Hank WILLIAMS Jr. knows from giants. He is the son of Hank Williams, after all. Plus, he admires plenty of other musical giants: Merle Haggard, Robert Johnson, Flatt & Scruggs, Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson.
The history buff also respects his giants from America's past, including Theodore Roosevelt and Stonewall Jackson. "That's all I do, keep my nose stuck in Civil War, Spanish American, World War I, II, history books all the time," he says.
Mr. "Are You Ready for Some Football" even prizes a team of Giants: "I used to really like the New York Giants because of Phil Simms when they were dominating [in] the late '80s [or] when I had friends, like Cornelius Griffin, from the University of Alabama, there."
But when it comes to being considered a giant himself, and particularly as the centerpiece of an award show, not so much -- which is a pity since tonight Country Music Television honors him as a CMT Giant at the Gibson Amphitheatre. All his rowdy friends, from Kid Rock to Gretchen Wilson, Toby Keith and Lynyrd Skynyrd, are coming over for the taping that airs Nov. 17.
He follows last year's honoree, Reba McEntire, although he's not sure how much he has in common with her: "I don't know if she hunts and fishes and looks for Civil War stuff."
To paraphrase W.C. Fields, all things considered, Williams would rather be at home on his farm outside of Paris, Tenn. When Williams found out he was getting the honor, he says his reaction was, " 'What in the hell? You know I don't give a damn about going to L.A.' " And as far as friends traveling to honor him, "I feel like I'm imposing; I'm not comfortable with that kind of stuff."
Over the years he's found ways for a country boy to survive here: visiting a gun shop in Glendale or eating Italian at A Little Taste of Hoboken in Westwood. And he grudgingly admits he's had some good times in L.A., especially when he received three consecutive Academy of Country Music Awards, starting in 1986.
The more he harrumphs about making the journey ("Is CMT not in Nashville," he states, more than asks), he starts laughing at himself, sounding nothing so much as a countrified Eeyore, gloomily resigned to what accolades may come his way.
Or maybe he's just channeling his daddy, who also disdained awards. "Hank Sr. was not on this kind of stuff at all," he says. "Well, believe me, that rubbed off."
-- Melinda Newman
HANK WILLIAMS JR.
WHERE: Gibson Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
WHEN: 8 tonight
INFO: (818) 622-4440; www.ticketmaster.com