Gene Watson's Peers within the country music industry believe in the sheer talent of this unassuming man from east Texas, so much so that Gene is regarded by many of them as 'the singer's singer' - and rightly so!
All of Gene Watson's Peers, who were contacted by The Gene Watson Fan Site, during 2006, were most gracious with their time and words.
It is here, within this special part of The Gene Watson Fan Site, that you have an opportunity to read a quote from Hank Thompson, which he submitted to this site on Sunday 16 July 2006.
Sean Brady would like to take this opportunity to say 'thank you' to Hank Thompson who has made a special contribution to a unique part of this online 'celebration of a Lone Star Hero'.
This quote was submitted on Sunday 16 July 2006.
'I have known Gene for many years and worked with him on many occasions.
I have always considered him to be one of the best in the business.
Good luck with Gene's website'.
Thank you, Hank Thompson, for your support of Gene Watson.
About Hank Thompson...
Hank Thompson was born Henry William 'Hank' Thompson in Waco, Texas on Thursday 3 September 1925.
Hank Thompson's parents were Jule Thomas Thompson and Zexia Ilda Wells Thompson, and his paternal grandparents were German Czechs named 'Kocek' who Anglicised the name to 'Thompson'. Jule Thompson was a auto mechanic, and his son always had at least an amateur's interest in such handy things as radio electronics.
Hank Thompson earned part-time money doing radio shop work in Waco, Texas during his high school days, then studied radio communications and electronics while serving in the United States Navy and attended Princeton University and University of Texas, which helped him earn credits toward his postwar discharge.
Growing up, country music was the only music which Hank Thompson listened to and the only music that anybody he knew listened to.
Radio from Dallas and the Mexican border stations featured such diverse groups and artists as The Light Crust Doughboys, The Carter Family and Cowboy Slim Rhinehart. The records Hank Thompson actually preferred were by country music's more traditional early stars, including Carson Robison (4 August 1890 - Sunday 24 March 1957), Vernon Dalhart (6 April 1883 - Tuesday 14 September 1948) and, of course, Jimmie Rodgers (September 1897 - Friday 26 May 1933).
Movies then brought Hank Thompson the thrill of a cowboy who sang like Jimmie Rodgers (September 1897 - Friday 26 May 1933), the great Gene Autry (Sunday 29 September 1907 - Friday 2 October 1998).
When he was ten years old, Hank Thompson got his first guitar and began aping all these musical favourites.
Peg Moreland and Ernest Tubb (Monday 9 February 1914 - Thursday 6 September 1984) became radio favourites during Hank Thompson's years at Waco High School in the early 1940s.
Known within his family as Henry William, in order to distinguish him from an Uncle Hank, Thompson became Hank when he began regularly winning a Saturday morning talent contest from Waco Theater, which was broadcast on radio station WACO as 'The Kiddies Matinee'. From this, Hank Thompson got his own before school 7:15am radio show on WACO as 'Hank, The Hired Hand', singing the songs of childhood and current country favourites.
Following high school, Hank Thompson enlisted in the United States Navy in January 1943 when he was seventeen years old (Hank's parents had to sign for him). Hank Thompson then headed off to Dallas for induction and later to San Diego for basic training. Whille in the Navy, Hank Thompson studied to be a radio operator and technician, fully expecting that to be his postwar career.
Discharged in March 1946, Hank Thompson enrolled under G.I. benefits for further electrical training at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. However, when he finished that course, Hank Thompson went home to Waco, hoping to get his old job back on radio station WACO.
Instead, Hank Thompson got the brushoff, so he signed instead with a brand new radio station, KWTX, which gave him a prime-time 12:15pm daily quarter-hour show. For KWTX, 'Hank, The Hired Hand' became simply 'Hank Thompson', a solo singer with a guitar.
For schoolhouse dates around the Waco area, Hank Thompson built a band and used for their name that of a defunct area band, The Brazos Valley Boys ('Brazos Valley Rancho' was his theme song at the time).
