Music | Celebrity

Hank Williams' "Lost Daughter" Opens Up About The Father She Never Met

Jett Williams/MGM Records

Five days after Hank Williams, one of the most influential and celebrated musicians of the 20th century, died on January 1, 1953, his only daughter, Jett, was born.

Jett, whose full name is Antha Bell Jett, was born out of wedlock after the "Lovesick Blues" singer had a brief affair with Bobbie Jett while he was still married to his wife Audrey.

As the daughter of a celebrity as big as Hank, you would assume Jett would lead a comfortable childhood, but that was far from the truth.

MGM Records

Jett spent the first few years of her life bouncing from one home to another. When she was one, she was legally adopted by her paternal grandmother, Lillie Williams Stone, who renamed her Catherine Yvonne Stone. Unfortunately, she passed away a year later and Jett became a ward of the state of Alabama.

After spending time in foster care, she was adopted by a couple, who also changed her name. This time she was given the moniker Cathy Louise Deupree. All these changes pushed Jett further away from her real identity.

It wasn't until sometime during the early 80s that Jett found out who her biological parents are. Still, the "lost daughter" had to go through a lengthy legal battle to prove that Hank was indeed her father, and that he had drafted a custody agreement just three months before she was born.

In 1985, with the help of investigative attorney-turned-husband Keith Adkinson, Jett was able to convince the court that she was Hank's offspring. Two years later, Alabama Supreme Court ruled that she was entitled to half of Hank's estate.

Jett, who followed in her father's footsteps to become a musician, has always openly discussed her upbringing and other aspects of her life with the public. She even published an autobiography in 1990 titled Ain't Nothin' as Sweet as My Baby.

Although she never had the chance to meet Hank, she also often talks about her late father, who suddenly died at the age of 29 in the back seat of his Cadillac.

More recently, she is coming to his defense, hoping to clean up the reputation he built as a heavy drinker who lived a tumultuous life.

"A public perception of my dad would have him a very sorrowful, lonely person that drank and was depressed," the 65-year-old told Closer Weekly in an exclusive interview. "But if you look at his music — ‘Hey, Good Lookin,’ ‘Jambalaya,’ — all of those are tongue-in-cheek, happy songs. He had a great sense of humor, and there are great stories told about him."

Jett explained that she understands her father struggles, especially since he had spina bifida, but she said his caring and loving persona has been overshadowed by some of his bad qualities that were publicized.

She's been lucky enough to hear stories from people who were once very close to her father, including steel guitarist Don Helms, who recalled just how much the singer "loved a good joke."

"My dad had a cigar box he called ‘The Cussing Box.’ He told [his band], 'You all boys and myself, we have to clean up our language!' When they swore, they put a quarter in the box. Once, when they were running late to a show after getting lost, Hank "took out $5 and stuck it in the cuss box, saying, 'I’m going to need every damn one of them!'"

Another one of Hank's friends also told Jett about her dad, this time highlighting his generosity. "He was a generous person," Jett said, before delving into what his father's friend said:

"His child had been born with a cleft palate and he told me, 'Your dad called me and said, I’m going to send you a blank check, and whatever that baby needs, you just fill it out.'"

These accounts push Jett to wonder if the pressure to be successful is why he ultimately lost grip of it all.

"If you’re drinking and taking drugs, how do you write all that music? You also have to remember how much pressure was on him. Everybody’s expecting him to write a hit song every week. He’s got his mother, he’s got [first wife] Audrey, he’s got my mother [Bobbie Jett], all of that pressure."

Jett herself understands what it's like to use alcohol to cope with pain. In 2014, she was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, not wearing a seat belt and not carrying proof of insurance in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Officers revealed that when they stopped her she reeked of alcohol and her speech was slurred. She was eventually released on a $1,000 bond.

Although Jett wasn't lucky enough to hear her father sing live, she is able to witness see the impact he has had on so many other iconic musicians. In 2010, she accepted a Pulitzer Prize for songwriting on his behalf.

"If you ask who influenced Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Norah Jones… he’s still influencing the music," Jett said. "The lyrics are just like a painting. He could write a song so when somebody hears it, they felt like, ‘He wrote that song for me.'"

Hank has now been posthumously signed by BMG Worldwide, and Jett is hopeful that this will being his music to a whole new generation.

“I am hoping that this will allow him to reach another generation,” she told the publication. “It just goes to show you, 65 years after his death, he’s still out there!”

Are you a fan of Hank Williams' music?

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.