Hank Thompson – The King of Western Swing
This website is dedicated to the loving memory of Hank Thompson and to all of his fans and friends who loved him and his music. As a boy he took up harmonica, then guitar, in emulation of the hugely popular Gene Autry. In his late teens he sang on a local radio station before going into the US Navy, where he kept his guitar always with him. “A lot of people heard Hank Thompson for the first time on ships,” he later recalled. “They didn’t have much choice, unless they wanted to jump overboard.”
Encouraged by his success, Thompson moved towards the country music mainstream with a cleverly variegated programmer of hardline honky-tonk songs and novelties such as Wake Up, Irene. As well as his many hit records – he had five top 10 entries in 1954 alone – he became well known through television and was a pioneer in putting country music on the menu at resort hotels in Nevada. His LP, made at the Golden Nugget, Las Vegas, in 1960, was among country music’s earliest “live” albums. He also built up a faithful following on the rodeo and county fair circuits.
In 1989 he was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and, in 1997, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Also in 1997 he released Hank Thompson and Friends, an album of duets with George Jones, Lyle Lovett and other country music names. Although no longer dependent on music for a living – his business portfolio included music publishing, broadcasting media and real estate – he continued to lead the Brazos Valley Boys and to represent the values that he feared were disappearing from country music. “Everybody has heartbreaks,” he said. “If you take that out of there, you’ve just sterilized it.”
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.
Ann Thompson Womack
Hank Thompson’s Music
(I’ve Got A) Humpty Dumpty Heart
The Wild Side of Life
The Blackboard of My Heart
A Six Pack To Go
Smoky The Bar
Tony’s Tank-up Drive-in Cafe
Gotta Sell Them Chickens