A local record store owner hooked Hank Thompson up with a new Los Angeles independent record label, Globe Records, and for them he recorded his first four songs at Dallas' Sellars Studio in August 1946. All were songs which Hank Thompson had written and would later reprise for Capitol Records, 'Swing Wide Your Gate of Love', 'Whoa Sailor', 'What Are We Gonna Do about the Moonlight' and 'California Women'.
Pappy Hal Horton's late night disc jockey show on Dallas' KRLD, 'The Hillbilly Hit Parade', made Hank Thompson's Globe Records recordings at least regional favourites, as baskets full of fan mail and requests poured in to Hal Horton in Dallas and to Hank Thompson at KWTX.
Before long, Hank Thompson was under Hal Horton's career supervision. For the Dallas-based Blue Bonnet Records, in 1947, Hank Thompson made four more recordings, two from his Globe Records catalogue and two new ones, 'A Lonely Heart Knows', which was later recorded by his friend Ernest Tubb (Monday 9 February 1914 - Thursday 6 September 1984) and 'My Starry-Eyed Texas Gal'.
In 1948, Hank Thompson saw the release of three tracks which were hit singles on the Billboard country music singles chart:
'Humpty Dumpty Heart' (No.2, 1948)
'Yesterday's Mail' (No.12, 1948)
'Green Light' (No.7, 1948)
In 1949, Hank Thompson saw the release of three tracks which were hit singles on the Billboard country music singles chart:
'What Are We Gonna Do About the Moonlight' (No.10, 1949)
'I Find You Cheatin' on Me' (No.14, 1949)
'You Broke My Heart (in little bitty pieces)' (No.15, 1949)
'Whoa Sailor' (No.8, 1949)
'Soft Lips' (No.10, 1949)
'The Grass Looks Greener Over Yonder' (No.15, 1949)
Hal Horton lobbied the touring movie and recording star Tex Ritter (Thursday 12 January 1905 - Wednesday 2 January 1974) to get Hank Thompson onto Tex Ritter's own record label, Capitol Records.
When he came through Texas on a theatre tour and guested on Hank Thompson's radio show, Tex Ritter (Thursday 12 January 1905 - Wednesday 2 January 1974) and Hank Thompson hit it off immediately.
Already, an acetate demo of Hank Thompson singing a new song, 'Humpty Dumpty Heart', was big on Hal Horton's radio show, so Capitol Records' Lee Gillette and Cliffie Stone (Thursday 1 March 1917 - Saturday 17 January 1998) flew to Waco in Texas to meet Hank Thompson, then took him to WFAA in Dallas to record 'Humpty Dumpty Heart' on a magnetic tape recorder, which was the first time Hank had seen such a machine.
Upon the recommendation of Tex Ritter (Thursday 12 January 1905 - Wednesday 2 January 1974), Hank Thompson signed with Capitol Records where, between 1948 and 1965, he enjoyed a very successful period of hit songs with the label.
Hank Thompson's first hit was 'Humpty Dumpty Heart', which reached No.2 on the Billboard country music singles chart in 1948 and remained on the chart for thirty eight weeks. Hank Thompson also saw the re-release of 'Whoa Sailor' on Capitol Records, a recording which reached No.8 in late 1949.
When 'Humpty Dumpty Heart' became a national hit, Lee Gillette encouraged Hank Thompson to write more love songs around nursery rhymes. They even brought him the second one, 'Mary Had a Little Lamb', which was recorded along with 'The Green Light' at Hank Thompson's first California sessions in December 1947.
'Rub-a-Dub-Dub' from late 1952 was probably the biggest later hit of this type, followed by 'A Fooler, a Faker' in 1953 and 'Simple Simon' later the next year. Even 'The Blackboard of My Heart', which was a big Hank Thompson hit single in 1955, used childhood school days as the background for another love-gone-wrong hit.
Before the ailing Hal Horton passed away, he arranged country music's first broadcast nuptials when Hank Thompson married girlfriend Dorothy Jean Ray on Hal Horton's KRLD radio show on Wednesday 14 April 1948.
By this time, Hank Thompson's program was on an 18-station Texas network broadcasting out of Dallas, where he and his new wife made their home.
