Archive for Hank Thompson

Country-music legend was truly one of a kind

Posted in Artists, RIP with tags , on November 14, 2007 by takecountryback


Star-Telegram staff writer

Hank Thompson was never without a smile or a swagger. He was the perfect lifelong ambassador of that happy postwar period of the late 1940s and early 1950s when his honky-tonk hits topped the country-music charts.

Thompson, 82, died last week at his home in Keller, after a battle with lung cancer. He leaves a legacy of country classics and darn-good memories for those lucky enough to have personally crossed paths with him.

Hank wasn’t one for funerals. Would you expect anything else of someone whose songs had titles like Humpty Dumpty Heart and Whoa, Sailor? So instead, his friends, fans and music-business types will be congregating at Billy Bob’s Texas this afternoon for an affectionate send-off that will be a lot more entertaining than tear-jerking.

After all, Hank leaves behind so much colorful material.

He was about to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville when I first interviewed him years ago. He answered his door wearing a yellow jacket resplendent in sequined wagon wheels, spurs and the like. A huge white cowboy hat sat atop his head and a pair of denim shorts showed off his less-than-lovely knees.

Photographer and reporter both gasped, and Hank’s rich, loud laughter boomed out onto the porch, making us hurry inside before we became the joke instead.

Interviewing Hank was talking to a legend, hearing firsthand about his signature hit The Wild Side of Life and Kitty Wells’ classic reply It Wasn’t God Who Made Honkytonk Angels. Even better was listening to albums in Hank’s living room, albums that included the first live recording by a country star (Hank Thompson: Live at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas).

He and his wife, Ann, knew how to be hospitable, how to make a question-and-answer interview seem like a neighborly visit. Hank liked game hunting, and he really loved making elk chili, doves and dumplings, and warm homemade bread to go with them. He enjoyed a glass of good wine. His back yard usually had a new grill or smoker, and he could whet your appetite just talking about the last hunk of meat he basted and barbecued.

Hank lived in the present, even with such a stellar past. He was a happy camper when many of his contemporaries were singing sad songs about bygone days. Ten years ago this week, the Star-Telegram ran a story about him releasing a new album, on a major label (Curb) and planning to chart a single from it so he could say he’d charted one for six consecutive decades.“It’s a lot easier doing it this way, than in six non-consecutive decades,” he joked.

The name of the single? You’ve Gotta Sell Them Chickens Before They Die (And the Eggs Before They Hatch).

He wasn’t afraid to be critical of the music business, and by the late 1990s, he had seen enough to give an outsider the lay of the land. Hank decried an industry that he saw becoming more narrow, more repetitive and less open to the originality he had known in his heyday.

“You couldn’t come along and do the same thing somebody else was doing,” he said. “You had to be original. I had a problem starting out, because I sounded too much like Ernest Tubb.

It didn’t take long for Hank to find his own voice, and its influence echoes still. Six Pack to Go and Oklahoma Hills have been covered by top contemporary artists such as Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett and Junior Brown.

When Hank was a curly-haired cowboy singer trying to make it after the Navy, he once penned an autograph to himself on a publicity photo. It read, “To Hank Thompson, very best of luck. Hope you get somewhere, kid!”Well, he did, and happily, Hank took thousands of other people along for the ride.This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Remembering HankA celebration of country legend Hank Thompson’s life will occur at Billy Bob’s Texas in the Fort Worth Stockyards, from 2 to 5 p.m. today. No need to bring Kleenex, you can bet this is gonna be festive. Plan to jam to some good ol’ country tunes.

Call 817-624-7117.
SHIRLEY JINKINS, 817-548-5565

King of Western Swing Hank Thompson dies at 82

Posted in Artists, News, RIP, Texas Music, YouTube with tags , on November 8, 2007 by takecountryback

U.S. country singer Hank Thompson has died of lung cancer, just days after cancelling a tour and announcing his retirement. He was 82.

Thompson died late Tuesday at his home in Fort Worth, Tex., according his spokesman, Tracy Pitcox, who is also president of Heart of Texas Records.

Country music singer Hank Thompson, shown in 1989, had 29 songs reach the Top 10 between 1948 and 1974. Country music singer Hank Thompson, shown in 1989, had 29 songs reach the Top 10 between 1948 and 1974.
(Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)

“He was battling aggressive lung cancer,” Pitcox said Wednesday in a statement. “He remained conscious until the last couple of hours and passed away peacefully at about 10:45 p.m. on Tuesday night, surrounded by his friends and family.”

