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Remember When Hank Williams Jr. Had a Near-Fatal Accident?

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Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Hank Williams Jr., had a near-fatal accident in 1975 that changed the entire course of his life and career.

The country icon went climbing on Ajax Peak in Beaverhead County, Mont., on Aug. 8, 1975. The snow beneath him collapsed, and Williams fell 440 feet, fracturing his skull in multiple places. Williams was not expected to live, and his recovery took multiple surgeries over two years. He was buoyed by some old family friends, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

“Many people don’t realize that June Carter Cash was my godmother. She and Mother were very tight. When I fell, there were only two people I saw when I woke up in the hospital bed, and that was Johnny and June,” Williams recalls to Rolling Stone Country. “June put a cross on me and told me it was all going to be OK. I never knew if I would sing again or not, talk again or not, let alone think about what I was going to look like. It was a scary time, but having people like Waylon [Jennings], Johnny and June around really helped me.”

Country Singers’ Craziest Near-Death Experiences

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Williams’ then-girlfriend and future second wife, Becky White, also stood by him, though they’d met just one week before his fall.

“Twenty-four hours after admitting we loved each other, I became a monster on a mountainside with most of my face gone,” the singer tells People magazine.

Williams not only survived, he came out stronger. His 1975 album Hank Williams Jr. and Friends introduced fans to a new sound from the singer, who had previously followed more in the vein of his famous father. Coupled with the full beard and sunglasses that he wore from then on to disguise his scars, it proved a winning combination, heralding a new career direction that would see him become one of the biggest names in country music over the course of the next decade.

Stars Who’ve Suffered Terrible Tragedy

You Think You Know Hank Williams, Jr.?

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NEXT: Remember What Song Was Hank Williams, Jr.'s First No. 1 Hit?

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