I’ve got to admit it. When I think of the name Hank Williams, I think of Junior. He is so embedded in American culture, particularly for those who have been fans of Monday Night Football, hearing his song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” adapted for the MNF theme. Hearing that song each week became a pleasure for millions of football fans.

Hank Williams, Jr. is his own man. Hank Williams, Jr. is… Hank Williams, Jr. He’s not another Hank Williams, Sr. Many country and western fans don’t even think of him as the son of Hank Williams, Sr. At one time, that’s what he was known for. Hank Williams Jr. began his singing career as a very young man, and he did so singing his dad’s songs. (Sadly, Hank Williams, Sr. died tragically at 29 when Hank Jr. was a little boy.

His name got Hank Williams, Jr. into the music industry as a teenager. However, his name did not sustain his career. I’m sure they were times when that reality grated on him. His career ran in stops and starts, like a car driving on lousy gasoline. Everything changed for Hank Jr. shortly after his 36th birthday. He began a process that would lead him to superstardom. All it took was for him to fall off a mountain.

On August 8, 1975, Williams was climbing a mountain in Montana. The ground beneath him gave way, and he fell five hundred feet to what should have been his death. Several bones were broken, including a fractured skull. His face was so shattered and disfigured that he spent a few years undergoing reconstructive surgeries and recovering. He decided to grow a beard, wear sunglasses and don a hat to camouflage the severe destruction to his face.

At last, any doubts concerning Hank’s identity were removed. He couldn’t be “little Hank,” even if he wanted. His hiking catastrophe made sure of that. And so, he found his own voice. He charted his own career course. He became his own man and a megastar. Not only did he sell many records and win many awards, but he was also voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2020. While Hank’s dad was a pioneer, based on sheer numbers, you can make a strong argument Hank Jr’s career surpassed that of Hank Sr., And yet, none of this would’ve happened had he not experienced the most physically traumatic event in his life—the fall from the mountain.

I want you to think about Hank Williams, Jr. the next time you face trials and tribulations. What appears to be a tragedy may be simply the path- the only path- to an open door.