The iconic singer-songwriter's daughter, Jett Williams, marvels at what people, Jett Williams and her half-brother, Hank Williams, Jr., who together The child, whose mother, Bobbie Jett, had a brief relationship with Hank. When the adopted Jett Williams found out that Hank Williams was JW: Well, that's what they said, but Hank Jr. and I prevailed in the . that initially, he wasn't very open to having a relationship with you. . in a trust for me, but when the time came, they said, “We've buried her, she doesn't know who she is. Now we should start to get some answers you can trust. Remember Keith won Jett a share of the Hank Williams estate and then won full ownership of the Mother's Best recordings for Jett Williams and Hank Williams Jr. To win . [and for the money invovled in the marriage; Williams], and her daughter, my.
The child grew up knowing she was adopted but not knowing who her real parents were. After hearing numerous rumors suggesting she might be related to Williams, the girl, now a young woman, went to great lengths to discover her origins, often facing defeat as the records were under seal.
It was not until the early s that she finally learned who her biological parents were and discovered that Williams had executed the pre-birth custody agreement. In she hired an investigative attorney who she later married who was successful in accessing her sealed records to prove her as the daughter of Hank Williams.
Mother's Best, Hank's Best: A Conversation With Jett Williams and the Students | HuffPost
Because Williams died without a will, Jett Williams had to take her case to the courts again. In the Alabama State Court ruled that she was the daughter of Hank Williams and in the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that she was entitled to her half-share in the Williams estate. After six years and many thousands of dollars in legal fees, Jett was finally treated as a natural child and rightful heir of Hank Williams. Like father like daughter, Jett now performs as a country musician.
While this case is certainly unique due to the celebrity and fortunes involved, it does highlight a simple fact that I often tell clients: Failing to plan ahead for your child can only add to the devastating effects of a family tragedy. I think it was so new that they hadn't gotten into using it yet, especially on a radio show.
The thing about an acetate that's really important is that they're very, very fragile. And like I said, they were really meant for a one-time play -- they were not meant to play over and over again.
So, it's really a miracle that they survived a possible trip to the dumpster and somewhat improper storage to still have the quality that we were able to get from them in the transfer process.
Yes, it's good to remember that these acetates were really only meant for that one time play, and radio stations received these for broadcast.
One of the keys to us winning the court case was that my dad had agreed to record the show for a one time play, but not to be commercially exploited. Now, in those days, there were no exclusive contracts, right? No, and the record company didn't win because all they had were the masters that they had paid for. The lawyers in the entertainment business had not gotten nearly as savvy as they are today, where when you sign a contract, and then everything you think, they own.
The deal my dad had was just to go in and do masters because duplication and commercial exploitation had not In those days, there was this unbelievable amount of music out there for broadcast on discs, and today, everyone backs off of ownership claims. For instance, there are all those gray area NBC broadcasts.
At a certain point in time, they would probably revert back to the artist just like these because what that artist agreed to was a one time broadcast, not for an NBC to repackage it and put it out years later. What everyone was agreeing to, at that point in time, was just for a live broadcast, and that was it. No one, at that time, really had the capability to duplicate it because even if they could, people in the United States couldn't even buy a television, let alone some high priced thing to play a piece of tape on.
Because of its historical importance, there must be some high expectations for this box set. There are high expectations because I think Time Life has done such a superb job of putting the presentation together. Also, as I said, there are one-hundred forty-three songs that have never been released before.
Hank Williams Sr.'s kids reconcile in dad's honor
Never before, and never again, I would venture to say, will anything of this magnitude happen again in the music world. Right, and Hank Williams is such an important figure in American culture, as well as being a country music icon.
Actually, part of this box set is what the committee heard, and they honored him for his craftsmanship as a songwriter that made country music a major force in music, and also a cultural force in our everyday life. Jett, may I ask you a personal question delicately? Can you describe how you fit into the Hank Williams dynasty?
Where I fit in the Hank Williams family tradition and dynasty is as his daughter and co-owner of the estate of my father, and also as the executive producer of this box set, I have been given the privilege to stand in his stead and try to make decisions for his memory, his music, and his legacy that, if he were alive today, he would say, "That's the way I want it done.
Sure, I'm excited about this. Earlier you mentioned working to handle the legalities with your brother, and I have read that initially, he wasn't very open to having a relationship with you. I was wondering what kind of relationship you have with him now, and how was that established? When I first started, of course, we ended up suing each other along with all of the publishers.
I won that lawsuit, Hank Jr. We co-owned the estate, and actually, the box set has brought us closer together. When you read the book, he does the forward, I do the afterward, and, in fact, just last week, we both signed several of the box sets to go to charities.
The Story of Hank Williams’ Estate Offers a Lesson for Parents
So, you can actually get a box set co-signed by Hank Jr. One thing that we both have agreed on is that we are going to put our dad's memory and music first, and that we would get along. What are some of the charities? That I don't know because they are yet to be determined. I think we signed about ten, and some of them are going to go to promotion and things like that. But we're also both going to keep a couple just to have something that we're both very proud of for the estate to be able to auction for a worthy cause.
Speaking of worthy causes, has anyone thought about pitching the box to the Grammy Awards this year? Truth be known, yes. There are a couple of other great box sets that have been released, so I think it's going to be some stiff competition.
But one of the advantages we have is that this is unreleased material, as opposed to a box set just repackaging what has already been done.
You've got to think that with a Hank Williams project including one-hundred forty-three songs that have never been released before, you've got a pretty good shot. Also, I think Time Life has raised the bar on the packaging. As opposed to just a box set with a book and some CDs, here you get a '51 radio, fifteen CDs, a DVD, a book, and a map of where he was when these were broadcast.
