Hank Williams Jr.’s Country Music Hall of Fame Speech Was on Brand, From Top to Toe
Hank Williams Jr. began his Country Music Hall of Fame acceptance speech by stating that he was glad the Medallion Ceremony wasn't scheduled for one day earlier, because he may not have shown up. He ended it with a flex and a not-so-subtle dig at the institution welcoming him and his outlaw kind.
"The good thing is, this didn't happen yesterday," Williams began during his Nov. 21 speech, "which was the opening day of deer season. Which is kind of like squirrel season was with my father," his father being country music pioneer and Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Williams.
"My little 6-year-old grandson sitting out there with his .44 Magnum Ruger, took his first deer," Willams revealed during his speech, smiling and pausing to allow the crowd to show its appreciation for the moment.
At this point — 40 seconds into the speech — Williams was more than one-third finished. While fellow Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Marty Stuart spread his remarks over 13 minutes and Dean Dillon spoke for eight, Bocephus wrapped up in a tidy 1:48.
"Alright," Williams said, transitioning into what seemed likely to be the meat and potatoes part of his speech. "A lot of people to thank and I know who they are. They know who they are. That part about the family with the open arms, well that might have been a little bit different in my case."
Anyone worried about what the "Country Boy Can Survive" singer might say at the dais surely clenched at this. Williams Jr. has long considered himself an outsider in the country music community, although he has returned for cameos at events like the CMA Awards, and to laud fellow musicians from time to time. Many believed that the only thing keeping the five-time Entertainer of the Year out of the Hall was his attitude towards the modern institution of country music. Instead of pulling another arrow from his quiver, the 72-year-old inductee pivoted and closed.
"But I went to Muscle Shoals, Ala., and all my rowdy friends are coming over tonight, I was born to boogie and this is a family tradition."
Brenda Lee presented Williams with his Country Music Hall of Fame medallion, after three performances from fellow artists. Singer Shooter Jennings (the son of Waylon Jennings) performed "Feelin' Better," Eric Church performed "A Country Boy Can Survive" and Alan Jackson performed "The Blues Man."
Marty Stuart and Dean Dillon were the other inductees at a medallion ceremony that recognized the 2020 class (a ceremony for the Class of 2021 is slated for the spring). Their speeches were more traditional. Pastor Evelyn Hubbard, Emmylou Harris, Charlie Worsham and Ashley McBryde performed to honor Stuart, while Kenny Chesney, Brittney Spencer and George Strait hailed Dillon.