Vince Gill & Hank Williams III: It’s All Music, Ain’t It?

Vince Gill & Hank Williams III: It's All Music, Ain't It?


With over 20 million albums sold in the U.S. alone, Vince Gill is one of country music’s most enduring performers. The Oklahoma native (b. 1957) has been involved in the music industry since the late ’70s. Gill’s teenage years were spent learning to play a series of instruments (guitar and banjo included) and after high school graduation in 1975 he moved to Louisville to join Bluegrass Alliance. After one year he moved to Ricky Skagg’s Boone Creek for a brief time before heading to LA where he joined Byron Berline’s Sundance group. In 1979 he became the new lead singer of the country rock group Pure Prairie League. Gill made his musical debut on the band’s seventh album Can’t Hold Back and sang lead on their biggest hit “Let Me Love You Tonight.” By 1984, Gill had moved to Nashville and was signed to RCA Records, where he released three hit singles. Eventually, he moved to MCA where he released his debut album in 1989 When I Call Your Name, the first in a series of commercially successful releases. In addition, Gill took home the CMA’s “Single of the Year” Award in 1990 for the album’s title track. As of now, Gill has hosted the CMA Awards a whopping 12 times, earned 18 CMA Awards, and won an additional 14 Grammys, the most of any country star. He is also the current president of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Mark Kopfler even invited Gill to join his band Dire Straits, an offer which Gill politely declined. After his divorce from second wife Janis Oliver (Sweethearts of the Rodeo) in 1997, Gill went on to marry pop singer/ Christian artist Amy Grant in 2000. Next Big Thing (2003) saw Gill as producer for the first time after helping launch Universal South Records. His new release is due out in October 2006.


The name Hank Williams is synonymous with country music. This Hank, known by Nashville locals as Tricephous, however, plays music that is hard to define but has inspired new terms such as “hellbilly,” “honky punk,” and so on. Although he was born Shelton Hank Williams in Nashville, TN, in 1972, “Hank III” spent his youth playing drums and listening to punk icons such as G.G. Allin. This sense of rebellion came to define Hank III’s radical style as well as his overall musical direction. Williams signed with Curb Records in 1996 and the compilation album Three Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts was released soon after. Though it successfully bridged the three Williams generations (grandfather, father, son) in a country format, Hank III favored a harder sound on his first major album, 1999’s Risin’ Outlaw, as well as 2002’s Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’.

Hank III has also spent part of the new millennium as bassist for Pantera frontman, Phil Anselmo’s side project Superjoint Ritual, as well as drumming for the newly-formed Arson Anthem. In addition, Williams is the primary musical force behind both his “countrified” Damn Band and the hardcore metal group Assjack. The latter is a prominent act during Hank III’s live performances.

After falling out with both Wal-Mart and Curb Records, Hank III’s third and most recent album Straight To Hell was finally released in February 2006 on Curb’s imprint label Bruc Records, and reviewed in the June Elmore. Hank III has been slated to tour throughout most of the spring and summer, with the Murder Junkies (one of his personal favorites) opening all shows. E


Elmore: What are you listening to right now?

Vince Gill: I listen to XM and Sirius radio a lot and to a wide variety of music including some jazz. In particular I have been listening to Bruce Springsteen’s new album of Pete Seeger’s music, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.

Hank Williams III: Well, I just got my very first copy of Rebel Meets Rebel. I just got done listening to it; I was lucky enough to get a track on there. Besides that, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sleep, High On Fire, and a band called Stoner Witch. As far as bluegrass, a lot of Wayne “the Train” Hancock.

: What was the first record you ever bought?

VG: Oh boy, it would have to be one of two–either “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles or the novelty tune “They Are Coming to Take Me Away–Ha-Ha.”

HWIII: April Wine, can’t remember the name of it, it had a tiger head on it (Animal Grace). I can also remember buying .38 Special on cassette and Free For All, by Ted Nugent.

: Where do you buy your music?

VG: Well it is always convenient to go to a local Tower Records but I also like to browse in the Ernest Tubb Record Shop because they carry a lot of obscure recordings that you will not see anywhere else.

HWIII: There’s very little record stores I save up for when I’m on the road. Of course the Amoeba in San Francisco. If I’m really hurting I might go to Tower, if there’s something I have to have. Every day I get handed CDs from local bands that I try to listen to as much as possible.

: What’s your favorite album of all time?

VG: I am going to go with Emmylou Harris’ Elite Hotel on that one. And of course Alison Krauss is such an exceptional performer.

HWIII: Oh boy, it’s hard to pick one. I guess Sleep—Jerusalem for right now. For bluegrass it’s Jimmy Martin’s Ole Pete, and for full on intense rock ‘n’ roll, it’s Pentagram/Bedemon.

: What was the first instrument you played?

VG: It was guitar, although I do play other string instruments such as mandolin and banjo.

HWIII: Drums; still to this day I’m a drummer. I got a drum kit and my first set of vinyl which was Black Sabbath, KISS, Ted Nugent, ZZ Top.

: What brought you to the instrument you now play?

VG: My primary instrument is guitar. I gave up dobro a long time ago because I kept finding guys who were so much better than I was. It inspired me to quit!

HWIII: As far as all the instruments, it’s ’cause of self-love. I’ve been a drummer in a band, a bass player, a guitar player, a screamer. I play them all without understanding how they work, unfortunately, so I feel it and hear it.

: What musician influenced you most?

VG: My early musical inspiration has to be Chet Atkins.

HWIII: As far as guitar goes, Buzz Osborne from the Melvins; as far as screaming goes, Henry Rollins and Philip Anselmo (Pantera); drums, Dale Crover from the Melvins, and vocally the inspiration, besides Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr., would be Wayne “the Train” Hancock or Johnny Dilks. And for pure country, Dale Watson; he’s the Merle Haggard of today.

: Who would you like to write with that you haven’t?

VG: I would love to write with Merle Haggard. He’s amazing.

HWIII: I would say Mike Patton, he’s the Frank Zappa of my generation. Maybe Jon Wayne the band and Matt Pike from High on Fire.

: What was the song or event that made you realize you wanted to be in music?

VG: It was probably at a very early age and I am going to guess it was hearing my grandmother sing and play one of the old hymns such as “How Great Thou Art” or something similar. I just liked the sounds of music from the beginning.

HWIII: Well, besides the drum kit and all the records, what really changed my life was living in Atlanta, listening to WRAS 88.5 FM, the local punk station. That’s what gave me a whole new love and respect for that kind of music which I still hold onto to this day.

: Who would you like in your rock and roll heaven band?

VG: Oh my goodness–do they have to already be in heaven or not? Actually, my dream band is the group I play with now because we enjoy the music and each other and that’s really important.

HWIII: Ok, I guess Keith Moon on the drums, Sid Vicious as a prop, G.G. Allin as a frontman, for guitar it’d be Ted Nugent on one side and Dimebag Darrell on the other. A real bass player would have to be Victor Wooten. For keyboards, I’d go back to Mike Patton, I’d love to have him in there.

: What’s your desert island CD?

VG: Oh gosh–I cannot imagine listening to any given CD over and over again so that makes it difficult to make a choice. Now—am I there alone or do I have company? If I’m there alone then I would be thinking immediately about rescue so I guess “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” comes to mind!!

HWIII: I guess Sunn O))); ambient noise music, that’s what it would be ’cause if I was there, I’d have to be keeping cool somehow.

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