While Kid Rock titled his new album Cocky, he seemed nothing but humble as he swapped songs and stories with Hank Williams Jr. during a taping for “CMT Crossroads.”
The pair hung out Thursday at Williams’ digs in Paris, Tennessee, where cameras captured them barbecuing, drinking brews, jamming and shooting Williams’ Civil War-era cannon. On Friday, Kid Rock — jokingly dubbing himself “Kid Country” — and Williams performed for about two hours in front of a small studio audience in the back of the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville.
They performed 14 songs, solo and together, backed by Williams’ longtime backup group, the Bama Band. About half the performances are expected to make the hour-long “Crossroads” episode, which is tentatively set to air February 17.
“It’s nice to see country-rock and hip-hop come together in one room,” Kid Rock remarked after one of his performances Friday night.
Williams and Kid Rock have been friends for a couple of years, and the two rebels have performed at each other’s concerts. Kid Rock appears in a recent video for Williams’ “Naked Women and Beer” and provides guitar and harmony vocal on “The ‘F’ Word,” a track from Williams’ upcoming album, Almeria Club, due January 8.
Playing a red, white and blue guitar in front of a stars-and-stripes backdrop, Kid Rock opened the concert taping with his 1999 hit, “Cowboy.” Williams backed him on vocals and harmonica and moved around onstage like a horse-riding cowboy. Then Kid Rock delivered two songs from Cocky — the Southern-rock ballad “Lonely Road of Faith” (the only song taped twice) and the rap-rocker “What I Learned Out on the Road” — while Bocephus cheered on from his seat in the audience.
Kid Rock performed the blues vamp “Baby Come Home,” another new song, backed by Williams on harmonica. Kid Rock said he learned the blues from listening to Williams, and he was inspired to write the song after Williams gave him a vintage lap steel guitar.
After Kid Rock’s opening set, Williams and Kid Rock sat at the edge of the stage, where they performed acoustically and answered questions from host Greg Martin and members of the audience.
Kid Rock recalled growing up listening to Williams and learning guitar by playing along to “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” “Come and Go Blues” and other Williams recordings. Returning the compliment, Williams said he likes Kid Rock’s music and added that he was a fan of Run-D.M.C.
Williams wanted to meet Kid Rock — whom he now calls Bobby — after the Detroit musician exalted him in several interviews. Williams said of the first meeting, “Bobby said, ‘I know more of your songs than you do,’ and he was right!”
Kid Rock recalled a previous visit to Williams’ home when he tried on one of Hank Sr.’s famous stage costumes.
Addressing a question about future collaborations, they both hinted at the possibility of a joint tour. “We’re going to be friends for a long time after this show,” Kid Rock made clear.
The acoustic duets included “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” and a lyrically-altered cover of the old Hank Ballard R&B hit “Finger Poppin’ Time.”
Kid Rock took a seat in the audience next to his girlfriend, Pamela Anderson, during Williams’ set. Spotting the couple, Williams improvised a line in a new song, singing, “I want a girlfriend like Bobby’s.”
Williams treated the audience to “My Name Is Bocephus” and brought Kid Rock back on stage to sing “The ‘F’ Word” and “Family Tradition.”
Williams also offered a pair of poignant songs. He sang “America Will Survive” — his September 11-inspired remake of “A Country Boy Can Survive” — and concluded the taping with “Tee Tot Song,” a new tune about street musician Rufus Payne, who coached a teenaged Hank Sr. on how to play guitar and sing the blues.
Before their time onstage was over, Kid Rock presented Williams with an early Christmas present — a personally inscribed chrome tomahawk.
“CMT Crossroads” explores the intersection of country with other musical genres. The debut episode features Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello and airs January 13. (MTV’s parent company, Viacom, also owns CMT.)
For a feature interview with Kid Rock, check out “Kid Rock: Michigan Love.”