Hank Williams, Jr.
Written by Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf, and Fats Waller
#1 (1 week)
May 17, 1986
There has been a lot of discussion lately around the privileges bestowed upon second generation artists, and some of those privileges are beyond debate. Of course it’s easier to access the resources needed to launch a career in music or film if you have a successful parent in your chosen field.
But getting in the door isn’t the same as earning a seat at the table, and country music in particular is littered with the failed careers of second generation singers. Toward the end of the twentieth century, four female artists – Carlene Carter, Rosanne Cash, Lorrie Morgan. and Pam Tillis – did so by expanding beyond the creative and/or commercial achievements of their famous parents in some way.
The template for doing this was set by Hank Williams, Jr., and he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for it. He was restricted the most when he was starting out, being dressed up like his late father and being forced to sing his dad’s songs. Hank Sr. set an impossibly high bar as a pure country singer and songwriter, but he never could have pulled off what his son does on “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which remains tethered to country by a bit of twang in Jr.’s vocal, but stylistically draws on jazz, blues, and Tin Alley pop.
Hank Jr. gives a phenomenal performance here, bringing out the despondence in the lyric as he swears to his crush that he’s staying loyal while he waits for her to notice him. You can hear how that isn’t so easy for him to do, but he’s determined because she’s worth it.
It’s proof positive that Hank Jr. needs to be in the conversation when we’re talking about the great country stylists of his time.
“Ain’t Misbehavin'” gets an A.