Remember What Was Hank Williams Jr.’s First No. 1 Hit?
Hank Williams, Jr. is known for his rough-and-ready country anthems, as well as his plaintive laments, but many of his fans might be surprised at the style of his first No. 1 hit.
Hank Jr. started out in show business as a tribute act to his legendary father, but by 1972 he was beginning to really find his own way. He reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart on July 1, 1972, with a ballad titled "Eleven Roses," featuring a vocal performance and arrangement so different from his later hits that it is virtually unidentifiable.
Williams borrowed from the popular "Countrypolitan" sound that was favored by country radio at the time, with sweeping strings, and delivered a subdued, understated lead vocal that sounded like it was pulled straight from the golden age of country music. Written by Lamar Morris and Darrell McCallm, the song tells the story of a man who gives his love 11 roses, and is filled with remorse for whatever wrongs he has done to her. He tells her to hold the bouquet and look in the mirror, where "the 12th rose will be staring back at you."
The song was very much in the style of the times, but following a near-fatal accident in 1975, Williams re-emerged with the trademark sunglasses and beard that would define his public persona from that point forward, and began to release a string of career-defining hits that blended rock, country and blues in a way that hadn't been done before. He emerged as one of the biggest stars in the genre with the success of songs like "Family Tradition," "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound," "Dixie on My Mind," "All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)" and "A Country Boy Can Survive."
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