What happened to Hank Williams Jr. 48 years ago? Climbing accident explored as singer reflects on near fatal injuries

Hank Williams Jr. fell from a mountain 48 years ago (Image via Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)
Hank Williams Jr. fell from a mountain 48 years ago (Image via Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

Hank Williams Jr. recently marked the 48th anniversary of a fall that resulted in a near-fatal accident. The incident that took place in 1975 in Ajax Peak in Beaverhead County, Montana, near the Idaho border ended up with the country singer sustaining skull fractures and other serious injuries. Hank was accompanied by his friend Dick Willey at the time.

On August 9, 2023, the One Night Stands hitmaker posted a picture of the mountain via Instagram. He marked the spot where he had slipped and fallen and wrote,

"48 years ago today 530 feet and 17 operations later this picture says it all. I am a very blessed and thankful man. HWJR."

Hank Williams Jr.'s accident and his recovery over the years

Hank Williams Jr. survived the dangerous August 1975 fall thanks to multiple surgeries and support from friends and family. His friend, Dick Willey, who was also with him at the time of the accident, recalled everything in an interview with 20/20 in 1987.

Dick revealed at the time that Hank Williams Jr. and he were hiking around Ajax Lake in Montana. The duo were crossing a snow field, and they were at around 9,000 feet when Hank slipped and fell around 500–700 feet below. Hank also addressed the incident in his autobiography, Living Proof: The Hank Williams Story.

"I put my hands up to feel my nose. Where my nose should be there's nothing there. My teeth and parts of my jaw fall out in my hand. I raise my hand to my forehead, and where my forehead should be, there's something soft and squishy."

Hank's face was split open down the middle after crashing into a boulder. The reconstruction of his face took around two years.

Dick stated in the interview that Hank suffered severe injuries to his eyes and nose, along with his jaw, teeth, and gums. Hank recalled that when he woke up, he believed that he would never sing or talk again, and it was a scary experience for him.

Hank Williams Jr.'s family and friends helped him in his recovery

In an interview with Rolling Stone Country, Hank Williams Jr. said that American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash and his family friend and Grammy Award winner June Carter Cash were the two people he saw after opening his eyes at the hospital.

"June put a cross on me and told me it was all going to be OK. I never knew if I would sing again or not, talk again or not, let alone think about what I was going to look like. It was a scary time, but having people like Waylon [Jennings], Johnny and June around really helped me."

Hank was hospitalized for around eight days and had to undergo a total of nine surgeries. In 1976, he returned to performing and tied the knot with Becky White the same year.

Hank Williams Jr.'s career was also affected because of the fall. He had to grow his beard and wear sunglasses and a cowboy hat to hide his injuries from the accident.

The 74-year-old released his debut album in 1964. His last album, Rich White Honky Blues, was released in 2022. He has released 25 compilation albums and 109 singles in his successful career. Hank is currently busy with his ongoing tour, produced by Live Nation. The tour started on May 12, 2023, and it is scheduled to conclude on August 26.

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