Hank Williams stands at the top of one of the most famous family trees in country music. His son Hank Williams Jr. carried on the tradition with his rabble-rousing tunes in the '70s and '80s. But father and son only scratch surface on the incredible Williams family tree.
Hank Williams is acknowledged as one of the greatest country artists of all time. His evocative, poetic songwriting has inspired performers from Lucinda Williams to Bob Dylan. Hank worked as a street performer as a young man before his recording career got underway. But his hard-living lifestyle left him dead and immortalized at the age of 29. "Your Cheating Heart," "Lost Highway," and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" remain indelible entries in the country songbook.
Audrey Williams was Hank Williams' first wife, and she provided inspiration for some of his most famous -- and unhappy -- songs. They include "Cold, Cold Heart" and "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)." Audrey had singing aspirations of her own and sometimes performed with Hank on radio shows. The Louisiana Hayride's Horace Logan described her voice as follows: "horrible, unbelievably horrible." However, Audrey was crucial in encouraging the career of her son, Hank Jr.
In his early years, Hank Williams Jr. stood in his father's shadow. He sung his dad's tunes on the Grand Ole Opry as a boy, and recorded albums aimed at cashing in on his famous name -- beginning with 1969's Songs My Father Left Me. In an effort to secure his own identity as a country performer, Hank Jr. streered off the beaten trail in the 1970s and '80s with rowdy albums such as Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound and Born to Boogie.
Jett Williams is the illegitimate daughter of Hank Williams Sr. and Bobbie Jett. She didn't know about her famous bloodline until she reached adulthood. Born six days after Hank Williams died, Jett was adopted by Hank's mother Lillie Stone. But when Stone died herself just two years later, Jett was put into foster care. After a lengthy court battle in the 1980s, she was ruled to be one of her father's legal heirs -- and due to half of the family fortune. In 1990, Jett told her story in the memoir Ain't Nothin' as Sweet as My Baby.
The son of Hank Williams Jr., Hank III had a rebellious streak guaranteed from birth. The singer grew up playing in punk bands. But it wasn't until he had to pay off hefty child support payments that he launched a country career. In 1996, he released Three Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts, which used studio technology to enable three generations of Wiliams singers -- Hank, Hank Jr., and Hank III -- to sing together. But Hank III found his own voice in the 2000s with the foul-mouthed and feisty Lovesick, Broke & Driftin' and Straight to Hell.
Holly Williams is the daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and half sister to Hank III. Holly became interested in music in her late teens, and began to perform shortly thereafter. In 2004, she released her debut album The Ones We Never Knew; her music was in more of a singer-songwriter vein than traditional country. She followed the record up with 2009's Here with Me; it featured the song "Mama," in which she talks about her mother Becky White's divorce from Hank Jr.
Hilary Williams is the eldest daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and Becky White. She only began writing songs in 2006, after being involved in a terrible car crash with her sister Holly; the pair had been on their way to a funeral. After suffering extensive injuries, and undergoing scores of surgeries, Hilary released the 2010 memoir Sign of Life, which talked about her recovery. The same year, she released the single "Sign of Life," which served as a musical companion to the autobiography.