Tonight in Nashville the second night of shooting for a new Monday Night Football opening... 21st year for Hank Jr...21 years is forever in TV land... here's a good history lesson from USA today
Are you ready for some Hank?
from USA Today
Some critics turned thumbs down after Hank Williams Jr. began opening Monday Night Football telecasts in 1989 with his rowdy musical question: "Are you ready for some football?"
A St. Petersburg Times article asked, "What's with this Hank Williams Jr. opening each and every show with a bunch of apparently semi-soused yahoos yelping in the background?"
That year the Los Angeles Times ranked the "Bottom Ten" lowlights from two decades of Monday Night Football. The "grating theme song ... howled by Hank Williams Jr." was No. 10 — in its rookie year.
Well Hank Jr., who once had a hit called A Country Boy Can Survive, is back for his 14th season with ABC.
Monday Night analysts come and go, but Williams keeps rockin' and rollin'. He'll open Monday night's game: Pittsburgh at New England. And he's taped special lyrics for each of 16 more.
"We had that one spell in '93 they didn't use me (for most of the season) ... and finally they got me back," Williams says by phone from his office in Paris, Tenn. "They told me about the deluge of letters they had. They just said, 'Hey, where's that guy with the hat? Hey, we want that guy back.' "
Hank Jr., 53, whose late father remains a country music giant, made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry at 11. He has had hits such as Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound and Dixie on My Mind. But his six-word question has become an anthem for football passion.
"It's become much more than a song. It's ... part of the lexicon of sports," NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue says.
An Internet search yielded 5,190 hits for the phrase, "Are you ready for some football?" They led to Web sites about video games, party tips, college teams, betting, "adult" materials and more.
"It's got to be the most used lyric not only in sports but in advertising," Williams says.
The July 29 Sports Illustrated cover showed new Monday Night analyst John Madden in a big, soft chair, holding a TV clicker. The headline: "Are You Ready For Some Football?"
ABC star Drew Carey donned shades and a beard à la Williams to make an Are You Ready for Some Screwballs promo for the new comedy season. Williams sings; Carey lip-syncs.
The ABC song, All My Rowdy Friends Are Here for Monday Night, was adapted from Williams' 1984 hit All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.
But how it happened is a twisting tale with moments of inspiration.
In 1985 George Greenberg, now an executive vice president with Fox Sports Net, was in marketing with ABC. He recalls sitting by a pool one day listening to a stack of CDs and looking for a tune to promote the telecast of the United States Football League championship.
"Whoa, what's this?" he thought after hearing Rowdy Friends.
As it turned out, Williams' manager, Merle Kilgore, wasn't interested in a USFL spot, Greenberg says. But he filed the music away. He loved its energy.
Two years later ABC used the song with Monday Night highlights shown only at a meeting of its affiliate stations.
In 1989 ABC was planning a summer ad campaign for the 20th year of Monday Night Football.
Bob Toms, currently vice president for production at ABC Sports, was taking over the marketing, and Greenberg was moving into production. The search was underway for music for the promo.
"George came into my office and said, 'Well, remember two years ago we did Rowdy Friends?' " Toms says. "I said, 'Yeah, but we did that already.' And he said, 'Yeah, but nobody saw it.' "
The idea clicked.
The network went to Williams' manager. Toms says the manager responded, "Hank's an American. He likes the NFL."
Williams was on board.
Adds Toms, "Little did we know Hank Williams Jr. is one of the all-time NFL fans."
Greenberg says he viewed it only as a summer thing. He felt people would tire of it. Then former ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson heard it.
"Swanson looked at me and said, 'I don't care what you think. You put it on the air, and you keep it there. It's got a good hook,' " Greenberg says.
Toms handled making the video and taping the lyrics.
So who wrote the line, "Are you ready for some football?"
Greenberg, who wrote some initial lyrics, says he's "99.9%" sure he did.
Williams' recollection? "I have no idea," he says.
Toms says, "We all collaborated on the song in many ways."
But he says he or Williams came up with the "Are you ready ..." line.
"I honestly don't know if it was me or Hank because we had faxes going back and forth every day with rewritten lines. It could have been Hank. It could have been me. For that matter, it could have come up while we were tracking (taping) the piece, and that might have been the way Hank sang it."
Adds Toms: "At one point Dennis Swanson said, 'Hell, I wrote the line.' I think he was kidding."
In 1990 Williams won a TV Emmy for his efforts, the first of four Emmys the theme has brought him.
However, ABC dropped Williams for the '93 season and began each show with different performers, including Kiss, Jon Bon Jovi and Def Leppard.
But ABC brought Williams back for the final Monday Night game that season and a playoff game.
"It (the rotation) was very much a success," Greenberg says. "But at the end of the year, Dennis (Swanson) said, 'You know what? Nice campaign, but I miss Hank. Let's bring him back.' "
Of course, nothing is forever, especially on Monday nights."Hank and I have pretty much worked on this on a season-to-season basis," Toms says.
" 'Does Hank still want to do it? Do we still want to open up with Hank.' ... But so far it almost has become an anthem that as long as we keep it fresh, it seems to have a lot of legs."
Williams will attend Monday night's game at New England and perform live at halftime. He's a football fan, and he's made friends in the NFL. Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre is among them. "We talk on the phone when the game is over about hunting," he says.
Says Williams: "It seems like sports and music go together. The jocks want to sing, and the singers want to jock. ... And thank God it never works out that way."
A month ago Gibson Musical Instruments gave Williams a custom-made guitar covered in official NFL football leather (bound with official laces).
So, Hank, are you ready for some football?
"Shoot yeah!" he says. "Let me put it that way: I don't do soccer."