Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Hank Williams Jr., “Honky Tonkin'”

“Honky Tonkin'”

Hank Williams Jr.

Written by Hank Williams


#1 (1 week)

August 7, 1982

Hank Williams Jr. does the heartbreak mode of his dad’s material so well.  

That’s no surprise, really.  Williams died tragically, leaving Hank Jr. without a father.  After being dressed up to sing his dad’s song while still a youngster, he struggled for a long time to find his footing in the music industry.  He finally succeeded when he leaned into the tragic legacy of his family on hits like “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” and “Family Tradition.”

You wouldn’t think he’d be able to do as much with one of Hank’s uptempo romps, yet his cover of “Honky Tonkin'” is nothing short of exhilirating.

There is so much joy emanating from this performance.  The way he drawls out the “Honk” in “Honky Tonkin'” is audacious, at once celebrating and slightly poking fun at his dad’s pure hillbilly vocal style. 

Credit Jimmy Bowen again for a crystal clear production.  Each musician gets their moment to shine.  There are so many elements on this record but they never clash.  

It makes a statement that even an old hillbilly record from decades ago deserves to sound just as good as what’s on pop and rock radio.  With Jr. and Bowen together, it can even sound better. 

“Honky Tonkin'” gets an A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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1 Comment

  1. I distinctly remember loving the “High Notes” album I owned on 8-track. My brother’s then new General Electric portable eight track player which I played the album on is now considered vintage, much like this song and Hank Jr’s cover of it.

    Kevin has nailed it when he repeatedly points out just how clean and crisp the production is on these Jimmy Bowen produced records. They have none of the clutter and busyness of the other production styles common to the era. Play this album back to back with Charley Pride’s Norro Wilson produced albums from the eighties to hear the difference.
    I love what Norro Wilson offers as a producer, but Bowen does deserve credit for cleaning it all up for his artists in this decade.

    I still have to research why “Country Music” magazine’s Patrick Carr hated Bowen so much.

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