He announced his retirement just last weekend, ending a U.S. tour.

Thompson’s Brazos Valley Boys were voted Billboard magazine’s touring band of the year 14 straight times in the 1950s and 1960s.

He developed a style of music known as Western Swing, that combined a big band sound with fiddle and steel guitar and he became known as the King of Western Swing.

Thompson had 29 hits reach the Top 10 on country music charts between 1948 and 1974 and sold more than 60 million albums in a six-decade career.

Born Sept. 3, 1925 in Waco, Texas, Thompson took an early interest in music, winning several amateur contests on the harmonica.

He learned to play guitar and by the time he was in high school, he was broadcasting over radio station WACO as Hank the Hired Hand.

After serving in the U.S. Navy as a radio technician during the Second World War, Thompson entered Princeton University to pursue electrical engineering. He soon decided to give that up to chase his musical dream.

In 1946, he started the Brazos Valley Boys, which made its first recording, Whoa, Sailor that same year.

They started out in small clubs and Texas honky-tonks and moved on to play Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Palladium, the Smithsonian Institution and Las Vegas.

In 1952, his album The Wild Side of Life reached No. 1. Some of his best-known songs include Humpty Dumpty Heart, The Wild Side of Life and A Six Pack to Go.

Thompson, with his background in electronics was a bit of an innovator and racked up a number of firsts according to his website including:

  • First act to tour with a sound and lighting system.
  • First to receive corporate tour sponsorship.
  • First to record a live album, Hank Thompson, Live At The Golden Nugget In Las Vegas, released in 1960.
  • First country music show to play in Las Vegas.
  • First to record in hi-fi stereo.

The Hank Thompson Show, telecast over WKY in Oklahoma City in the early ’50s, was the first colour broadcast of a variety show.

Thompson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and then the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997.

Thompson’s last show was Oct. 8 in his hometown of Waco. That day was declared “Hank Thompson Day” by Gov. Rick Perry and Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy.

A celebration of his life and music is planned for Nov. 17 in Fort Worth and donations in his name are requested for The Heart of Texas country Music Museum in Brady, Texas.

With files from the Associated Press

Country Music Pioneer Hank Thompson Retires

Posted in Artists with tags on November 6, 2007 by takecountryback

from CMT

Country Music Hall of Fame member Hank Thompson has announced his retirement from a career that has spanned seven decades. Thompson, 82, was released from the hospital Wednesday (Oct. 31) after being diagnosed with an undisclosed illness. He is recovering at his home near Fort Worth, Texas. A honky-tonk singer and leader of his band, the Brazos Valley Boys, Thompson scored a total of 29 Top 10 singles, including “The Wild Side of Life,” which spent 15 weeks at No. 1 in 1949. Other hits include “Humpty Dumpty Heart,” “Rub-a-Dub-Dub” and “A Six Pack to Go.” Thompson, who has canceled all of his tour dates, last performed on Oct. 8 in Waco, Texas, his birthplace.

Hank Thompson to be honored

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 12, 2007 by takecountryback

Country Music Legend Hank Thompson will be honored in his hometown  whenhe performs at 5:30pm  on October 8th at The Heart  O’ Texas Fair in Waco. Governor Rick  Perry and Mayor Virginia DuPuy have declared  October 8, 2007, “Hank Thompson Day” in The State of Texas and in The City of Waco.

Few country music artists can claim a longevity and track record to equal that of Hank Thompson. Between 1948 and 1974 he scored no less than twenty-nine Top Ten hits, with another nineteen in the Top Twenty, and continued to chart into the 1980s. Many of these, including “Green Light,” “Whoa Sailor,” and “Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart,” he penned himself, thus proving his stature in country music’s great singer-songwriter tradition. Along the way Thompson forged a potent blend of honky-tonk and western swing that has long served as a source of continuity amid country’s experimentation with rock and pop sounds.

Like many country stars, Henry William Thompson took an early interest in music, winning several amateur contests on the harmonica. After he became enthralled by cowboy movie idol Gene Autry, however, the guitar became Thompson’s instrument of choice. With a Christmas present from his parents, a four-dollar guitar bought at a secondhand store, young Hank was on his way. By the time he finished high school he was broadcasting over radio station WACO as Hank the Hired Hand, sponsored by a local flour company.