Hal Horton next used his close connections with Eddy Arnold (Wednesday 15 May 1918 - Thursday 8 May 2008) and The Brown Brothers in Nashville to link Hank Thompson with Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, a move to which Hank was not initially averse since he was still somewhat searching for musical direction and lucrative venues.
Hank Thompson first tried a Brown Brothers radio production, 'Smoky Mountain Hayride', which first aired in September 1948, and then came a short-lived early morning radio show on WLAC in Nashville.
With hits already to his credit, it wasn't hard to land a gig with The Grand Ole Opry on radio station WSM 650AM, a move which Ernest Tubb (Monday 9 February 1914 - Thursday 6 September 1984) strongly encouraged and facilitated.
However, the low pay, Hank Thompson's first appearance paid him $9.00, and stifling musical conservatism, led Hank Thompson to leave in disgust about the same time another Hank, Hank Williams (Monday 17 September 1923 - Thursday 1 January 1953), was joining.
'Whoa Sailor' and 'Soft Lips' became a double-sided Top 10 hit for Hank Thompson in 1949 and, by the fall of the same year, fans voted the young Texan as the fifth most popular country music artist after Eddy Arnold (Wednesday 15 May 1918 - Thursday 8 May 2008), Red Foley (Friday 17 June 1910 - Thursday 19 September 1968), Hank Williams (Monday 17 September 1923 - Thursday 1 January 1953) and Jimmy Wakely (Monday 16 February 1914 - Thursday 23 September 1982).
Back in Dallas but bereft of Hal Horton, who died in November 1948, Hank Thompson began building his new Brazos Valley Boys with the help of Billy Gray, a guitarist and singer from Paris, Texas who joined him in 1950 and stayed for most of the following decade.
Hank Thompson soon found that he made the bulk of his road money in dance halls, with their larger crowds and bigger gate percentages to the artists.
So, in 1950 - 1951, The Brazos Valley Boys, for the first time, became a Western Swing unit, built to play this Southwestern and Western circuit. Dallas audiences were not as receptive to the new sound as Hank Thompson had hoped, but he found a warm welcome and a new career base in Oklahoma City's Trianon Ballroom, where a young college graduate from Kansas named Jim Halsey came down to manage him (Jim Halsey would later manage Roy Clark, The Oak Ridge Boys and others).
At The Trianon and on Oklahoma City's WKY-TV, between 1954 and 1957, Hank Thompson and Billy Gray honed their brand of Western Swing, which was less jazzy than Bob Wills (who had just left Oklahoma for Dallas and later California), less orchestral than Spade Cooley (Saturday 17 December 1910 - Sunday 23 November 1969) and different and distinctive from popular Oklahoma bandleaders Leon McAuliffe (Wednesday 3 January 1917 - Saturday 20 August 1988) and Merl Lindsay.
Hank Thompson had to move beyond the raw honky-tonk of a Hank Williams (Monday 17 September 1923 - Thursday 1 January 1953) or Lefty Frizzell (Saturday 31 March 1928 - Saturday 19 July 1975), and even the spare sound of Hank's own earliest recordings, if he was to keep the dance hall circuit happy.
Hank Thompson found the sound he wanted with the help of Billy Gray's arrangements and a procession of great musicians.
Hank Thompson never thought of himself as a bandleader, such as Lawrence Welk (Wednesday 11 March 1903 - Sunday 17 May 1992) or Bob Wills (Monday 6 March 1905 - Tuesday 13 May 1975).
Instead, Hank Thompson was a featured singer with his band, and he loved to meet and greet fans at dances while the band kept playing, a habit which infuriated a lot of Texas club owners, who were used to the non-stop, no frills Bob Wills approach.
And, Hank Thompson was right, since the multi-award-winning Brazos Valley Boys really did develop an identity and song repertory of its own. Capitol Records cut numerous instrumentals and often marketed the recordings separately.
Billy Walker (Monday 14 January 1929 - Sunday 21 May 2006), a young Dallas and KRLD hopeful, opened Hank Thompson's road shows for a while and even made his first Capitol Records recording on tape in Hank Thompson's Dallas living room early in 1950.
