Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Hank Williams, Jr., “Born to Boogie”

“Born to Boogie”

Hank Williams, Jr.

Written by Hank Williams, Jr.


#1 (1 week)

September 5, 1987

Was there ever a country star who loved to tell his life story more than Hank Williams, Jr.?

As ridiculous as it is that this is his final No. 1 country single, he’s going out with a big bang boogie. He tells his life story with such energy that he barely comes up for air, and the raucous production makes for a high energy record that you can get down to even if you’re not interested in his autobiography.

The man had a fifteen year streak of gold and platinum albums that stretched back to 1978 and ended in 1992, so the audience was there. Maybe Hank Jr. was just a little too intense for country radio. But this was the time when the industry finally recognized Hank Jr., and this record peaked near the time he won his first of two consecutive Entertainer of the Year awards from the CMA, who also awarded Born to Boogie the trophy for Album of the Year. The album also won him his first Grammy.

Hank Jr. became a household fixture singing the Monday Night Football theme, a gig he kept for decades until he compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler on Fox & Friends.  He received long overdue induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2020, and he’s still an active recording artist, though his toxic and bigoted rhetoric have unfortunately gotten more airtime than his music in recent years, tarnishing the legacy of a truly vital and essential artist.  It’s a shame.

But why listen to me tell his story when he does it better than anyone else? You can understand everything that was great about Hank Jr. back in the day just by listening to this record.

“Born to Boogie” gets an A,

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

Previous: Dan Seals, “Three Time Loser” |

Next: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “Fishin’ in the Dark”

Open in Spotify


  1. Bocephus has always been a mixed bag for me. It’s usually easy for me to either run with or grudgingly accept artists’ political or cultural philosophies and embrace their music on its merits. Hank makes that task infinitely harder when he recklessly whoops up cultural discontent with the most mindless and acrimonious polemics I’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing from the concert stage. It makes the less abrasive versions of this same character narrated in so many of his songs harder for me to casually accept. Knowing that the guy who sings “A Country Boy Can Survive” and “Dixie on My Mind” harbors much nastier resentments–and an ugly proclivity to exploit them–in real life makes it harder to listen to “A Country Boy Can Survive” and “Dixie on My Mind” the same way.

    With all of that said, the guy knows how to crank out a high-energy romp and “Born to Boogie” checks all the boxes. For as many imitators as Hank has, particularly in the bro-country era, almost none were able to match the energy or lyrical specificity in their musical autobiographies as Hank accomplishes at his best. He nails this one, and even 37 years later, whenever “jambalaya” happens to come up in conversation, I have all I can do to restrain myself from growling out “loved in Louisiana, raised on jambalaya”. I am surprised that this was his last #1 though, as it’s hard to believe he wasn’t able to capitalize on his “Monday Night Football” exposure a little more.

    Grade: B+

  2. I think that after he recovered from his fall off the mountain (literally), he quit worrying about what people thought of him – what more could happen that was worse than that ? Comparing Obama to Hitler was over the top – Mussolini maybe but Hitler never.

    After his fall from grace (or radio) Hank continued to make interesting records, and while Hank had a stretch where he crafted interesting singles, his albums during his radio peak always contained a bunch of really interesting songs that radio never played.

    After 1990 the top ten hits disappeared but there are at least a seven or eight songs that would have been big hits if released earlier in Hank’s career.

    Hank’s most recent album Rich White Honky Blues is excellent and reached #1 on Billboard’s Blues albums chart as well as charting on the country and Billboard 200 album charts. I do not think any singles charted but that’s radio’s loss.

    • I’m confident we’ll not agree on this point: That blues album was an indefensible horror show that was– quite rightly– criticized by black artists in the blues and country spaces for how Hank Jr affected a vocal cadence that was the equivalent of Blackface. Someone involved should have had the wherewithal to suggest that he perform with his own natural singing voice. I honestly lost a lot of respect for Dan Auerbach for his participation in that project.

  3. Jonathan, you are correct that we don’t agree. To describe the vocals as “singing in blackface” clearly shows an ignorance of what blackface performers sounded like. Prominent examples of blackface would include Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor and Emmett Miller and this music sounds nothing like that.

  4. I remember playing “Thanks A lot” over and over from this album. I know it’s a cover of an Ernest Tubb song but I loved that song and “Practice What I Preach”. His albums were wildly inconsistent from the 80’s. Some fantastic cuts with hilariously bad numbers from time to time.

  5. This song attacks me as a listener.

    To concisely capture his own chronology, and make the story sing with all the wonderful details and colours he builds into the lyrics is a wonder in itself.

    The skittery and frenetic boogie beat is still wild to listen to today.

    Probably the most compelling Bocephus
    single in my books. Whenever I hear it, I have to listen all the way through to its end. With a beginning, middle, and open-end, the song is a true narrative.

    Whereas Bobby Bare’s “All American Boy” was a similarly-themed country origen story inspired by other artists, “Born to Boogie” is Hank Jr.s story alone to tell about himself.

    And it is a great one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.