After graduating, Thompson enlisted in the U.S. Navy. While stationed in San Diego, he persuaded his superiors to let him play area clubs, and after putting out to sea, he entertained his shipmates as well. He kept on broadcasting, too, over a network of small stations organized by American military personnel in the South Pacific. While in the navy he also took advantage of training programs and studied electrical engineering at Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas, and Princeton University—making him one of country music’s better-educated stars.

Although he pondered an engineering career after his navy stint was over, radio work and his first hit record, “Whoa Sailor,” kept him on a show business track. Assisted by prominent DJ Hal Horton of the 50,000-watt KRLD in Dallas, this Globe Records release became a minor regional success. Thompson also recorded four sides with the Blue Bonnet label before Tex Ritter, then a prominent star on Capitol Records, helped him gain a contract with this larger, major label. During 1948–1949 Thompson justified Ritter’s faith in him with hits such as “Humpty Dumpty Heart” (based on the children’s nursery rhyme), “Green Light,” and a remake of “Whoa, Sailor.”

During the 1950s Thompson’s  songwriting talents,  smooth baritone, precise diction, and powerful combination of western swing and honky-tonk sounds helped him continue his string of hits. The year 1952 brought his first #1 disc, “The Wild Side of Life,” a song that inspired the hit that launched Kitty Wells’s career: “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels.” Subsequent Thompson chartmakers of the 1950s included “Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart,” “Rub-A-Dub-Dub,” “Yesterday’s Girl,” “Wake Up, Irene,” “Honky Tonk Girl,” “Most of All,” “The Blackboard of My Heart,” and “Squaws Along the Yukon,” all in the Top Ten.

During these years Thompson also made inroads into television, hosting a variety show on WKY-TV in Oklahoma City from 1954 to 1957. In addition, he was one of the earliest country performers to entertain in Las Vegas showrooms, and he recorded one of country’s first live albums, Live at the Golden Nugget, there in 1960. Meanwhile, he brought his engineering knowledge to bear on his stage show and built top-flight sound and lighting systems that heightened his drawing power at the more than 250 show dates he typically played each year. Thanks to his musical and technical leadership, his Brazos Valley Boys were Billboard’s top-ranked band from 1953 to 1965, a record that has yet to be equaled.

Into the 1960s and beyond, Thompson’s easy manner made him a welcome guest on network TV variety shows, as did a dynamic stage presence magnified by his size (he stands six feet, two inches tall); a rough-hewn, handsome appearance; and custom-made western outfits for which he became famous. But following “A Six Pack to Go” (#10, 1960) and “Oklahoma Hills” (#7,1961), he didn’t make the Top Ten again until 1968’s “On Tap, in the Can, or in the Bottle” and “Smoky the Bar,” both recorded early in his association with Dot Records, which he began after a brief stay at Warner Bros. in the late 1960s. Two more Top Ten hits came in 1974, but the 1970s belonged to country pop, and Thompson’s chart success dwindled to the point where he pared down his road schedule and spent more time hunting or tending to his various real-estate, broadcasting, and music publishing interests.

In the 1980s, however, as harder-edged sounds enjoyed renewed popularity, Thompson hit the road again in earnest, playing dates in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America as well as in the United States. He also kept recording, and he signed with Nashville’s Step One Records in 1987. In 1997 Curb Records released Hank Thompson and Friends, a critically acclaimed collection of duets pairing Thompson with Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, George Jones, Kitty Wells, and others. Thompson’s 2000 HighTone Records album Seven Decades featured his sure handling of both new material and classic country songs he’d never recorded before. Thompson’s hard-core honky-tonk–western swing sound—marked by a strong rhythm section of piano, bass, guitar, and drums; lead and fill parts supplied by twin fiddles, electric guitar, and steel; frequent shifts from 2/4 to 4/4 time, and above all his powerful vocals—continues to influence country artists such as George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, Asleep at the Wheel, and others among country’s newer generation.

Hank Thompson was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989. He still performs  throughout the world.   He and his  wife of 37 years,  Ann, reside in the Fort Worth area.

For ticket information to the event, please contact the Heart O’ Texas Fair ticket office at  254.776.1660