Billy Walker (Monday 14 January 1929 - Sunday 21 May 2006) would not be the last major artist boosted by Hank Thompson, who'd been helped himself by Tex Ritter (Thursday 12 January 1905 - Wednesday 2 January 1974).
Hank Thompson was instrumental in the careers of two early female stars, Jean Shepard and Wanda Jackson.
In 1951, Hank Thompson's first wife, Dorothy, brought to his attention a Jimmy Heap recording to the tune of 'Great Speckled Bird'. Entitled 'The Wild Side of Life', Hank Thompson recorded it at his first Capitol Records recording session with producer Ken Nelson, in Dallas, in late 1951. Kitty Wells' answer hit, 'It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels' gave Hank Thompson's hit a second life.
In June 1952, Hank Thompson saw the release of 'Hank Thompson: Favourites' (Capitol Records, 1952), which included two tracks which were hit singles on the Billboard country music singles chart:
'Wild Side of Life' (No.1, 1952)
'Waiting in The Lobby of Your Heart' (No.3, 1952)
Hank Thompson's 'Hank Thompson: Favourites' (Capitol Records, 1952) also included the following tracks:
'Humpty Dumpty Heart'
In 1952, Hank Thompson saw the release of a non-album single, 'The New Wears Off Too Fast', which reached No.10 on the Billboard country music singles chart.
In 1953, Hank Thompson saw the release of the non-album single, 'You're Walking on My Heart', which did not chart on the Billboard country music singles chart.
In 1955, Hank Thompson saw the release of 'Songs of The Brazos Valley' (Capitol Records, 1955), which included two tracks which were hit singles on the Billboard country music singles chart:
'Rub-a-dub-dub' (No.1, 1953)
'Yesterday's Girl' (No.8, 1953)
Hank Thompson's 'Songs of The Brazos Valley' (Capitol Records, 1955) also included the following tracks:
'Wild Side of Life'
'When You're Lovin' You're Livin'
'I Saw My Mother's Name'
'Letter Edged in Black'
'Mother, The Queen of My Heart'
'You Don't Have The Nerve'
'At The Rainbow's End'
'Simple Simon, Simple Heart'
A prolific album artist throughout his Capitol Records years, Hank Thompson recorded several groundbreaking concept albums in the 1950s.
Kitty Wells (Saturday 30 August 1919 - Monday 16 July 2012) recorded Hank Thompson's 'I'm Tired of Pretending' and included the track on 'After Dark' (Decca Records, 1959).
Kitty Wells (Saturday 30 August 1919 - Monday 16 July 2012) recorded Hank Thompson's 'Most of All' and included the track on 'Seasons of My Heart' (Decca Records, 1960).
Johnny Cash (Friday 26 February 1932 - Friday 12 September 2003) recorded Hank Thompson's 'Honky Tonk Girl' (co-written with Chuck Hardin) and included the track on 'Now There was a Song' (Columbia Records, 1960).
Roy Drusky (Sunday 22 June 1930 - Thursday 23 September 2004) recorded Hank Thompson's 'Swing Wide Your Gate of Love' (co-written with Nathan Sydney) and included the track on 'Anymore' (Decca Records, 1961).
Hank Thompson also pioneered the 'live' country music concert album with 'Live at The Golden Nugget from Las Vegas' (Capitol Records, 1961).
In November 1962, Hank Thompson saw the release of the 'live' album, 'Cheyenne Frontier Days' (Capitol Records, 1962), which included the following tracks:
'Drop Me Gently (so many heart won't break)'
'Rose City Chimes'
'You're Walking on My Heart'
'That's The Recipe for a Heartache'
'Darling, What More Can I Say'
'I'll Sign My Heart Away'
'Teach Me How to Lie'
In August 1963, Hank Thompson saw the release of the 'live' album, 'Hank Thompson at The State Fair of Texas' (Capitol Records, 1963), which included the following tracks:
'Deep in the Heart of Texas'
'My Heart is a Playground'
'How Many Teardrops Will It Take'
'New Wears Off Too Fast'
'Will We Start It All Over Again'
'River Road Two-Step'
'I Cast a Lonesome Shadow'
'Simple Simon, Simple Heart'
'There's a Little Bit of Everything in Texas'
A true groundbreaker, Hank Thompson was one of the first to transport his band in a bus, although he himself normally flew his own private plane. Along with Leon McAuliffe (Wednesday 3 January 1917 - Saturday 20 August 1988), Hank Thompson was one of the first in country music to do so.
