Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum to Bow ‘Family Tradition: The Williams Family Legacy,’ Co-Presented by Suntrust and Ford Motor Company on Friday, March 28, 2008

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Hank Williams Jr. to Make Appearance During Grand Opening Festivities

Family Tradition: The Williams Family Legacy

However, this exhibit will take the visitor inside the family to revisit the life and impact of Hank Williams, examine the struggles and musical successes of his only son, Randall Hank Williams, and study the direct descendants, who are now striving within a new generation of artists, all measuring themselves by the example of Hank Williams.

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The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will present an intimate, behind-the-scenes portrait of a great American musical dynasty in Family Tradition: The Williams Family Legacy, Co-Presented by SunTrust and Ford Motor Company, a more than 5,000-square-foot exhibition opening on Friday, March 28, 2008, and closing on December 31, 2009.

With the stark realism of a Hank Williams song, the exhibit will depict the relationships that inspired Williams and his progeny to create songs that stand among the greatest, most influential country music ever recorded.

“The Williams family story may seem familiar,” said Museum Director Kyle Young. “However, this exhibit will take the visitor inside the family to revisit the life and impact of Hank Williams, examine the struggles and musical successes of his only son, Randall Hank Williams, and study the direct descendants, who are now striving within a new generation of artists, all measuring themselves by the example of Hank Williams.”

The exhibition has benefited enormously from the blessing and cooperation of the family, including Randall Hank Williams, now known as singer-songwriter Hank Williams Jr.; Lycrecia Williams Hoover, Hank Jr.’s older sister and the only member of the family with clear personal memories of Hank Williams; and singer-songwriter Jett Williams, who discovered her Williams parentage in the 1980s. Lending their own stories and family mementoes are Hank Jr.’s eldest children, singer-songwriters Shelton Williams, now Hank III, and Hilary and Holly Williams.

“Independently of each other,” Young said, “they each agreed to sit for lengthy oral history interviews that have allowed us to tell a new story in their voices. Now, 55 years after Hank Williams’ death, Lycrecia Hoover joins her brother, his children and Jett Williams to help them collectively address their legacy for the first time. They have opened their hearts and their archives to facilitate a fascinating story told from their perspectives and with their personal heirlooms.

“These are ordinary lives made extraordinary by an alignment of talent and bedrock values, and by the quests for personal and professional identity that continue to move each generation through the earthly joy and sorrow of the times they live in,” he said. “We fully expect that Family Tradition will be recognized as a story that will preserve country music history and bring it home to thousands of visitors in search of community, family entertainment, intellectual diversity and cultural competence.”

Co-curated by the institution’s Vice President for Museum Services Carolyn Tate and staff Writer-Editor Michael McCall, the exhibit includes more than 200 artifacts and a Fort Knox of audiovisual treasure. An aggressive schedule of accompanying public programs will enhance a unique and panoramic story that stands as the most ambitious temporary exhibition in the institution’s 40-year history. The voices and music of all family members are heard throughout the exhibit.

Festivities on grand opening weekend will include an appearance on March 29 by Hank Williams Jr., who will answer questions about his life and career, his father’s legacy, and his family’s ongoing dedication to creative endeavor. Moderated by McCall, and including audiovisuals from the Museum’s archive and from the family, the program will include Williams’ live performance of several songs from his from broad repertoire.

On April 12, Jett Williams will take the Ford Theater stage to share her story. The program, which will include audiovisual elements and a performance by Williams, will be hosted by McCall. Other family members will be among those invited to participate in programs accompanying the exhibit throughout the run.

EXHIBIT SUMMARY

Family Tradition is prefaced by a glimpse inside the family home and personal lives of Hank and Audrey Williams and their children, Lycrecia and Randall Hank, from the late 1940s through the late 1950s.

The ranch-style home, purchased on the heels of Williams’ 1949 rise to stardom, was the epitome of the most ordinary American dreams and values. From the blond wood of Williams’ liquor cabinet to the family’s black-and-white console television, from the simple elegance of a hand-tooled saddle to the chichi fashion of a Chinese figurine lamp, and from classic photos of the two sweethearts and charming baby pictures to silent home movies of family birthdays, vacations and times at play together, we see the promise within a loving family’s happy times before and after the patriarch’s death, at age 29, on January l, 1953.

In six short years, Hank Williams lodged almost 40 chart hits, including the country chart toppers “Lovesick Blues,” “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” “Why Don’t You Love Me,” “Moanin’ the Blues,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “Jambalaya” and “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”

Though his body rests in Alabama, Hank Williams lives on as country music’s greatest exemplar.    His legacy reaches into every facet of popular and vernacular music. His deceptively simple songs of truth and home are the gold standard by which both his creative biological and musical heirs must measure themselves. With a central focus on Williams’ children and grandchildren, this is the premise for the Museum’s Family Tradition story.

The saga begins with Williams’ birth, looks back at his death and examines the way the nation mourned, recounts the life and career of his only son, and ends with the contented and philosophical voice of Hank Williams Jr. – legatee, father, megastar, collector, outdoorsman and legator.

