Hank Thompson is the man behind the famous “The Wild Side of Life” song. Originally released in 1952, the song became one of the most popular recordings in country music history. The song spent 15 weeks at Top 1 on the Billboard country charts. In addition, it solidified Thompson’s status as a country music superstar and inspired one of Kitty Wells’ songs.
“The Wild Side of Life”, Its Story and Common Melody
“The Wild Side of Life” carries one of the most typical melodies of the early country music. Some examples are, “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes” by the Carter Family and “Great Speckled Bird” by Roy Acuff. These two, along with the story of a woman cracking her role as domestic provider to follow the nightlife, combined to become one of the most famous country songs of the early 1950s.
“The Wild Side of Life” co-writer William Warren, created the song after his encounter with a young woman he met when he was younger. Mentioning she is a honky-tonk angel, who “found the glitter of the gay nightlife too hard to resist.” They say the song enticed people who thought the world was going to hell and that faithless women deserved a good deal of the blame.
Jimmy Heap and His Melody Masters first recorded “Wild Side” in 1951, but never had a hit with the song.
How Hank Thompson Found “The Wild Side of Life”
When the Melody Masters cut “The Wild Side Of Life” on a local label Hank Thompson and his wife, Dorothy, heard it during one of Thompson’s East Texas swings. Dorothy immediately liked the song and hinted at Hank that he might want to consider recording it. However, Hank believed that the melody had been used too many times before. Dorothy Thompson still managed to persuade Hank to copy down the lyrics. In doing so, he combined verses two and three, thus simplifying the original Warren’s story.
Hank first achieved national fame in 1946 with “Humpty Dumpty Heart.” A series of other top-ten hits followed but by 1950, Hank Williams and Hank Snow’s streams had left little room in the spotlight for him. Thompson badly needed any kind of hit just to recover his fading career.
Thompson’s Best Song, Answer Song
On December 11, 1951, Hank and his Brazos Valley Boys cut a record starting with his “Crying In The Deep Blue Sea” for Capitol. Ken Nelson, a new producer on staff, asked Hank if he had anything for the “B” side. That was when Thompson cited “The Wild Side Of Life.” He pulled the jotted lyrics out of his bag and, without practice, cut it in one take. Their chosen hit “Crying In The Deep Blue Sea,” managed only to chart in the Southwest. After two waiting months, a few disc jockeys began to turn the record over and play “The Wild Side Of Life.” Breaking records, without any public-relations push, this “B” side moved like a tidal wave across the nation and became a huge hit. It topped the Billboard’s country chart. Moreover, it was the seventeenth all-time biggest hit in country music history.
The following year, the same melody appeared again with another set of lyrics. It was J. D. Miller’s answer to “The Wild Side of Life” which he called “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”. This song would introduce the momentous career of Kitty Wells and become another great country classic in its own right.
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Hank Thompson, The Wild Side of Life