From the 1950s to the 1970s, Hank Thompson forged a powerful combination of western swing and honky-tonk sounds – even made better by his songwriting talents and raspy baritone, as well as precise diction. He became one of the most in-demand performers, whose influence is often said to be evident in stars like George Strait.
Let’s get to know more about this country legend through these fun facts.
1. He’s a native of Waco, Texas.
The country singer, whose real name is Henry William Thompson, was born on September 3, 1925, to German-Czech immigrant parents. Though his father and mother were not musical themselves, they recognized Thompson’s innate talent, more particularly when he mastered the harmonica by the age of ten. He also won several amateur contests on harmonica. One contest won Thompson a case of Pepsi.
2. He received his first guitar as a Christmas present.
Hank Thompson‘s parents bought him a four-dollar secondhand guitar as a Christmas present, which swiftly became Thompson’s instrument of choice – especially when he was enthralled by cowboy movie idol Gene Autry.
3. He had his own morning show.
Thompson’s musical talents gained recognition when he appeared in local talent shows, where he almost always won. From there, he landed a job as a broadcaster at a local radio station – billed as Hank the Hired Hand – where he would play popular songs before going to class at Waco High School.
4. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduating high school.
Thompson was only seventeen when he joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed in San Diego. Though he was trained as a radio operator and technician, he managed to persuade his superiors to give live performances in Southern California clubs. His performances were also broadcasted over the military’s network of small stations. It was also during his enlistment that Thompson immersed himself in songwriting.
5. He studied electrical engineering.
The Navy also allowed Thompson to study electrical engineering at several universities, including the University of Texas and Princeton University.
6. He was one of the first country artists to have a corporate sponsor.
7. He’s also one of the first acts who toured with a sophisticated sound and lighting system.
Thompson even brought his engineering knowledge to build top-flight sound and lighting systems that further intensified his drawing power at the more than 250 show dates he usually played every year.
8. His immense popularity gave birth to one of the most popular answer songs in the history of country music.
In 1952, Kitty Wells recorded a response to Thompson’s hit song “The Wild Side of Life” called, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” – it became the first No. 1 Billboard country hit by a female artist and made Wells the first woman in the genre to have a million-seller.
Truly, Hank Thompson has lived a fascinating life and career.