Hank Thompson (musician)

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Hank Thompson
Hank Thompson 1966.JPG
Hank Thompson in 1966.
Background information
Birth nameHenry William Thompson
Born(1925-09-03)September 3, 1925
Waco, Texas, USA
DiedNovember 6, 2007(2007-11-06) (aged 82)
Western swing
Occupation(s)singer and songwriter
Instrumentselectric guitar
Years active1946–2007
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For Henry William Thompson the South Australian politician, see Henry W. Thompson (politician).
Hank Thompson
Hank Thompson 1966.JPG
Hank Thompson in 1966.
Background information
Birth nameHenry William Thompson
Born(1925-09-03)September 3, 1925
Waco, Texas, USA
DiedNovember 6, 2007(2007-11-06) (aged 82)
Western swing
Occupation(s)singer and songwriter
Instrumentselectric guitar
Years active1946–2007

Henry William Thompson (September 3, 1925 – November 6, 2007), known professionally as Hank Thompson, was an American country music entertainer whose career spanned seven decades.

Thompson's musical style, characterized as honky tonk Western swing, was a mixture of fiddles, electric guitar and steel guitar that featured his distinctive, smooth baritone vocals.

His backing band, The Brazos Valley Boys, was voted the top Country Western Band for 14 years in a row by Billboard. The primary difference between his music and that of Bob Wills was that Thompson, who used the swing beat and instrumentation to enhance his vocals, discouraged the intense instrumental soloing from his musicians that Wills encouraged; however, the "Hank Thompson sound" exceeded Bob Wills in Top 40 country hits.

Although not as prominent on the top country charts in later decades, Thompson remained a recording artist and concert draw well into his 80s.

The 1987 novel Crazy Heart by Thomas Cobb was inspired by Thompson's life, specifically by his practice of picking up a local band to back him when he toured. In 2009 Cobb's novel was turned into a successful film directed by Scott Cooper and starring Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges.[1][2]


Born in Waco, Texas, Thompson was interested in music from an early age and won several amateur harmonica contests. He decided to pursue his musical talent after serving in the United States Navy in World War II as a radioman and studying electrical engineering at Princeton University before his discharge. He had intended to continue those studies on the GI Bill following his 1946 discharge and return to Waco. Later that year, after having a regional hit with his first single was "Whoa Sailor" for Blue Bonnet Records, he chose to pursue a full-time musical career.

1952 brought his first No. 1 disc, "The Wild Side of Life," which contained the memorable line "I didn't know God made honky-tonk angels" (which inspired songwriter J.D. Miller to write the answer song, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels") which became the first hit single for pioneer female country vocalist Kitty Wells. Other hits followed in quick succession in the 1950s and 1960s.

Hank Thompson poster

Thompson began singing in a plaintive honky tonk style similar to that of Ernest Tubb but desiring to secure more engagements in the dance halls of the Southwest, reconfigured his band, the Brazos Valley Boys, to play a "light" version of the Western swing sound that Bob Wills and others made famous, emphasizing the dance beat and meticulous arrangements.

From 1947 to 1965, he recorded for Capitol Records, then joined Warner Bros. Records, where he remained from 1966 through 1967. From 1968 through 1980, he recorded for Dot Records and its successors, ABC Dot and MCA Records. In 1997, Thompson released Hank Thompson and Friends, a collection of solo tracks and duets with some of country music's most popular performers. In 2000, he released a new album, Seven Decades, on the Hightone label. The title reflected his recording history during the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

Thompson was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997. He continued touring throughout the U.S. until shortly before he became ill. Often, he worked with a reconstituted version of the Brazos Valley Boys that included a few original members.

Retirement and death[edit]

Thompson's last public performance had been on October 8, 2007 in his birthplace of Waco, Texas. Like many men of his generation, Thompson had been a smoker for most of his adult life, and had been admitted into a Texas hospital in mid-October for shortness of breath. After having been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of lung cancer, Thompson canceled the rest of his 2007 "Sunset Tour" on November 1, 2007, two days after being released, and retired from singing. He then went into hospice care at his home in Keller, Texas and lost his battle with the disease five days later on November 6, 2007, aged eighty-two.

According to his spokesman Tracy Pitcox, also president of Heart of Texas Records, Thompson requested that no funeral be held. On November 14, a "celebration of life," open to both fans and friends, took place at Billy Bob's Texas, a Fort Worth, Texas country and Western nightclub that bills itself as The World's Largest Honky Tonk.[3]



YearAlbumUS CountryLabel
1952Hank Thompson FavoritesCapitol
1955Songs of the Brazos Valley
North of the Rio Grande
1956New Recordings of Hank Thompson's All-Time Hits
1958Hank Thompson's Dance Ranch
1959Favorite Waltzes by Hank Thompson
Songs for Rounders
1960Most of All
This Broken Heart of Mine
1961An Old Love Affair
At the Golden Nugget
1962The No. 1 Country & Western Band
Cheyenne Frontier Days
1963The Best of Hank Thompson
At the State Fair of Texas
1964Golden Country Hits6
It's Christmas Time with Hank Thompson
1965Breakin' in Another Heart18
Luckiest Heartache in Town17
1966A Six Pack to Go19
Breakin' the Rules22
Where Is the Circus6Warner
1967The Best of Hank Thompson Vol. 234Capitol
The Countrypolitan SoundWarner
The Gold Standard Collection of Hank Thompson42
Just an Old FlameCapitol
1968Hank Thompson Sings the Gold StandardsDot
On Tap, In the Can, Or in the Bottle42
1969Smoky the Bar16
Hank Thompson Salutes Oklahoma38
1971Next Time I Fall in Love (I Won't)22
Hank Thompson's 25th Anniversary Album24
1972Cab Driver (A Salute to the Mills Brothers)10
Hank Thompson's Greatest Hits Vol. 134
1973Kindly Keep It Country22
1974Moving On37
1975Sings Nat King Cole
1976Back in the Swing of Things48
1977The Thompson Touch
Doin' My Things
1978Brand New HankABC
1980Take Me Back to TulsaMCA
1982One Thousand and One NightersChurchill
1988Here's to Country MusicStep One
1997Hank Thompson and FriendsCurb
2000Seven DecadesHightone


