The Sons of Country Music's Biggest Stars

Country music is a family tradition for these singers

They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but does musical talent pass on from father to son? It certainly seems to be the case with some country musicians. While heeding tradition, these five talents continue to blaze artistic trails that are markedly different from their famous fathers and are justly recognized as individuals for their musical aptitude.

Hank Williams, Jr.

When Hank Williams died at the age of 29, the spotlight fell on his namesake. From an early age, Hank Jr. was pressured to play his dad's songs and ape his singing style. While his renditions of "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" and "Your Cheatin' Heart" are just as hauntingly affecting as his father's, he understandably bristled against the cage that surrounded his creativity.

Hank Jr.'s rebellion came full-force in the 1970s when he launched a gritty blend of country and Southern rock with songs like "Whiskey Bent and Hellbound" and "Family Tradition," signaling his break from the past.

Lyrical Debt to Dad: "It's hard standing in the shadow / Of a very famous man" (from "Standing in the Shadows") More »

Justin Townes Earle

Justin Townes Earle.

Justin Townes Earle, son of Steve Earle, was named after singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt. Were his parents trying to plant a seed in his mind? If so, they succeeded.

From his 2007 EP Yuma to 2010's , Townes Earle has shown himself to be among the most talented new crop of singer-songwriters. Luckily for him, he's done it in a way that's completely different from his dad.

While Steve Earle bears the definitive imprint of Bruce Springsteen, his son's taste hews closer to classic honky tonk. "One More Night in Brooklyn" is a bit folky, and "What I Mean to You," "South Georgia Sugar Babe," and "Hard Livin'" are sure-fire boot-stompers.

Lyrical Debt to Dad: "I ain't foolin' no one / I am my father's son" (from "Mama's Eyes")

Shooter Jennings

Shooter Jennings.

The son of Waylon Jennings and singer Jessi Colter, Shooter Jennings isn't shy about tipping his hat to his dad. Like Waylon, Shooter plays country music that's fueled with the raw energy of rock 'n' roll.

Stylistically Shooter's records Put the O Back in Country and Electric Rodeo are a natural progression from his father's signature outlaw sound. Unlike his father, however, Shooter draws upon Southern rock influences such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band, buoyed by caterwauling guitars. Tracks like "It Ain't Easy" and "The Song Is Still Slipping Away" do his pop proud.

Lyrical Debt to Dad: "And forget about the money / Money ain't brought nothing to your daddy but pain" (from "It Ain't Easy")

Bobby Bare, Jr.

Bobby Bare, Jr.

Bobby Bare, Sr. gained fame with straight-shooters like "All American Boy" and "500 Miles From Home." His son Bobby Bare, Jr. experiments in sounds that push him into the indie rock vanguard, yet his country roots are quite evident if you look beneath the surface.

Bare Jr. is at his most rootsy on "Stay in Texas," laquered with pedal steel guitar, and "Painting Her Fingernails" written by Shel Silverstein, one of his father's main collaborators. Meanwhile, on 2010's A Storm, A Tree, My Mother's Head, father and son share writing credits on the grim track "But I Do" and even grimmer "One of Us Has Got to Go."

Lyrical Debt to Dad: "I should a stayed at the top, but I wanna rock / Momma held my hands, daddy held my legs" (from "The Sky is the Ground")

Hank Williams III.

It's strange enough when lightning strikes twice, but what about three times? Well, Hank Williams III is that third lightning strike. The son of Hank Williams, Jr., Hank III seems to more closely resemble his famous grandfather with his hell-raising spirit, multiple addictions, emaciated features and alley-cat singing.

Hank Williams' live-fast, die-young ethos is certainly intact in Hank III's 2006 record Straight to Hell, a refreshing slap in the face to country pop. Tracks like "Not Everybody Likes Us," "Pills I Took" and "Dick in Dixie" make his own father's work look tame by comparison.

Lyrical Debt to Dad: "Well I'm a son of a son / I've got a chip of what I've said an' done" (from "Not Everybody Likes Us") More »