Hank Thompson passes away
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Hank Thompson passes away

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 – Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Thompson, who was known for "The Wild Side of Life," passed away at his residence in Keller, Texas, on Tuesday.

"He was battling aggressive lung cancer," Thompson spokesman and Heart of Texas Records President Tracy Pitcox said. "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."

Thompson was born on Sept. 2, 1925, in Waco, Texas. He grew up idolizing musicians like Jimmie Rodgers, Gene Autry, the Carter Family and Vernon Dalhart. Thompson began playing the guitar and working local talent shows as a teenager. His first radio program was on WACO where he was featured as "Hank The Hired Hand."

"I had a local morning program on WACO," Thompson recalled in the book 'Legendary Conversations'. "It was for a grocery store and flour company there in town. It was just me and my guitar. I would pick and sing and then go back on Saturday afternoons and sing for the folks down at the store. I got in the professional part of the business at a very early age."

After graduating from high school, Thompson joined the Navy as an electrical engineer which he would continue to study at Princeton after the service. In 1946, he formed his first band The Brazos Valley Boys.

"I did not use the band on my radio broadcast," Thompson said. "We would go out and work some of the schoolhouses together. After I left Waco and moved to Dallas, I formed a more permanent group around 1950. We started with the heavy emphasis on Western Swing and what we kind of call the Honkytonk Swing." People liked that kind of music because they could dance to it."

In 1946, he recorded his first single, "Whoa Sailor" for Globe Records. He then recorded for Bluebonnet before catching the attention of Tex Ritter. He helped Thompson obtain a recording contract with Capitol Records in 1947. He would remain on their roster for more than 18 years.

Thompson's first major hit for Capitol was the nursery rhyme influenced "Humpty Dumpty Heart" in 1949 followed by his signature song "The Wild Side of Life." That song inspired an answer song in the form of "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" recorded by Kitty Wells. It became the first number one song by a female in country.

"I had no idea that the 'Wild Side of Life' would become a hit record" Thompson said. "I really wasn't that excited about the song. It actually came out as the B side of the record. We recorded it because it had been popular by Jimmie Heap and the Melodymasters in Taylor, Texas. After the A side made a little splash, the disc jockeys turned it over, and it became a smash hit."

Thompson was the first country entertainer to travel with his own light and sound system, the first to have a corporate sponsor, the first to record in high fidelity stereo and the first to broadcast his television show in color.

In 1961, Thompson recorded the historic album "Live At The Golden Nugget," the first live album ever recorded.

Thompson would also help several fellow musicians begin their career in country including Jean Shepard, Wanda Jackson, Billy Walker, Merle Travis and Little Joe Carson.

Thompson recording career would continue to flourish with staple songs including "Blackboard of My Heart" "Green Light" "On Tap In The Can or In The Bottle" "King of Western Swing" and "A Six Pack To Go."

He recorded 21 songs that reached the top 20 on the charts and sold more than 60 million records during his career. Thompson became the first country entertainer to record in seven different decades.

After leaving Capitol in 1965, Thompson would go on to record projects for Warner Brothers, ABC Dot, MCA, Curb, HighTone and his last project "My Personal Favorites" on his own independent label.

The last performance that Thompson made was in Waco, Texas, on Oct. 8. It was declared Hank Thompson Day in the state of Texas.

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

"I guess that is the single most important thing that has ever happened in my career," Thompson said. "I don't think there is anything that actually epitomizes an industry any more that to be put into a very select group of your peers like the Hall of Fame."

"Mr. Thompson requested that he not have a traditional funeral service," Pitcox said. "He wanted a 'Celebration of Life' ceremony. We are currently in the planning stages of that event, and it will be open to Mr. Thompson's many fans and friends in the Ft. Worth area."

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made in Thompson's name to the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum 1701 South Bridge St., Brady, Texas 76825.

More news for Hank Thompson

CD reviews for Hank Thompson

CD review - The Quintessential Hank Thompson 1948-1979 Hank Thompson is a true legend of country music, and his vast legacy is examined with this single-disc career retrospective that expertly summarizes the three-decade period that marked the heyday of Thompson's career both in terms of popularity and creativity. Compiled and distributed by the noted reissue specialists at Australia's Raven Records, this 30-track set covers Thompson's best work for a variety of labels including Capitol Records Nashville, Dot Records and MCA Records. ...
This is the kind of album a major country artist would be unlikely to release these days: An entire album of nothing but songs about drinking beer and hanging out in bars! Released in 1966, 2 years after Thompson had left his longtime label, Capitol Records, "A Six Pack to Go" was a collection of tracks recorded between 1950 ("A Broken Heart and a Glass of Beer") and 1962 (a re-recording of his earlier hit "The Wild Side of Life"). In spite of the fact that recording technology changed a great ...
The concept is simple enough: reintroduce Hank Thompson to a new generation by teaming him with (mostly) younger performers on a collection of new material and remakes of his old hits. In many cases - and with an unsympathetic producer - this can be a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, Thompson has taken his time with the project and, just as importantly, found a strong right arm in producer Bill Millet, whose warm, rich sound is a welcome antidote to the cold digital sheen found on most modern ...

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