Hank Thompson (musician)

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Hank Thompson
Thompson in 1966
Thompson in 1966
Background information
Birth nameHenry William Thompson
Born(1925-09-03)September 3, 1925
Waco, Texas, U.S.
DiedNovember 6, 2007(2007-11-06) (aged 82)
Keller, Texas, U.S.
GenresCountry, western swing
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active1946–2007

Henry William Thompson (September 3, 1925 – November 6, 2007)[1] was an American country music singer-songwriter and musician 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. Thompson pursued a "light" version of the Western swing sound that Bob Wills and others played; 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 2013 game Grand Theft Auto V featured his song "It Don't Hurt Anymore" in the fictional radio show, Rebel Radio.

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 Jeff Bridges in an Academy Award-winning performance.[2][3]


Born in Waco, Texas, United States,[4] 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.[4] Later that year, after having regional hits with his first single "Whoa Sailor" for Globe Records, Dallas (Globe 124) and almost simultaneously "California Women" for another Dallas label (Blue Bonnet 123), he chose to pursue a full-time musical career.[4]

1952 brought his first number-one single, "The Wild Side of Life", which contained the memorable line, "I didn't know God made honky-tonk angels".[4] (This line inspired songwriter J. D. "Jay" Miller to write the 1952 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 for Thompson followed in quick succession in the 1950s and 1960s.[4]

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, he 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.[4]

From 1947 to 1964, he recorded for Capitol Records,[5] 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 from the 1940s to 2000s.

Thompson was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989,[5] 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 was on October 8, 2007, in Waco, Texas, his birthplace. A smoker for most of his adult life, Thompson was admitted into a Texas hospital in mid-October for shortness of breath. He was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of lung cancer. On November 1, 2007, two days after being released, Thompson cancelled the rest of his 2007 "Sunset Tour" and retired from singing. He went into hospice care at his home in Keller, Texas, and died five days later, on November 6, 2007, aged 82.[1]

According to Thompson's spokesman, Tracy Pitcox, 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 Ft. Worth country and western nightclub that bills itself as the World's Largest Honky-Tonk.[6]



Year Album US Country Label
1952 Hank Thompson Favorites Capitol
1955 Songs of the Brazos Valley
North of the Rio Grande
1956 New Recordings of Hank Thompson's All-Time Hits
1957 Hank!
1958 Hank Thompson's Dance Ranch
1959 Favorite Waltzes by Hank Thompson
Songs for Rounders
1960 Most of All
This Broken Heart of Mine
1961 An Old Love Affair
At the Golden Nugget
1962 The No. 1 Country & Western Band
Cheyenne Frontier Days
1963 The Best of Hank Thompson
At the State Fair of Texas
1964 Golden Country Hits 6
It's Christmas Time with Hank Thompson
1965 Breakin' in Another Heart 18
Luckiest Heartache in Town 17
1966 A Six Pack to Go 19
Breakin' the Rules 22
Where Is the Circus 6 Warner
1967 The Best of Hank Thompson Vol. 2 34 Capitol
The Countrypolitan Sound Warner
The Gold Standard Collection of Hank Thompson 42
Just an Old Flame Capitol
1968 Hank Thompson Sings the Gold Standards Dot
On Tap, In the Can, Or in the Bottle 42
1969 Smoky the Bar 16
Hank Thompson Salutes Oklahoma 38
1971 Next Time I Fall in Love (I Won't) 22
Hank Thompson's 25th Anniversary Album 24
1972 Cab Driver (A Salute to the Mills Brothers) 10
Hank Thompson's Greatest Hits Vol. 1 34
1973 Kindly Keep It Country 22
1974 Moving On 37
1975 Sings Nat King Cole
1976 Back in the Swing of Things 48
1977 The Thompson Touch
Doin' My Things
1978 Brand New Hank ABC
1980 Take Me Back to Tulsa MCA
1982 One Thousand and One Nighters Churchill
1986 Hank Thompspn Dot/MCA
1988 Here's to Country Music Step One
1997 Real Thing: Hank Thompson and Friends Curb
2000 Seven Decades Hightone
2013 Pathway Of My Life Bear Family