Hank Thompson cut his last sides for Capitol Records in 1964, then moved on to moderately successful affiliations with Warner Bros. Records (1965 - 1966) and Dot / MCA Records (1967 - 1979) where, minus The Brazos Valley Boys and dependent upon studio pickers, the emphasis shifted away from Western Swing and toward the reigning Nashville Sound.
Johnny Cash (Friday 26 February 1932 - Friday 12 September 2003) recorded Hank Thompson's 'Honky Tonk Girl' (co-written with Chuck Hardin) and included the track on 'More of Old Golden Throat' (CBS Records, 1969).
Seldom Scene recorded Hank Thompson's 'Girl in the Night' and included the track on 'Act Four' (Sugar Hill Records, 1978).
In the early 1980s, Hank Thompson resurfaced on manager Jim Halsey's label out of Tulsa, Churchill Records.
It was about this time when Hank Thompson moved back to Texas in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and, for years after Jim Halsey's retirement, handled his own more limited bookings through Thompson Enterprises.
Barry Berrier recorded Hank Thompson's 'Honky Tonk Girl' (co-written with Chuck Harding) and included the track on 'First Time with Feeling' (Pinecastle Records, 1996).
It was also in 1996 when Germany's Bear Family Records re-issued Hank Thompson's complete early catalogue (1946 - 1964), including all of Globe Records, Blue Bonnet Records and Capitol Records cuts, including a few never previously issued, as Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys.
Hank Thompson even returned to the recording studios for Curb Records in the early 1990s and was honoured by one of the better multi-artist tribute albums, 'Hank Thompson & Friends' (Curb Records, 1997).
Gary Buck (Thursday 21 March 1940 - Tuesday 14 October 2003) recorded Hank Thompson's 'Green Light' and included the track on 'Western Swing & Country' (Broadland International Records, 1998).
Merle Haggard recorded Hank Thompson's 'I'll Sign My Heart Away' and included the track on 'Roots, Volume 1' (ANTI-Epitaph Records, 2001).
In August 2007, Capitol Records released eighteen of Hank Thompson's classic albums as digital downloads.
Having performed on seven continents, Hank Thompson continued to record and tour into the 21st century, earning him the distinction of a seven-decade career. Hank Thompson completed work on his autobiography, 'My Side of Life', with writer Warren Kice.
