Sue Thompson

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Sue Thompson
Thompson on the cover of Cash Box, 1962
Thompson on the cover of Cash Box, 1962
Background information
Birth nameEva Sue McKee
Born(1925-07-19)July 19, 1925
Nevada, Missouri, U.S.
DiedSeptember 23, 2021(2021-09-23) (aged 96)
Pahrump, Nevada, U.S.
GenresPop, country
Years active1950–1990s

Sue Thompson (born Eva Sue McKee; July 19, 1925 – September 23, 2021) was an American pop and country music singer. She is best known for the million selling 1961 hits "Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)" and "Norman", "James (Hold The Ladder Steady)" (1962), and "Paper Tiger" (1965).

Early life[edit]

Thompson was born in Nevada, Missouri in July 1925. By the age of 7, she was singing and playing the guitar on stage. She later moved with her family to live in San Jose, California.[1]

During World War II, she worked at a defense plant. She married when she was 17, and had a daughter at 20, but the marriage failed and she and her husband split up after three years. To keep supporting herself after her divorce, she returned to the nightclub scene in California, now using the name Sue Thompson. In San Jose, she won a talent contest, thus catching the attention of a bandleader and radio/TV host named Dude Martin (real name John Stephen McSwain), who invited her to sing with his band. This led to their marriage.[2] They recorded duets together, including "If You Want Some Lovin'", which helped her get a solo contract from Mercury Records in 1950.[1] She released numerous singles on Mercury between 1951 and 1954, with no chart action.

Recording career[edit]

Within a year, she divorced Martin, and married Hank Penny, a comedian and singer, in 1953.[2] Penny and Thompson hosted a TV show in Los Angeles together before eventually moving to Las Vegas. After her contract with Mercury ended, Thompson recorded for Decca Records from 1954–57, again without a commercial breakthrough. Thompson and Penny had a son, Greg Penny, but divorced in 1963.[2]

In 1960, Thompson signed on with Columbia Records, who renamed the singer "Taffy Thomas" and issued one non-charting single under this artist name. Thereafter, the Taffy Thomas moniker was quickly dropped, and Thompson signed with Hickory Records. In 1961, after having issued over a dozen non-charting singles in a decade-long recording career, Thompson's "Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)" became a No. 5 hit on the pop charts. She followed this up successfully with "Norman," which reached No. 3. Both of these hit singles were written by songwriter John D. Loudermilk. They both sold over one million copies, and were awarded gold discs. Both were also chart successes in Australia, reaching #3 and #8 respectively.[3]

In 1962, "Have a Good Time" was a Top 40 hit and in 1963, "Willie Can" was a minor hit. Her early-1960s hits made Thompson, then in her late-thirties but with a much younger-sounding voice, a favorite among the teenage crowd and briefly a rival to the much younger Connie Francis and Brenda Lee.[1] Two additional hits, also written by Loudermilk, were "James (Hold the Ladder Steady)", and 1965's "Paper Tiger," her last Top 30 hit and her biggest hit in Britain and in Australia, where it reached #3.

Later career[edit]

In the late 1960s, she went back to country music and released the album This Is Sue Thompson Country in 1969.[4] In 1971 she worked with country music singer Don Gibson on some albums, and they had minor hits with "I Think They Call It Love", "Good Old Fashioned Country Love", and "Oh, How Love Changes". She recorded further solo singles for the country charts, like "Big Mable Murphy", which made the Top 50 in 1975 and "Never Naughty Rosie", her last chart single in 1976. She also performed mainly at the Las Vegas casinos and at clubs in Hollywood, like the Palomino Club. In the 1990s, she settled in Las Vegas, and continued to periodically perform.[1]

She also appeared on American Bandstand, Where the Action Is, The Buddy Deane Show, and The Lloyd Thaxton Show (1966 visit and performance of "Paper Tiger").[citation needed]

In 2009 Thompson's son, record producer Greg Penny, recorded her acoustic cover of her favourite song, the 1952 hit "You Belong to Me".[5] The demo was given its radio premiere during her 2010 interview on the South Australian radio show "The Doo Wop Corner" by Carmen Kaye.[5]


Sue Thompson died at her daughter's home in Pahrump, Nevada, on September 23, 2021, at the age of 96.[5][6][7]



Year Album Chart Positions
US US Country
1961 Meet Sue Thompson
1962 Two of a Kind
1963 Golden Hits
1965 Paper Tiger 134
The Country Side of Sue Thompson
1966 Sue Thompson with Strings Attached
1969 This Is Sue Thompson Country
1972 The Two of Us Together (with Don Gibson)
1974 Sweet Memories
And Love Me
1975 Oh How Love Changes (with Don Gibson) 43
Big Mable Murphy


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US AC AUS UK[9]
1961 "Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)" 5 5 1 6 46 Meet Sue Thompson
"Norman" 3 4 4
1962 "Two of a Kind" 42 37 8 40 Two of a Kind
"It Has To Be" (flip side) 150
"Have a Good Time" 31 31 9 45 Golden Hits
"If Only the Boy Knew" (flip side) 112 143 45
"James (Hold the Ladder Steady)" 17 22 6
"Willie Can" 78 77 44
1963 "What's Wrong Bill" 135 Paper Tiger
"Suzie" 127
"True Confession" (flip side) 148
"I Like Your Kind of Love" (with Bob Luman) 142 26 Non-album single
1964 "Big Daddy" 132
"Paper Tiger"A 23 18 3 30 Paper Tiger
1965 "What I'm Needin' Is You" 115
"Stop Th' Music" (flip side) 135 With Strings Attached
1966 "Put It Back (Where You Found It)" 131 Non-album single
"What Should I Do" 148
1972 "What a Woman in Love Won't Do" Sweet Memories
"Candy and Roses" 72 76
1973 "Find Out"
1974 "Making Love to You is Just Like Eating Peanuts" And Love Me
"And Love Me"
1975 "The Very Thought of You"
"Any Other Morning" Big Mable Murphy
"Big Mable Murphy" 50 40
1976 "Never Naughty Rosie" 95 Non-album single
  • A"Paper Tiger" peaked at No. 8 on the RPM Top Singles chart in Canada.

Singles with Don Gibson[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1971 "The Two of Us Together" 50 The Two of Us Together
"Did You Ever Think" 71
"I Think They Call It Love" 37
1972 "Cause I Love You" 64
"Go With Me" 52 49
1973 "Warm Love" 53 52
1974 "Good Old Fashioned Country Love" 31 29 Oh, How Love Changes
1975 "Oh, How Love Changes" 36
1976 "Get Ready, Here I Come" 98


  1. ^ a b c d Sue Thompson biography at Allmusic
  2. ^ a b c Kienzle, Rich (2013). Southwest Shuffle. Taylor & Francis. pp. 50–51. ISBN 9781136718892.
  3. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 140. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  4. ^ This Is Sue Thompson Country Album Information. AllMusic. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Genzlinger, Neil (2021-09-28). "Sue Thompson, Who Sang of 'Norman' and Sad Movies, Dies at 96". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-09-28.
  6. ^ Paul Cashmere, "Sue Thompson Dies At Age 96", Noise11, September 28, 2021. Retrieved September 28, 2021
  7. ^ Oldest Living Country Music Legend Sue Thompson Dead at 96
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 893. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.
  9. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 783. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.

External links[edit]