Having firmly established a reputation for bringing all his rowdy friends to the party in 1984, Hank Williams Jr. assembled some of his diverse musical pals for a cover of “Mind Your Own Business,” the rollicking closing track to his 1986 album Montana Café. Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire and the evangelist Reverend Ike all sing on the collaboration, which spent two weeks at Number One 30 years ago this week. (Listen to the song below.)
In the mid-Eighties, Bocephus dominated country radio with a string of platinum and gold-selling albums that started with 1979’s Family Tradition. Thanks to career-defining singles like “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” and “A Country Boy Can Survive,” the 1980s showed Williams confidently stepping away from his famous father’s long shadow and into his own successful music career – on his own terms and with his own songs.
However, that didn’t mean he was opposed to revisiting his father’s legendary catalog. When he started off in the 1960s, he devoted entire albums to celebrating Hank Sr.’s work via traditional, acoustic-based classic-country methods. By the 1980s, Hank Jr. had defined his own sound, and any nods to his father were filtered through the Bocephus bounce of twangy electric guitars, a swampy rhythm section and Rockin’ Randall Hank’s unmistakable vocals.
When he decided to cover “Mind Your Own Business” in 1986, Hank Jr. knew the song would be met with some expectation. His father wrote and released it as a single in July of 1949 and it went on to become a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Country and Western Best Seller chart later that year, joining early songs like “Move It on Over” and “Lovesick Blues” as examples of Hank Sr.’s ability to sing about relational strife through clever wordplay. For his updated version, Hank Jr. maintained the song’s playfulness, but doubled down on the indignation-through-a-smirk “you just worry about you” delivery.
Hank Jr. takes the first verse, before ceding the spotlight to his guests. Fresh off the platinum-selling success of her Whoever’s in New England album, Reba McEntire updates the lyrics to turn “the woman on the party line” into “the man at the apartment.” Tom Petty unleashes his notable nasal twang in an early instance of his country influences showing through his rock veneer. And Willie Nelson shines with his behind-the-beat cameo, while Reverend Ike, a popular TV evangelist with no mainstream musical experience, steals his verse with unbridled joy.
In the end, “Mind Your Own Business” was an interesting mile marker in Hank Jr.’s career, proving he could take one of his father’s songs to Number One in his own unique way. But most of all, the off-the-wall collaboration further reinforced Bocephus’ image as an artist willing to color outside genre lines.