Genre: Country Western
I feel that I need to preface this artist profile by stating that, as many who know me personally can attest, I despise modern country music. There is nothing I hate more than hearing suburban hillbillies with their phony country accents, which mysteriously disappear when they aren’t onstage, sing producer-driven songs of blue-collar sentiments before getting into a multi-million dollar tour bus to drive them to their mansion in Malibu. Seriously, I’d rather punch myself in the face with a rusty cheese-grater than listen to one of these musical abortions.
That being said, why would I even consider featuring an artist who labels himself as the “King of Country Western Troubadours?” Because he feels the same way as I do about modern country music.
Unknown Hinson is the antithesis of pop-country. His music maintains the traditional, stripped-down stylie of classic country artists such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and even as far back as Hank Williams Sr. Hinson writes, records, and produces all his own music, sometimes with little more than a guitar and his authentic southern drawl, which remains on his tongue long after he leaves the stage and consistently mispronounces words like “womern” (woman), “wind-er” (window), and “Drac-ler” (Dracula). His songs are bitterly ironic rants about finding love in non-traditional places (“Poly Urethane”), marital infidelity (“I Ain’t Afraid of Your Husband”), and day-to-day challenges of living life as the “King of Country Western Troubadours” (“Alkyhol Withdrawl”); the kind of songs that any true gun-toting, whiskey-drinking “good-ol’-boy” can sing to his dog about.
Hinson carries the idea of the down-home country singer beyond the music and on to the stage where regularly dons a custom “rodeo tailored” suit complete with a black ribbon necktie. His likeness has been referred to as a “hillbilly vampire” due to his prominent widow’s peak, enormous pork-chop sideburns, and strategically absent front teeth. He has earned the respect and admiration of such notable figures as Billy Bob Thornton, Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening, and Hank Williams III, grandson of the famous country-western crooner. Hank III, as he is commonly referred to, even has Hinson’s face tattooed on his biceps.
You may now be telling yourself, “This is too good to be true. There must be some kind of catch.” Indeed, there is one crucial element regarding Unknown Hinson I have yet to mention, and that is that he is a persona concocted by Stuart Daniel Baker, a comedian, voice actor, and musician from Albemarle, NC. Baker created the alter-ego as a character for The Wild Wild South, a public-access comedy show featured in the Charlotte, NC area. When the show’s co-conspirator, Don Swan (a.k.a. Rebel Helms) died in 1994, Baker created the spin-off, The Unknown Hinson Show, and continued developing the Hinson likeness. The show received numerous awards for achievement in public-access, and YouTube clips for sketches such as “Liquid Chicken” are a testament to Baker’s brilliance.
But when you get right down to it, it’s not that difficult to determine that it’s all just an act. Closer inspection reveals that his pork-chop sideburns are glued on and that his “missing” teeth are simply blacked out. Listen to Hinson speak offstage and in interviews, and you'll find that his voice bears a striking resemblance to the voice of Early Cuyler, the foul-mouthed, alcoholic patriarch of the Adult Swim cartoon Squidbillies. Cuyler’s fondness for “party-liquor,” womanizing, and overall raucous attitude also shadow Hinson’s fondness for such commodities. The show’s credits also reveal references to contributions from “Stuart Daniel Baker” in the first two seasons and “Unknown Hinson” in the third.
Now, you can dismiss Unknown Hinson as merely a comedy-act perpetrated by a methodic actor, but some of us like to think that there is somebody out there who epitomizes the true spirit of the country music mentality. Someone who sings away our woes, after we are unfairly wronged by trifling lovers, with sentiments like, “You’ve done some ugly things…for such a purty girl!”
21 Chart-toppers (1999)
The Future is Unknown (2000)
Rock n Roll is Straight From Hell (2002)
The Future is Unknown (2004, re-release)
Target Practice (2006)
Unknown Hinson: Live and Undead (2008)