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The real thing — almost

  • 4 min to read

Dressed in a western-style shirt with cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, Hank Williams Jr. gets up on stage and starts belting out tune after tune.

But is it really Hank Williams Jr.?

No, it’s actually Frank Morrow and All My Rowdy Friends, a Hank Williams Jr. tribute band — from right here in Goldsboro.

Frank, 66, started the band in 2009 after friends kept telling him he looked and sounded so much like the real thing.

The name of the band came from one of Hank Williams Jr.’s hits “All My Rowdy Friends.”

“Most tribute bands, their names somehow or another jive with one of the songs that was real popular,” Frank said. “Looking around the room, the players in the band had been friends with us a long time, and I said ‘All My Rowdy Friends’ fits us all. We went with that. And we play that song whenever we perform.”

Frank said the group is a tribute band and an outlaw country variety show.

“Outlaw country is country that’s sort of in between old country and southern rock,” he said. “Players like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Daniels and Hank Jr., were country, but they weren’t the kind of country Nashville wanted at the time.”

Current members of the band are Frank singing lead, wife Sandi singing backup, Mike “13” Kinzie on fiddle, Scott Vancel on bass, Ray Holmes on lead and rhythm guitar, Christopher Wiggins on lead and rhythm guitar and Steve Cox on drums. Will Teel is the band’s production manager.

“The band members are very talented and very energetic,” Sandi said.

Frank said the band members are so good that all he has to do is send them a list of the songs they will play at a gig and they practice at home. When they get to the venue, they have a quick rehearsal and then go on stage.

Frank attributes the success of the band to how much he resembles, sounds like and acts like the real singer.

“I had a lot of people before we even started the band approach me wanting to get their picture taken with me because they thought I was Hank Jr.,” Frank said.

That happens even more often now that Frank has his tribute band.

“Most people don’t really find out I’m not Hank Jr. because I won’t say I’m not,” he said.

“I’ll either answer I’m on vacation and let them go on believing what they want to believe.”

“But sometimes, he has said ‘You know I’m not Hank Williams Jr.’ and they’ll say, ‘We know you are, but we know that you don’t want everybody to know,’” said Sandi.

“And I’ve had people say, ‘I know you’re not Hank Jr., but I want my picture with you because I will tell my friends that you are,” Frank said.

Frank said his band is unique and there’s no other Hank Williams Jr. tribute band anywhere.

The band has close to three hours of nothing but Hank Jr. tunes its members do and a little more than an hour of variety of songs other than Hank Jr.

“I haven’t studied his movements,” Frank said.

“It think it’s more of a natural thing for me. Once in a while, I might do something that Hank Jr. may do on stage that I’ve seen him do.

“But the rest of the time, it’s just me. One time I started acting like I was playing a bass fiddle upright, and found out later that he did that. And he was born in May; I was born in May.”

All My Rowdy Friends has performed all over North Carolina and in Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, California, Iowa and Louisiana.

Sometimes gigs are through various booking agents, and other times Frank books gigs. Venues have included festivals, private parties, bars, motorcycle parties and more.

In 2011, Frank was named Country Tribute Artist of the Year for the Charlotte Music Association. But he said it’s not about awards, it’s all about the music.

“When I’m performing, I think I just get lost in the moment of entertaining,” he said.

“I enjoy every minute of it. I love the music I’m singing. I have an absolute ball with it. And I’ve got friends on stage with me.”

Not only does Frank sing Hank Jr.’s songs, but he dresses like the country singer, too.

“Hank Jr. has shirts that basically you don’t see everywhere, western-style shirts,” Frank said. “I wear cowboy boots and cowboy hats and baseball caps. A lot of the hats I have look just like the hats Hank Jr. wears.”

Sandi said when people are at one of the band’s shows, they feel like they’re at a real Hank Jr. concert.

“That’s because Frank’s natural appearance, sound, look, demeanor, everything on stage, is just like Hank Williams Jr.,” she said.

Sandi recalls the time she and Frank were walking around Broadway at the Beach in South Carolina and stopped at one place where, upon seeing Frank, the DJ announced that Hank Williams Jr. was there.

He asked Frank to sing.

“The crowd just started gathering and taking pictures,” she said.

“Then the owner of Crocodile Rock came up to him and asked him come to his club later and play. Stuff like that happens everywhere we go.”

Frank remembers a concert at the theater in Cummings, Ga., one year.

His agent told him it would be an older crowd and to tone down the show just a little bit.

“We did more Hank Williams Sr. songs than I normally do and a lot of the slower stufff,” he said.

“Four elderly ladies were in the front row and one of them who was in a wheelchair hollered at us about halfway through the show, “When you all gonna get rowdy?’ They wanted rowdy.”

He also recalls a 90-minute show at Gilley’s at Chocktaw Casino in Oklahoma that turned into a two-hour show because the audience wouldn’t let the band leave.

All My Rowdy Friends might perform five to seven times a month. One year the band did eight shows in nine days.

Frank said his dream is to perform at Reiman Auditorium in Nashville.

“That would just be a kick right there,” he said. “That’s like the home of country music.”

Frank is a Mount Olive native and Sandi is a Goldsboro native.

When not performing on stage, Frank, who is a retired truck driver, keeps busy looking for more gigs.

The band’s website is www.allmyrowdyfriendstribute.com.