Chapter by chapter, the robust epic is layered and made whole by various elements including:

  • Text panels recounting the Williams family’s life passages, lifestyles, important collaborators, career crossroads and professional milestones.
  • Exhibit cases holding lovingly preserved family heirlooms ranging from Hank Williams’ fiddle and cinnamon-orange silk pajamas to Hank Jr.’s toddler-size Nudie suits, teen-idol stage wear and big-game taxidermy; from Hank and Audrey Williams’ romantic wedding invitation to Audrey’s desk, typewriter, and jewelry and accessories from her dressing table; from the flower cards and condolence notes saved from Williams’ funeral to the communion veil of the young Jett Williams and a photo of toddlers Hank III, Hilary and Holly Williams in the family bathtub.
  • Vintage audio and video clips strategically placed throughout the exhibit.
  • The visitor will see clips of Hank Williams from March and April 1952 appearances on the Kate Smith Evening Hour, hear him singing and bantering with the Drifting Cowboys on the Mother’s Best radio show and get a rare glimpse of him offstage at a time when his Nashville home was an Arcadian retreat.
  • Young equestrienne Lycrecia Williams is seen with her pony during birthday festivities, Audrey is seen at work and at play, and the kids are seen with their grandmother, Lillie Stone.
  • More audiovisual riches document Hank Jr.’s early life, his rise from struggling country singer to his late ’80s arrival as one of the most successful country singers of his generation, and his current iconic status as musical spokesman for new generations of factory workers, war veterans, nurses, teachers, cowboys, carpenters, the unemployed, outdoor sportsmen and football fans, among others.
  • Touch screen interactives that allow visitors to page through private family scrapbooks. Icons on selected pages facilitate closer looks at the content.
  • Monitors throughout the exhibit which allow visitors to see members of the Williams family speaking their truths about the public and private lives of their ancestors and addressing their own voyages of identity and creative discovery.

FAMILY TRADITION PROGRAM SCHEDULE

Throughout its 21-month run, Family Tradition: The William Family Legacy, Co-Presented by SunTrust and Ford Motor Company will be accompanied by related public programs including live performances, films, panel discussions and opportunities to converse with individuals important to the lives and careers of the Williams family. The schedule will be regularly updated at http://www.countrymusichalloffame.com.

With the purchase of a Museum membership ($25/adults and $10/youth), visitors can attend most public programs free of charge for one year, including all programming related to Family Tradition. Museum memberships also include one year of unlimited admission to the Museum, discounts in the Museum Store, SoBro Grill and Hatch Show Print, and more.

Upcoming Family Tradition Programs

Saturday, March 29 - 2:00 p.m.
Interview and Performance: Hank Williams Jr.
To mark the opening of the museum's major new exhibit, Family Tradition: The Williams Family Legacy, Co-Presented by SunTrust and Ford Motor Company, Hank Williams Jr. will be on hand to answer questions about his life and career, his father's legacy, and his family's ongoing dedication to creative endeavor. As part of the program, Hank Jr. will perform songs from his broad repertoire. Exhibit co-curator Michael McCall will conduct the interview. Reservations required in advance beginning Tuesday, March 25th (9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) by calling (615) 416-2001. Limited seating is available. Maximum of two tickets per sale. Included with Museum admission. Free to Museum members.

Sunday, March 30 - 2:00 p.m.
Film Screening: In the Hank Williams Tradition (1990)
“A country singer’s role is as an interpreter. [The songs are] stories that people can relate to because the songs are about their lives. Hank Williams was one of the first to do it—and he did it the best,” explains Randy Travis in In the Hank Williams Tradition. In this 1990 documentary, Travis and fellow artists Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, members of the Drifting Cowboys and more discuss the lasting influence of Hank Williams. Hank Williams Jr. also shares memories from his childhood. Free.

Saturday, April 12 - 2:00 p.m.
Interview and Performance: Jett Williams
Jett Williams, daughter of Hank Williams and Bobbie Jett, left the Williams family fold at age two, after the death of her adoptive parent, Lillian Stone, Hank's mother. Jett rediscovered her heritage in the 1980s and wrote about it in a book, Ain't Nothin' as Sweet as My Baby: The Story of Hank Williams' Lost Daughter. She has since emerged as a performer in her own right. In this program, Jett shares her astonishing life story with Family Tradition exhibit co-curator Michael McCall and performs songs from her father's repertoire. Jett will do a signing immediately following in the Museum Store. Limited seating. Included with Museum admission. Free to Museum members.

Additional promotional support is being provided by the Museum’s official Family Tradition media partners: Great American Country Television Network, Cumulus Broadcasting and The Tennessean.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The Museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the Foundation also operates CMF Records, the Museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B, and Hatch Show Print.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at http://www.countrymusichalloffame.com or by calling (615) 416-2001.

Contacts:    
Liz Thiels
(615) 416-2006
lthiels @ countrymusichalloffame.com

Tina Wright
(615) 416-2084
twright @ countrymusichalloffame.com

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