YearSingleChart PositionsAlbum
US CountryUS
CAN Country
1948"Humpty Dumpty Heart"2singles only
"Yesterday's Mail"12
"Green Light"7
1949"What Are We Gonna Do About the Moonlight"10
"I Find You Cheatin' on Me"14
"You Broke My Heart (In Little Bitty Pieces)"15
"Whoa Sailor"6
"Soft Lips"10
"The Grass Looks Greener Over Yonder"15
1952"The Wild Side of Life"127Hank Thompson Favorites
"Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart"3
"The New Wears Off Too Fast"10singles only
1953"You're Walking On My Heart"21
"No Help Wanted"9
"Rub-a-Dub-Dub"1Songs of the Brazos Valley
"Yesterday's Girl"8
"Wake Up, Irene"1singles only
1954"Breakin' the Rules"10
"A Fooler, A Faker"9
"Honky-Tonk Girl"9
"We've Gone Too Far"10
"The New Green Light" (re-recording)3
1955"If Lovin' You Is Wrong"12
"Annie Over"13
"Wildwood Flower" (with Merle Travis)5
"Breakin' In Another Heart"7
"Most of All"6
"Don't Take It Out on Me"5
"Honey, Honey Bee Ball"flip
1956"The Blackboard of My Heart"4
"I'm Not Mad, Just Hurt"14
1957"Rockin' In the Congo"13
"I Was the First One"flip
"Tears Are Only Rain"14
1958"How Do You Hold a Memory"11
"Squaws Along the Yukon"2
"I've Run Out of Tomorrows"7
1959"You're Going Back to Your Old Ways Again"26
"Anybody's Girl"13
"Total Strangers"25
"I Didn't Mean to Fall in Love"22At the Golden Nugget
1960"A Six Pack to Go"10102
"She's Just a Whole Lot Like You"1499
1961"Oklahoma Hills"7Cheyenne Frontier Days
"Teach Me How to Lie"25
"Hangover Tavern"12
1963"I Wasn't Even in the Running"23Luckiest Heartache in Town
"Too in Love"22single only
1964"Twice as Much"45Luckiest Heartache in Town
1965"Then I'll Start Believing in You"42
1966"Pick Me Up on Your Way Down"134Golden Country Hits
"Where Is the Circus"15Where Is the Circus
1967"He's Got a Way with Women"16On Tap, In the Can, Or in the Bottle
1968"On Tap, In the Can, Or in the Bottle"712
"Smoky the Bar"59Smoky the Bar
1969"I See Them Everywhere"47
"The Pathway of My Life"46Next Time I Fall in Love (I Won't)
"Oklahoma Home Brew"60Hank Thompson Salutes Oklahoma
1970"But That's All Right"54Next Time I Fall in Love (I Won't)
"One of the Fortunate Few"69
1971"Next Time I Fall in Love (I Won't)"1536
"The Mark of a Heel"1818
"I've Come Awful Close"1119Hank Thompson's 25th Anniversary Album
1972"Cab Driver"1613Cab Driver (A Salute to the Mills Brothers)
"Glow Worm"53
1973"Roses in the Wine"70single only
"Kindly Keep It Country"4845Kindly Keep It Country
1974"The Older the Violin, The Sweeter the Music"84
"Who Left the Door to Heaven Open"1012Moving On
1975"Mama Don't 'Low"29
"That's Just My Truckin' Luck"70single only
"Mona Lisa"Sings Nat King Cole
1976"Asphalt Cowboy"72single only
"Big Band Days"86Back in the Swing of Things
1977"Honky Tonk Girl" (re-recording)91
"Just an Old Flame"92The Thompson Touch
1978"I'm Just Gettin' By"92Brand New Hank
1979"Dance with Me Molly"88
"I Hear the South Callin' Me"2947
1980"Tony's Tank-Up, Drive-In Cafe"3242
"You're Poppin' Tops"Take Me Back to Tulsa
"King of Western Swing"
1981"Rockin' in the Congo" (re-recording)82One Thousand and One Nighters
1982"Cocaine Blues"
"Driving Nails in My Coffin"
1983"Once in a Blue Moon"82single only
1988"Here's to Country Music"Here's to Country Music
"Cowgirl Cutie"
1997"Gotta Sell Them Chickens" (with Junior Brown)Hank Thompson and Friends

Music videos[edit]

1997"Gotta Sell Them Chickens" (w/ Junior Brown)Jim Gerik

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cobb, Thomas (1987). Crazy Heart. San Francisco: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-015803-4. 
  2. ^ Lewis, Randy (2009-12-28). "Hank Thompson: 'Crazy Heart's' real-life Bad Blake". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-04-04. 
  3. ^ "Honky Tonk Great Hank Thompson Dies" - Associated Press, 7 November 2007
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 893. ISBN 0-89820-188-8. 


External links[edit]