Hank Williams Jr. Keeps Gulf Coast Close to His Heart

Neil Young and Motley Crue in Nashville for ReAct Now

“Mother nature can really humble man at times, and she’s done it this time,” Hank Williams Jr. told CMT Insider during the ReAct Now: Music & Relief concert special that aired Saturday (Sept. 10) on CMT, MTV and VH1.

Williams performed “Backwater Blues” during the concert to raise money for the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and America’s Second Harvest in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Others performing in Nashville included Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Sweet Home Alabama”), Big & Rich (“I Pray for You”) and Sugarland (“Stand Back Up”). The Nashville concert segments also featured Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Motley Crue, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Louisiana musicians Marc Broussard, Chris Thomas King, Buckwheat Zydeco and the Neville Brothers.

Alan Jackson was in New York to perform “Rainy Day in June,” a song from last year’s album, What I Do. In Toronto, Elton John paid tribute to a famous Mississippi native — Elvis Presley — by singing “Porch Swing in Tupelo.” Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor was in Los Angeles to perform “Hurt,” his original song that Johnny Cash recorded shortly before his death. In concert in Colorado, John Mellencamp sang “Walk Tall.”

The four-hour telecast included performances by the Rolling Stones, Kanye West, Sheryl Crow, Paul McCartney, Kelly Clarkson, Brian Wilson, Melissa Etheridge, Goo Goo Dolls, John Mayer, Maroon 5, the Radiators, Green Day, Usher, Alicia Keys, the Dave Matthews Band, Rob Thomas and others.

Young, who earlier in the show performed “This Old Guitar” with Harris, closed the telecast with the Fisk Jubilee Singers joining him on “Walkin’ to New Orleans,” the Fats Domino classic written by Bobby Charles.

New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast region have a special place in Williams’ heart.

“Well, I was born in Louisiana,” he told CMT Insider,” he said. “It’s real easy for me to sympathize. … I hang out in Apalachicola [in Florida] and Lafayette and Breaux Bridge [in Louisiana] and Biloxi and Pass Christian [in Mississippi] and have for years. We hunted here, we fished there. … A lot of my songs are about that kind of lifestyle.”

Throughout his career, Biloxi has been one of Williams’ strongest concert markets.

“If I do any shows there, it’ll be for a benefit,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking. I can’t wait to see the rebuilding process. It’s going to take a while, but I can’t wait to see the rebuilding.”