For millions of football fans around the country, it's not quite Monday night until they hear Hank Williams Jr. ask America "Are you ready for some football?!" before he rips into a country-rocking tune highlighting the big names and stories
behind the night's game. It's a high-powered, rabble-rousing start to the week's showcase contest and symbolic of this nation's gift for glitz and promotion. No sport in the world celebrates itself more than football does in America. And no weekly contest is more celebrated than Monday Night Football.
Hank Jr. kicks off his latest season of Monday Night Football intros tonight as Atlanta hosts Philly in a replay of the 2004 NFC title tilt. He made his MNF debut in 1990 and has done them almost every season since. (He also did the intro for Thursday's ABC broadcast of the Oakland-New England game.)
If you're a fan of the highly popular spots, enjoy them while they last. Monday Night Football moves to ESPN next season, and Hank Jr. might not be in ESPN's plans.
"Hank is thrilled to be a part of Monday Night Football," said Ross Schilling of Vector Management, the Nashville agency that handles the career of the country recording legend, along with other acts like Lyle Lovett and .38 Special. "We've not been told definitively (about ESPN's plans). The reality is that ESPN and ABC are separate entities, even though they're owned by the same parent company."
The Cold, Hard Football Facts have all the emotion of a discarded deer carcass, but we get a rise out of Hank Jr.'s tune each and every Monday night during the football season and make it a point to stay sober long enough to appreciate it. You're damn sure to be pumped with testosterone and ready for some football by the time Hank Jr.'s done with his tune – especially if your favorite team is playing that night.
With this tiny highlight to our otherwise dreary lives potentially coming to an end in just 15 weeks, we thought it worth learning a bit more about the man behind the tune. In our core market of Boston, where country music is about as popular as Lyme Disease or Boston Globe hatchet man Ron Borges
, people know precious little about Hank Williams Jr. But he's one of the nation's most popular and influential recording artists and one of music's most interesting figures. And, in many parts of the country, his music has long been associated with football.
* "Are You Ready for Some Football" is a takeoff of the Hank Jr. hit "All My Rowdy Friends (Are Coming Over Tonight)." The song topped the country charts in 1984.
* The lyrics to the original song are near and dear to our pigskin-loving hearts. In fact, the song sounds as if it were written for a football crowd and may remind you of your own football lifestyle:
"Do you want a drink? Hey do you want to party?
"Hey honey this is ole Hank. Ready to get the thing started.
"We cooked the pig in the ground, got some beer on ice
"And all my rowdy friends are coming over tonight."
* With performers like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, Hank Jr. helped form the foundation of the rowdy, roadhouse, rock-based "outlaw country" that was among the nation's most popular music in the 1970s.
* In October 1982, Hank Jr. had nine albums on the Billboard music charts at the same time, a feat unequaled by any other living artist.
* Hank Jr. writes the lyrics to each Monday Night Football song and records the tunes over the summer. As storylines change over the course of the season, the lyrics and videos are edited and pieced together to remain current at game time.
* Hank Jr.'s music has long been affiliated with football. His 1979 hit "Family Tradition," a country-rock tune about his family's hard-living ways, is a classic tailgating tune, especially before southern college football games, where it's heard incessantly around the RVs late at night. Warren St. John writes about this phenomenon in his great book about Alabama football and its devoted fans, "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
." The song's signature line:
"If I get stoned and sing all night long, it's a family tradition."
* Randall Hank Williams is the son of Hank Williams Sr., a prolific songwriter considered the father of country music and one of the most influential performers in American history. Hank Sr. wrote American classics such as "Hey Good Lookin'," "Jambalaya" and "Your Cheatin' Heart," all of which have been re-recorded by countless artists.
* Rock 'n roll fans certainly remember Hank Sr.'s song "Move It on Over" about a guy whose wife makes him sleep in the doghouse after he comes home late from a night of partying. It was revived by George Thorogood in the 1980s and became a big hit for the "Delaware Destroyer."
* Country music fans know Hank Jr. as "Bocephus." It's a nickname his father gave him when he was a boy.
* The influence of Bocephus is heard throughout country music today. Performers like Travis Tritt and Gretchen Wilson pay tributes to him in their music, with Wilson declaring "I know all the words to every ol' Bocephus song" in her ass-kicking tribute to her rural, blue-collar, red-state upbringing, "Redneck Woman," which was a No. 1 hit in 2004. Wilson's song might also be considered a tribute to the football lifestyle:
"I can't swig that sweet champagne.
"I'd rather drink beer all night
"In a tavern or in a honky tonk
"Or on a four-wheel drive tailgate."
* Hank Jr. was just 3 when his dad died in 1952. The death of the heavy-drinking, hard-living Hank Sr. continues to be shrouded in mystery. He was just 29 when he died in the back of a chauffered car on his way to a gig. He had been shot up with morphine before hitting the road – reportedly by his doctor – and was found with a bottle of whiskey by his side. According to legend, the driver did not know Hank Sr. was dead until he was pulled over in West Virginia by a cop who saw the body in the back seat.
* The last single Hank Sr. released in his lifetime was "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive." His death is a frequent subject of country music tunes, even today.
* Hank Sr.'s Alabama funeral was said to be the largest gathering in the state since the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as the president of the Confederacy in 1861.
* Hank Jr. began performing his dad's tunes in 1957, at the age of 8. He made his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry at age 11.
* In 1964, at age 15, Hank Jr. sang all the songs in a big-picture movie about his dad, "Your Cheatin' Heart."
* When Hank Sr. died in the back of that car, he was on his way from Tennessee to a gig in Canton, Ohio – the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.