopted more than past others as opposed to the purposeful acquisition of a stage call initially.

Ricky explains, quote. “Ever since my start operation, it stuck with me. But it really stuck when I had an interview (when he was seven-years-old) alongside the ‘Montgomery Advertiser’ that had the championship ‘Hank Williams IV ?’ They had me inward my white arrange as well as everything on in that location. And basically ever since and then they’ve been introducing me every bit Hank the 4th, as well as everyone around piece of work too around hither has been calling me Hank.”

“I’d similar to get in a lifelong pursuit,” Ricky continued. “I’d like to get famous as well as make all kinds of money, but really I want to keep old time state alive. I don’t similar this novel stuff they got going out because it’s more similar stone. I have been a large fan of Hank Williams ever since I was 5-years-old and I’ve been doing it ever since and then. It’s been in that location all my life and I beloved it.” Unquote.

So does Ricky Fitzgerald have a rightful claim to the call “Hank Williams IV”? Just similar trying to trace Ricky’s gramps Butch into the Hank Williams family unit tree, it’s complicated, together with open to interpretation. If Ricky genuinely is the not bad grandson of Hank Williams, and then he would hold more claim to the name than most. But in the meantime, the immature performer is just doing what he tin to live upwards to the call.

What’s for sure is the Hank Williams III and the “IV and the Strange Band” army camp don’t experience Ricky Fitzgerald has a correct to utilization the name, as well as neither do some fans. And recollect, in that location is still no certainty that Lewis “Butch” Fitzgerald is a boy of Hank, and nobody seems to be interested at all inwards turning over DNA to determine it for sure, or if they do have got data, to share those findings with the world. I did hit out to the Hank3 as well as Coleman Williams army camp to add whatever additional comments if they wished, equally good every bit Ricky Fitzgerald since it had been a few years since I’d spoken amongst him initially.

So the ultimate answer on if Hank Williams had a 3rd child, as well as if that resulted in a 3rd bloodline on this legendary family unit tree remains inconclusive. But perchance that’s appropriate. Just similar Hank Williams himself that seems almost more than myth than human being now, this family unit mystery that may concur an incestuous underground is perchance improve left unsolved. Either way, that’s the way it remains at this minute, spell the music remains cemented inwards the legacy of American civilization, in addition to equally strong too influential every bit it ever was.