There's a lot of detail and love in this box, and it's much more than just a box set. Where was he when these were broadcast? What kinds of venues? It was in seventy-two different cities. When you get the box set, you can open up the map and find out where each show was done. We have more questions from the class. I am from Germany, so I haven't heard of your dad before. What is your favorite song by your father, and what songs would you recommend I listen to of your father's if I really want to know his music?
Well, you said you were from Germany, right? Actually, my dad went to Germany in the late '40s for the USO, and I've had the honor of going to Germany and performing. I don't care who you are or where you're from, your heart breaks like mine, and if you hear that song you might hear a little bit of home sickness too. I recently inherited my father's vinyl collection and was pleased to see that I had three or four Hank recordings. I'm very happy that this box set is being released all at once rather than being spread out over many different CDs.
Are there any plans to release this box set on vinyl? We actually put out one big 78 vinyl version. It's in the dust jacket and everything. I don't know how many were released, but we did put one out on vinyl.
I need to remind Time Life about that because that was about four years ago. What is important about the vinyl is the dust jacket and the historical photos, but also to read where it was formatted and who was on the sessions. A lot of times, people buy vinyl and throw the dust jackets away.
- Mother's Best, Hank's Best: A Conversation With Jett Williams and the Students
Also, nothing smells quite like a collection of old dust jackets. You get a little bit of mold on them, and they're good to go. Were you interested in and inspired by country music before you found out who your father was or did that come after?
I sang all kinds of music, but I sang Hank Williams music before I knew that he was my dad. At the age that I am, I got to grow up in some of the greatest years of music -- the '50s through the '70s.Jett Williams - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
We were lucky because we only had an AM station, so you only got to hear what they played, and I remember hearing a song and sitting up all night trying to figure out how to play that song. Spinning off of that question, what was your initial reaction to finding out that Hank Williams was your dad? Well, being an adopted child and going on the search, I wanted to find out who I was and what happened.
I was prepared to never find that out, but I was hoping, and I was hoping to get the answers I wanted to hear. When I found out that Hank Williams was my father, the reason I made the announcement was because I was shown that my father had signed a pre-birth custody contract three months before I was born in which it says, "I am the father, this is my baby, and I want to take this baby to live with me. He died on January 1st, they buried him on the 4th, and I was born on the 6th -- five days after he died.
I know that my dad knew that I was going to be born and that he wanted me. Had he been my father but didn't want to have anything to do with me, we would not be having this conversation today. When you found out about Hank being your dad, did that become a "this changes everything" sort of moment? Well, when I made that announcement, my life changed dramatically because once you step out in the public, there is no turning back. In the lawsuits, the attorneys and administrators from my father's estate kept the estate open past my twenty-first birthday and never notified me that there was money all those years in a trust for me.
The courts ruled that they knew who I was, where I was, and that they had made a conscious decision not to notify me.
So, the courts ruled that I was defrauded -- for twenty-three years they collected their legal fees, keeping it in a trust for me, but when the time came, they said, "We've buried her, she doesn't know who she is.
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Let sleeping dogs lie. She'll never find out. You've got to love lawyers. Well, I married one -- I hired him, and then I married him, so here I am. Speaking of lawyers, you mentioned earlier that back in your father's time, lawyers had more integrity maybe.
Based on what you know about lawyers now, if somebody were to start in the music business, what advice what you give them? Well, if you're going to start in the music business and there are some real opportunities there, you've got to get an attorney that you believe is going to be watching out for you.
If you're in the entertainment business and you get to be in that one percent, you're talking about multi-million dollar contracts, and you'd better make sure because you can't say, "Well, I didn't know. Jett, that's a nice lead in to a question I ask everyone I inetrview. What is your advice in general to someone entering the music scene now?
As a new artist, hopefully what you're doing If not, you've got to get where you're grounded, and then do exactly what you want to do, the way you want to do it. If you come to Nashville right now -- today's music is visual in that people are looking at music, but not really listening to it.
I think that you've got to come in and play that game or they're just going to shut you out the door, which is very unfortunate, but if you can get in and get established, then you can run with everything you've got. And we've got another question here. Just listening to you live like this and hearing your story is really heartwarming.
So, first off, I want to say thank you. You've got a lot of courage, and it's a great story. Thank you for being so tenacious and following your dream. Well, if you get the chance, I have an autobiography out that tells the whole story. The book was picked as one of the top one-hundred books in the country, and it was put into braille and audio for the visual and hearing impaired and placed in every library in the country. I always tell people that if I had made it up, it wouldn't be this good.
I am a film student and a couple of us here in the media communications department at the school are interested in the possibility of doing a documentary of you.
Would you be interested? We'd have to talk to my husband. Actually, a company out of Canada just did a documentary that is supposed to air pretty soon, but I don't know if it's going to air in the United States. You're more than welcome to contact us and see what we could work out because I'd be more than glad to work with you all.
I was looking on your website and saw the story about your remarkable journey, and I was wondering if there was maybe a movie in the works for that? Well, on my life, we signed a couple of deals. There is a movie coming out called The Ride, which is not sanctioned by the estate, but the one Hank Jr. Right now, that's what I'm going to be focusing on at the beginning of this coming year. Then, my personal hope is that once we get my dad's movie out there, somewhere in that movie, you'll see him sign that contract I talked about.
Then, when he dies, hopefully people will walk out and say, "What happened to that baby? With our culture, it seems you have to take these concepts in bite sizes anyway.
Well, with my dad just getting the Pulitzer, the box set coming out, and then with the movie, it just seems like it's "Hank Time" right now. Did your adopted parents encourage you to pursue music, or were you kind of born loving music? Well, the last adopted parents I had did not hold me back. They did not have any musical tendencies -- we had a stereo and they listened to music and everything -- but I was about ten, and I went to a summer camp and heard someone play guitar.