Hank Williams Jr. A Retrospective Concert
I can still hear that small bit of feedback over the intercom back in 1984 at Pacolet Elementary School. “Jason Robinson please come to the office your being signed out” I knew I was going to be leaving early this day and for good reason. The year was 1984 and I was just in kindergarten but my musical taste were a healthy diet of country and rock. That very year there was no one who could touch Hank Williams Jr. The album Major Moves releases three Top 10 songs, including “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming
Over Tonight.” The video for “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” features Porter Wagoner, Mel Tillis, Cheech and Chong, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Kilgore, Little Jimmy Dickens, Grandpa Jones and many others. Hank, Jr.’s Major Moves becomes the first of eight straight Hank, Jr. albums to top the country charts. Back then selling a million or so records meant so much more in a age where the internet and television was at your finger tips.
My mother was a HUGE Hank Jr fan and owned every record he had put out. So, when that happens and your a youngster you kinda fall into that mold. I knew most of the songs from hearing those black circles spin while Mama would clean house over the years. She and my Uncle would see Hank every time he was in a 100 mile radius and never missed a show. You see me this was my first trip to see him live and experience the culture of seeing a live show. So, yes I was signed out of kindergarten to see Hank Williams and David Allen Coe in Clemson SC. To this day I have the sign out sheet and the reason for signing me out was nothing but pure honestly saying “Going to see Hank Williams Jr and David Allen Coe in Clemson SC” Yeah, that’s my Mama always honest and true to her word.
It is about a hour drive to Clemson from Spartanburg so we ate up the white lines on the interstate to get to the show early. I recall the whole way listening to Major Moves on the cassette player in the card over and over. We arrived early to a sea of many who must have had the same idea of getting in early to beat the crowd. We waited for the gates to open and showed the man our tickets and walked in Littlejohn Coliseum which is home to Clemson Tigers. Being from South Carolina the biggest rivalry is the SC Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers. It divides the state and you either one or the other. Being a Gamecock I knew I was on enemy territory but, tonight I was using the “Get outta jail free card” on this one. We had seats way up high and it wasn’t quite the noose bleed sections but pretty darn close and the angle was almost 3rd base view from the stage. The seats were filled here and there looking like a smile with teeth missing here and there. Quickly they filled in and we had our selves a sold out show to witness. I sat between my mom and my Uncle Tom and was taking in the air filled with excitement, wonder, and wonder.
I had never been to anything quite like this and it was a culture shock to my young mind. David Allen Coe took the stage and in this point in my life I wasn’t too familiar with him. Even from a distance he was a giant of a man with hair past his waist. The noise of the crowd was resounding and intense passion. Coe played for about a hour and half or so. I recall the entire crowd singing along to a few of his songs. Later in life I found out he was one of the greatest country and western songwriters of all time. The stage was being set up for Hank and it was like watching a NASCAR pit crew go to work.
All night long there was a man who set beside my mom who was slightly obese with a huge stomach. He had a small nerdy looking kid with glasses sitting on his knee. Around his neck was a canteen (which god knows what was in it) and the guy was too big to open it alone. Every so often he would get the kid to open it for him. He would take swig after swig. He would become very loud and vocal shouting out “Tell em to sing you one Andrew” I begin to think that was his name. At one point he said something to the kid who seem to not wanted to be there or was happy at all. The kid looked him the eye and shouted “I told you daddy….I don’t drink liquor on a school night”. Thinking back I laugh at it now and always wonder how Andrew is doing after all these years. One point the man looked at my mom and asked in a rasby voice “Are your married?!?!” to which my mom replied politely “Yes I am” to the guy stating “Hell…I am too….wanna freebase? Now, that took me a few years to actually know what that meant.
Hank Williams Jr took the stage decked out in cowboy hats, Bowery shirts, boots and other country apparel. He grasped the microphone puffing on a cigar supporting his characteristic black hat and sunglasses and told the roaring crowd it was good to be back in South Carolina. For the next two hours he proved why he got that Entertainer of the year award a time or two. He also brought out the fiddle, jumped on the piano and blew out some tunes on the harmonica to entertain the crowd with a talent that is hard to match. Aside from these instruments, he also plays the banjo, bass guitar and drums. At one point the Bama band took a break for him to play a few solo acoustic songs. I was blown away by the energy, songwriting and musical arrangements. Hank could do no wrong. He played all the hits and a few new ones.
The night ended as the people scattered out like roaches when you turn on the light. We stuck around for a few and tried to wait out the crowd who was leaving. Something happen that day and I never turned back. I got laughed at for my musical taste in school. I have seen Bocephus over 12 times over the years. I would like to thank my Mama for signing me out and planting seeds for what the future would hold. I still recall all of it like it was yesterday. Funny how things shape you and you never turn back.