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US
CAN Country
1948 "Humpty Dumpty Heart" 2 singles 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" 1 27 Hank Thompson Favorites
"Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart" 3
"The New Wears Off Too Fast" 10 singles only
1953 "You're Walking On My Heart" 21
"No Help Wanted" 9
"Rub-a-Dub-Dub" 1 Songs of the Brazos Valley
"Yesterday's Girl" 8
"Wake Up, Irene" 1 singles 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" 22 At the Golden Nugget
1960 "A Six Pack to Go" 10 102
"She's Just a Whole Lot Like You" 14 99
1961 "Oklahoma Hills" 7 Cheyenne Frontier Days
"Teach Me How to Lie" 25
"Hangover Tavern" 12
1962 "I Cast A Lonesome Shadow" single only
1963 "I Wasn't Even in the Running" 23 Luckiest Heartache in Town
"Too in Love" 22 single only
1964 "Twice as Much" 45 Luckiest Heartache in Town
1965 "Then I'll Start Believing in You" 42
1966 "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down" 134 Golden Country Hits
"Where Is the Circus" 15 Where Is the Circus
1967 "He's Got a Way with Women" 16 On Tap, In the Can, Or in the Bottle
1968 "On Tap, In the Can, Or in the Bottle" 7 12
"Smoky the Bar" 5 9 Smoky the Bar
1969 "I See Them Everywhere" 47
"The Pathway of My Life" 46 Next Time I Fall in Love (I Won't)
"Oklahoma Home Brew" 60 Hank Thompson Salutes Oklahoma
1970 "But That's All Right" 54 Next Time I Fall in Love (I Won't)
"One of the Fortunate Few" 69
1971 "Next Time I Fall in Love (I Won't)" 15 36
"The Mark of a Heel" 18 18
"I've Come Awful Close" 11 19 Hank Thompson's 25th Anniversary Album
1972 "Cab Driver" 16 13 Cab Driver (A Salute to the Mills Brothers)
"Glow Worm" 53
1973 "Roses in the Wine" 70 single only
"Kindly Keep It Country" 48 45 Kindly Keep It Country
1974 "The Older the Violin, The Sweeter the Music" 8 4
"Who Left the Door to Heaven Open" 10 12 Moving On
1975 "Mama Don't 'Low" 29
"That's Just My Truckin' Luck" 70 single only
"Mona Lisa" Sings Nat King Cole
1976 "Asphalt Cowboy" 72 single only
"Big Band Days" 86 Back in the Swing of Things
1977 "Honky Tonk Girl" (re-recording) 91
"Just an Old Flame" 92 The Thompson Touch
1978 "I'm Just Gettin' By" 92 Brand New Hank
1979 "Dance with Me Molly" 88
"I Hear the South Callin' Me" 29 47
1980 "Tony's Tank-Up, Drive-In Cafe" 32 42
"You're Poppin' Tops" Take Me Back to Tulsa
"King of Western Swing"
1981 "Rockin' in the Congo" (re-recording) 82 One Thousand and One Nighters
1982 "Cocaine Blues"
"Driving Nails in My Coffin"
1983 "Once in a Blue Moon" 82 single 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]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Hank Thompson Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  2. ^ Cobb, Thomas (1987). Crazy Heart. San Francisco: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-015803-4.
  3. ^ Lewis, Randy (2009-12-28). "Hank Thompson: 'Crazy Heart's' real-life Bad Blake". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 441/2. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  5. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1995). The Guinness Who's Who of Blues (Second ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 348/9. ISBN 0-85112-673-1.
  6. ^ "Honky Tonk Great Hank Thompson Dies - AOL News". November 9, 2007. Archived from the original on November 9, 2007. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 893. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.


  • Rumble, John. (1998). "Hank Thompson". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music 1st edition 1998. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 536–7.

External links[edit]