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Vampirism, hard time, booze and stress relief through random gunfire: Unknown Hinson is the most rock 'n' roll cat to ever dismiss the genre as something "a damn 15-year-old punk can do."
But thanks to his darkly funny, politically incorrect songs and blazing rockabilly riffs, Hinson is gaining popularity with the very rockers he despises.
More than one fan—including his buddy Hank Williams III—sports the ultimate display of devotion: an Unknown Hinson portrait tattoo. And this rabid cult following helped land him a voice-acting gig on Cartoon Network's Squidbillies, on which he plays the gun-loving Early Cuyler and is given plenty of room to improvise.
"I think his life kindly parallels mine in a couple ways," Hinson says. "He does colorful language from time to time, and he shoots a gun and he has a dental problem. He picks git-tar and sangs, and he loves to chase womerns and party liquors. So there's similarities between Unknown Hinson and Early Cuyler, I reckon."
As you've probably guessed, Hinson speaks with a very pronounced Southern accent—and has love for all things Southern too. Like most Southern country boys, Hinson has a deep affection for the Second Amendment; he's known to pack a .38, though he says he doesn't always take it on the road. Audience members need not worry, as long as Hinson doesn't get stressed out onstage.
"I don't never point it at nothin'," he says matter-of-factly. "I certainly don't shoot it at nothin'. I just like to fire it, you know? It's kindly a stress reliever for me. Some people like to jog or squeeze a tennis ball to relieve stress. I like to fire a .38. I just like the sound of it."
Hinson generally doesn't like the sound of rock 'n' roll, though. While he praises acts like Hank III and Dallas' own Reverend Horton Heat ("I consider them to be fellow troubadours," Hinson says), it might be wise to take his praise with a grain of salt: Hinson says the same thing about Billy Bob Thornton, on whose upcoming record he recorded a few "git-tar" solos.
Still, he knows the legends, and he respects them—to an extent.
"Them Beatles, they took drugs and all, but they wrote some pretty good songs," he says. "They done all right. Every now and then, I'll play a song by Jimi Hendrix.
"Country and western is my forte," says the rockabilly favorite. "It's my first love. But I will play some rock in my shows as a disclaimer, just to show young folks it don't take no talent. Country and western takes talent."
But Hinson won't confirm or deny whether his talents include bloodsucking, as he discusses the rumors that he's also a 400-year-old vampire. He believes the rumblings started after he was charged with grave-robbing and vampirism along with the murder charge in the "trumped-up" case that sent him to the joint from 1963 to 1993. He compared believing in his vampirism to believing in Santa Claus, saying that it doesn't bother him if it makes his fans happy. However, he did not go so far as to deny it.
"The gothic young'erns that listens to gothic rock and whatnot, with all the black makeup and lipstick and fangernails, they come up and see me and think 'vampire' cuz I got jet-black hair with a widder's peak, black eyebrows and two pointy teeth, and I dress in black," he said. "If they want to think I'm a Dracula, that's fine with me, because I think Dracula was a well-dressed man. I ain't never sucked anybody, I swear on that."
Speaking of Unknown Hinson rumors: Some have whispered that he doesn't actually exist, but is simply a giant put-on perpetrated with makeup and pasted-on sideburns by Charlotte, North Carolina, musician Danny Baker. Unlike his noncommittal response to the vampire rumor, Hinson denies that accusation. He claims that Baker is nothing more than an obsessed fan.