Western Swing Personalities-Hank Thompson
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In the next several issues of
Pencilstubs, I will try to continue my several articles on the history of
Western Swing. Many, many, comments
have been received directly by me and many more have appeared below the several
articles I have written since the October Issue of 2000.
There are still comments being made on the original article because it is
referenced any time someone just looks for Western
Swing by typing just those two words into a search engine.
Well, let’s face It, I love the referrals, and now just thinking of
that, I feel I should continue to add all the information I can find on an
interesting subject, from all sources beside all the information I have
accumulated over the years from clippings and the backs of old record covers.
Here is another article on a
very interesting person and his band
who did so much for
Keep Posted to This Site!
Year Ago Hank Thompson Died on November 6th at his home
is a remembrance of him and his style of music.
Henry "Hank" William Thompson:
3, 1925, . November 6, 2007
Thompson and The
‘Hank’ Thompson was an entertainer whose career spanned seven decades. He
sold over 60 million records worldwide. Thompson's
musical style should be characterized as ‘Honky Tonk’ Western Swing.
It was a mixture of fiddles, electric guitar and steel guitar that
featured his distinctive, gravelly baritone vocals.
His backing band, The Brazos Valley Boys, was voted the #1
Country Western Band for 14 years in a row by Billboard Magazine. 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 sort of intense instrumental soloing from his musicians that
Wills openly encouraged.
On November 1, 2007, Hank Thompson canceled the rest of his 2007 "Sunset
Tour" and retired from singing, two days after being released from a
diagnosed with lung cancer. He went to his
where he died on November 6th. Thompson's
last performance was on October 8th
According to his spokesman Tracy Pitcox, who is also
president of Heart of Texas Records, Thompson requested that no funeral be held.
On November 14, 2007 a
"celebration of life," open to both fans and friends took place at
country & western nightclub that
bills itself as "The World's Largest Honky Tonk".
Hank 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 Navy in WWII as a radioman and studying electrical engineering at
before his discharge. He had intended to continue those studies on the GI Bill following
his discharge and return to
. Later that year, after having a regional hit with his first single "Whoa
Sailor" for Blue Bonnet he chose to pursue a fulltime musical career.
1952 brought his
first #1 hit, "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 "It wasn’t God Who Made Honky Angles” which became the
first hit single for pioneer female country vocalist Kitty Wells. Other
hits followed in quick succession in the 50s and 60s for Hank
Thompson began singing in a plaintive honky-tonk style
similar to that of Ernest Tubb but desiring to
secure more engagements in the dancehalls of the Southwest, reconfigured his
band, the Brazos Valley Boys, to play a "lite" version of Western Swing that made Bob Wills famous, emphasizing the dance beat and meticulous
Although not as prominent in later decades, he remained an
active and respected performer in the field, finding new audiences as a result
of the resurgence of a harder-edged sound in country music.
From 1948 through 1965 he recorded for Capitol then joined Warner Brothers where he remained through1967. After
that on through1980, he
recorded for Dot Records and its
successors, ABC Dot and MCA.
In 2000 he released a new album ‘Seven Decades’ on the Hightone label closer in sound to his older Capitol material, unlike
the slicker Nashville Sound that permeated most of his Dot material.
Hank Thompson was elected to the Country Music Hall of
Fame in 1989 and was
inducted into the Nashville
Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997.
Thompson continued limited touring, mostly in the West and
Southwest, until shortly before he became ill. Often, he worked with a
reconstituted version of the Brazos Valley Boys that included a few original
Hank Thompson will be sorely missed by those of us who like
his style of ‘Honky Tonk Western Swing’ and a lot of his typical ‘Cryin’
In Your Beer’ style of just pure Honky Tonk.
Actually Hank Thompson is missed by all Music Aficionados
Compiled by Leo C. Helmer, October 22, 2008
For more on Hank Thompson, click Helmer's byline and check Helmer’s articles in
earlier Pencilstubs issues starting in October 2000.