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THOMPSON, HENRY WILLIAM "HANK" (1925- )

A Country Music Hall of Famer, Henry William "Hank" Thompson was born in Waco, Texas, on September 3, 1925. He received the nickname during an appearance on the weekly Kiddies Matinee. The success he had on this program led to his own daily radio show, Hank the Hired Hand, while only a teenager.

Thompson's skills as a musician were matched by his skills in electronics. In high school he made money repairing radios. When he joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, he worked as a radio technician, an on-air radio announcer, and later an instructor. Following the war he graduated from college with a degree in electrical engineering.

In 1946 Thompson returned to Waco and formed a radio band called the Brazos Valley Boys. He performed in local theaters and recorded a few singles that eventually captured the attention of Capitol Records, which signed Thompson to a record deal. It is speculated that he was the first country artist to be recorded on magnetic tape.

In 1951 Thompson moved his band to Oklahoma City. As lead vocalist he created a honky-tonk style of Western swing that was distinctly different than that of Bob Wills, one of the fathers of the genre. Thompson recorded several hit songs. One song, "Wild Side of Life," sold millions after Kitty Wells answered the song's chorus, "I didn't know God made honky-tonk angels," with her own hit "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels." Thompson settled in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

He died on November 6, 2007, in Keller, Texas, of lung cancer.

SEE ALSO: FOLK MUSIC, FOLKLIFE, WESTERN SWING, JAMES ROBERT "BOB" WILLS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Hank Thompson," Vertical File, Country Music Hall of Fame Library, Nashville, Tennessee. Rich Kienzle, Hank Thompson [book to CD box set] (Hamberger, Germ.: Bear Family Records, licensed through Sony Music Entertainment, 1996). Vintage: Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys (Capitol Records, June 1996).

Hayden Roberts

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