Hank Williams Jr. @ Choctaw Grand Theater, Durant, OK

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
The young man sitting next to me asked, “how long have you been listening to Hank’s music?” My reply, “since about 1981.” “Oh hell, I wasn’t born until 1997!” Inner me, bless your heart. If you’re from Texas, you know what I’m saying when I say, “bless your heart!” But in those 40-plus years of being a Hank Williams Jr. fan, I’ve never seen him live. 

First, let’s crunch some numbers. Academy of Country Music awards, eight. Country Music Association awards, seven. American Music awards, one. Grammy awards, one. Induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, one. As the night progresses you figure out Hank would have been an entertainer, awards or no awards. After all, performing is in his blood!

A jam-packed Grand Theater at Choctaw Casino can barely contain itself as an emcee introduces the seventy-four year-old performer. My view of the theater floor indicated there was not one butt in one seat for one hour and twenty minutes! If you were at the casino one of the two nights, chances are you may have heard one of your favorite Jr. songs. A good balance of songs old and new were present, including a nod to his famous father with, “Your Cheatin' Heart.”

As he straps on a Waylon Jennings-styled, leatherbound Telecaster, the Hank faithful are hootin’ and hollerin’ as the opening chords to “The Conversation” are strummed. The only thing that could have made this moment better is an appearance by the late Jennings himself. But with that not being possible Williams Jr. made up the difference with a thunderous guitar and his roaring vocals. Taking his place behind a piano (yes, he plays piano too) he explains an unimaginable childhood. He speaks of the stars of the day that were in the family home, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley to name a few. Showing off his piano skills he pounds the keyboard furiously, tumultuously covering Jerry Lee’s, “Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On!”

With the band taking a pause for the cause, Hank positions himself front and center with an acoustic guitar. Solo he tears through “Tear In My Beer”, “Outlaw Women”, “Dinosaur”, and the song he introduces as something really bad happening to him, “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down.” Picking up the pace, Williams Jr. jumps from his stool as the band rejoins him to finish off “Born To Boogie.”

As I’m rehashing the show in my mind, I think back to one moment that sums up Hank Jr., as he approaches his latter years. He stated he’s only doing twenty-two shows in 2023. He further explains there was a large sum of money offered to put on more shows. Various hunting and fishing seasons and time with the grandkids dictate his schedule. And as only he can put it, “I gonna play where I want, when I want, and for who I want to!” It may not be the right way, but it’s the Hank way, and the fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you Hank for allowing MTC MAG to be in the house and to Choctaw Casino for putting it all together!

Photos of the show are below:

Contributed by Duane Clawson
Hank Williams Jr. @ Choctaw Grand Theater, Durant, OK Hank Williams Jr. @ Choctaw Grand Theater, Durant, OK Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on September 25, 2023 Rating: 5
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