A few songs into CMT Crossroads, Detroit rock-rap star Kid Rock trades his fedora for a cowboy hat and introduces his alter ego, Kid Country, an “up-and-coming country singer” and “fine young gentleman” who has neither the irreverence nor boisterousness that Kid Rock has parlayed into multi-platinum success.
While the hat trick was all for laughs, CMT Crossroads did give Kid Rock the opportunity to indulge his country leanings and show his genuine admiration for Hank Williams Jr. , his country rebel hero and musical partner for the program.
“I love country music, I love blues music,” Kid Rock tells CMT host Greg Martin, who asked him if he has considered making a straight country album. “Sometimes when I’m picking and playing, I think people forget that I started off as a rapper. That’s what I’ll always be in my heart. I have a lot of other talents and I appreciate a lot of different music.
“I hope to be able to sing as good as this guy one day and play as good as him,” Kid Rock continues, patting Williams’ shoulder. “I’m trying. I got the best teacher out there. The [country] influence will always be in my music, but am I going to go country? I think I was born country.”
CMT Crossroads pairs country stars with kindred artists from other musical genres. The hour-long episode pairing Williams and Kid Rock is the second installment in the monthly series. Their episode debuts at 1 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 17) with repeats at 8 p.m. Sunday, 12 a.m. Monday (Feb. 18), 9 p.m. Friday (Feb. 22) and 1 a.m. ET/PT Saturday (Feb. 23) (all times ET/PT).
Williams calls Kid Rock by his real name, Bobby, and he speaks of him as his “rebel son.” Crossing generational and genre lines, their friendship and musical chemistry come across on the show.
“My wife tells me there’s a hell of a lot of vibes between Bobby and I,” Williams says during a recent interview with CMT.com. “She said, ‘It’s like he is a part of you or you see your younger self in him.’
“There’s a difference in being real friends and just showing up to do a show together. And there’s no doubt that we’re real friends.”
The seeds of that friendship were planted two decades ago when Kid Rock began attending Bocephus concerts with his parents and learning to play guitar along with “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” and other Williams’ classics.
Kid Rock shot to stardom in 1998 with the popular singles and videos “Bawitdaba,” “Cowboy” and “Only God Knows Why.” Williams first took notice when Kid Rock exalted him in interviews, calling him the greatest white act he had ever seen. Williams also learned that Kid Rock was covering “A Country Boy Can Survive” in his performances.
“My God, he’s put my name in three of his songs, and two of them were out before I even knew,” Williams relishes.
They first met at the video shoot for Williams’ “Naked Women and Beer,” which features an appearance by Kid Rock. Williams said of the meeting, “Bobby said, ‘I know more of your songs than you do,’ and he was right!”
Now they hang out together regularly. In addition to concert and interview footage CMT Crossroads shows the pair palling around at Williams’ cabin in West Tennessee last December. They barbecue, drink brews, swap guitar licks and shoot Bocephus’ Civil War-era cannon. It wasn’t Kid Rock’s first visit to Williams’ home in the countryside, and it probably won’t be his last.
“People have no idea how close we are,” Williams says. “People don’t realize that my family sits at his house with his family or that he’s sitting down here [at my place] eating dinner and we’re reading the paper like normal people talking about what the hell’s wrong with the world.”
Williams’ friendship with Kid Rock also has brought him close to the pop star’s girlfriend, TV star and sex symbol Pamela Anderson, who attended the CMT Crossroads concert taping in Nashville.
“He brings Pamela down and they go fishing and stay over,” Williams says. “Pamela rides my kids around the front yard in a golf cart. She’s got little kids, we got kids. We don’t sit around and talk about our latest quest to be a star.” He laughs, “We’re talking about school.”
Williams and Kid Rock do talk a little shop, though. They’re thinking about booking a joint concert tour they would like to call The ‘F’ Word Tour, named after a Williams tune featuring Kid Rock on guitar and harmony vocal. The track appears on Williams’ new album, Almeria Club.
“The ‘F’ Word” is a song explaining the difference in country and other forms of music with a chorus that goes: “In country music, you just can’t use the ‘F’ word.” They perform the song as a duet on CMT Crossroads, but the show focuses on their musical similarities rather than differences.
The show consists of nine full or partial musical performances with the stars collaborating on Kid Rocks’ “Cowboy,” Hank Ballard’s classic R&B hit “Finger Poppin’ Time” and several songs from Williams’ repertoire. The country legend’s longtime backup group, The Bama Band, provides musical support.
With Williams sitting out, Kid Rock performs his current single, “Lonely Road of Faith,” a Southern rock-flavored ballad from his latest album, Cocky. Kid Rock’s performance of the song, taken from the show, currently is in medium video rotation on CMT.
Accompanying himself on resonator guitar, Williams goes it solo on “Tee Tot Song,” a new song about street musician Rufus Payne, who coached a young Hank Sr. on how to play guitar and sing the blues. The tune fits squarely into the CMT Crossroads concept.
Kid Rock presents Williams with a personally inscribed chrome tomahawk during the show, explaining that Hank and his wife routinely surprise him with gifts. Among those gifts are some vintage lap steel guitars — straight from Williams’ personal collection – that Kid Rock has begun incorporating into his rock-rap mix.
“He’s watching every move I make,” Williams insists in the interview. “I mean it’s obvious. I’m just telling you the facts. It’s the same whether we’re sitting with the cricket on the hook on Kentucky Lake or up at his house [jamming] on New Year’s Eve. ‘Wait a minute,’ he’ll say, ‘what tuning is that? Well, why haven’t you showed me that tuning?’”
Equally, Williams finds his own inspiration in the friendship.
“Let’s face it,” he says, “when someone that young and famous takes a real, genuine interest in you and knows more of your catalog than you know, it has a very profound effect. It really does. His sister, his mother, his father, his girlfriend have told me he really feels close to me. I tell them, ‘Well, that’s good. It’s a two-way street, because I feel the same way about him.’
“I’m excited about the show,” Williams says as the interview winds down. “It’s been nothing but super positive around here lately. For a guy that made his first record in ’64, that’s good. It’s a good feeling around here.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve wondered, ‘Oh boy, when does that TV special with me in it come on?’ Are you kidding –- I’m usually thinking, ‘I’m loading bullets. Don’t bother me.’”