A Country-music Duet Born Of High-tech It's Video Magic: Hank Williams Jr. And Sr. Singing "There's A Tear In My Beer."

Posted: March 16, 1989

Country music takes a lot of shots for being sentimental, maudlin, even morbid stuff, but its fans understand that that's also what makes the music great. Right now, an amazing example of just this unique quality is turning into the country-music event of the year: a "duet" between country superstar Hank Williams Jr. and his father, Hank Williams, who died in 1953.

The song is called "There's a Tear in My Beer" - did someone say something about maudlin? - and it's been created by taking old tapes of Hank Sr. and having Hank Jr. sing along with them. This is certainly interesting, especially since the recording of Hank Sr. singing this composition was never released until now.

But the real stunner is the music video that has been made to accompany ''There's a Tear in My Beer." It features Hank Jr. performing with his father - we see them crooning side by side. Yet the elder Williams was never filmed singing this song. How is this possible?

Modern technology, how else?

Director Ethan Russell has taken vintage footage of Hank Sr. performing his song "Hey Good Lookin' " on a 1952 edition of Kate Smith's TV variety show. He slowed down the film to match the dolorous tempo of "There's a Tear in My Beer" - Williams Sr. is even strumming his guitar in time to the new tune - and then footage of Hank Jr. was superimposed onto the old film.

So far, reasonably impressive, right? But how is it that Hank Sr.'s mouth is actually forming the words to "There's a Tear in My Beer" and not "Hey Good Lookin' "?

Russell hired actor Dennis Stone, who apparently bears a slight resemblance to the elder Williams, to lip-sync the song, and footage of Stone's singing lips have been inserted over Williams' mouth in the video. "We used a soft- edged dissolve between the Hank Sr. footage and the camera image of the actor's lips to position the lips onto Hank Sr.'s jaw," Russell said recently.

If that all sounds kind of cut-and-paste, one look at the video will probably convince you that this is an awfully well-executed stunt. The 39- year-old Hank Jr., who was 3 when his father died, has achieved the sort of team-up that will delight country music fans and Freudian analysts alike.

The video carries a certain emotional jolt. It begins with Hank Jr. sitting in an old recording studio as rain and thunder rumble outside. There's a flash of lightning, and Williams sees the silhouette of his father outlined in the frosted glass of the studio door. He opens the door to a father in mid-song, and then Hank Jr. steps up alongside his dad to complete the number.

Although the video is a new idea, it should be noted this is not the first time Hank Jr. has sung with his father. In 1965, the album Father and Son offered a series of such simulated duets.

The "Tear in My Beer" video is airing regularly on cable television's Nashville Network and VH-1.

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