Hank Williams, Jr. is famous for his rough-and-ready country music – along with his plaintive expressions – but a lot of his supporters will probably be taken aback at the style of his first chart topping song.
Hank Jr. set off in show business as an honor act for his infamous father, but from 1972 he finally started to realize his own path. He achieved a #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart on July, 1, 1972 with a ballad titled “Eleven Roses.” This song’s vocal features and set-up are very far from his later songs, which made it absolutely unrecognizable.
Williams took inspiration from the well known “Countrypolitan” sound that was popular with country radio stations at the time. Along with captivating strings, he brought a subdued, refined lead voice that seemed like it had been taken directly from the golden era of country music. Composed by Lamar Morris and Darrell McCallm, the track conveys the tale of a man who offers his love 11 roses. The roses symbolize the regret he carries for all the wrongs he has done to her. He tells her to take the bouquet and have a look in the mirror, where “the 12th rose will be staring back at you.”
The track is a product of its time, but after a near-fatal incident in 1975, Williams went back with his signature shades and with facial hair that was going to establish his public identity from there onward. He started releasing a couple of career-defining songs that combined rock, country and blues in a manner that hadn’t been seen before. He became one of the greatest superstars in the genre with the achievements raked in by 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.”