From the 1950s through to the mid-1970s, Hank Thompson enjoyed an enviable list of hit songs on Capitol Records, including the following:
'The Wild Side Of Life' (No.1, 1952) / this track also reached No.27 on the Billboard pop music singles chart
'Wake Up Irene' (No.1, 1953)
'A Six Pack to Go' (No.10, 1960)
'Most of All' (No.6, 1960)
'Blackboard of My Heart' (No.4, 1960)
'Tears are only Rain' (No.14, 1960)
'Squaws Along The Yukon' (No.2, 1960)
'I was the First One' (No.13, 1960)
'Rockin' in the Congo' (No.13, 1960)
'I Didn't Mean to Fall in Love' (No.22, 1961)
'She's Just a Whole Lot Like You' (No.14/99, 1961)
'Six Packs to Go' (No.10, 1961)
'Wildwood Flower' (No.5, 1962)
'Annie Over' (No.13, 1962)
'Oklahoma Hills' (No.7, 1962)
'Hangover Tavern' (No.12, 1962)
'Teach Me How to Lie' (No.25, 1962)
'Yesterday's Girl' (No.8, 1964)
'How Do You Hold a Memory' (No.11, 1965)
'Don't Take it out on Me' (No.5, 1965)
'Breakin' in Another Heart' (No.7, 1965)
'Then I'll Start Believing in You' (No.42, 1965)
'I Wasn't Even in the Running' (No.23, 1965)
'You're Going Back to Your Old Ways Again' (No.26, 1965)
'Twice as Much' (No.1, 1965)
'Total Strangers' (No.25, 1965)
'Anybody's Girl' (No.13, 1966)
'I'm Not Mad, Just Hurt' (No.14, 1966)
'Where is the Circus' (No.15, 1967)
'Green Light' (No.7, 1967)
'I've Run out of Tomorrows' (No.7, 1968)
'Too in Love' (No.22, 1968)
'On Tap, in the Can or in the Bottle' (No.7, 1968)
'He's Got a Way with Women' (No.16, 1968)
'Smoky The Bar' (No.5, 1969)
'I See Them Everywhere' (No.47, 1969)
'Oklahoma Home Brew' (No.60, 1969)
'Next Time I Fall in Love (I won't)' (No.15, 1971)
'Glow Worm' (No.52, 1972)
'I've Come Awful Close' (1971)
'Cab Driver' (No. 16, 1972)
'The Older The Violin, The Sweeter The Tune' (No.8, 1974)
'Who Left The Door to Heaven Open?' (No.10, 1974)
'Mama Don't Allow' (No.29, 1974)
Hank Thompson's 'The Wild Side of Life', which contained the memorable line 'I didn't know God made honky tonk angels', inspired songwriter Jimmy D. Miller to write the answer song 'It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels'.
'It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels' became the first hit single for pioneer female country vocalist Kitty Wells (Saturday 30 August 1919 - Monday 16 July 2012); she included the track on 'Country Hit Parade' (Decca Records, 1956).
Hank Thompson quit Capitol Records in 1965, moving to Warner Bros. Records in 1966 and then to Dot Records in 1968.
In the intervening years, Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys continued to play dates worldwide, and logged occasional hits on record labels including ABC Records, MCA Records and Churchill Records.
In the 1970s, Hank Thompson's music reached a whole different group of fans when British rock band Status Quo had a world-wide Top 10 hit with their version of 'Wild Side of Life'.
Status Quo recorded 'The Wild Side of Life' and enjoyed a Top 10 pop music hit single with the track in 1976; the track, however, was not included on any Status Quo album until the release of '12 Gold Bars, Volume 1' (Vertigo Records, 1980), a compilation album.
Hank Thompson made a significant contribution to country music, fusing honky tonk and Western Swing, and his talents were justly rewarded when he was inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.
In 1997, Hank Thompson was inducted into The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
It was also in 1997 when Hank Thompson recorded a new album for Curb Records, 'Hank Thompson & Friends' (Curb Records, 1997), which included guest appearances from Brooks & Dunn (Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn), Vince Gill, Joe Diffie, George Jones (Saturday 12 September 1931 - Friday 26 April 2013) and Lyle Lovett.
In 2000, Hank Thompson saw the release of a new album; 'Seven Decades' (Hightone Records, 2000) was released on Hightone Records and the material was closer in sound to his older Capitol Records material.
On Thursday 1 November 2007, Hank Thompson cancelled the remainder of his 2007 'Sunset Tour' and retired from singing, two days after being released from a Texas hospital and diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer.
Hank Thompson went into hospice care at his home in Keller, Texas; Hank Thompson's last performance was on Monday 8 October 2007 in Waco, Texas, his birthplace.
Hank Thompson died a month later, on Tuesday 6 November 2007, from lung cancer.
According to his spokesman, Tracy Pitcox, President of Heart of Texas Records, Hank Thompson requested that no funeral be held.
On Wednesday 14 November 2007, a 'celebration of life', which was open to both fans and friends, took place at Billy Bob's Texas, a Fort Worth, Texas country music nightclub which billed itself as 'The World's Largest Honky Tonk'.
Thursday 3 September 1925 - Tuesday 6 November 2007
• Visit Hank Thompson's Official Site at hankthompson.com