DALLAS (AP) – Hank Thompson, who mixed honky-tonk and Western swing on such hits as “A Six Pack to Go” and “The Wild Side of Life,” has died. The country singer and bandleader was 82.

Thompson died of lung cancer late Tuesday at his home in the Fort Worth suburb of Keller, said spokesman Tracy Pitcox, who is also president of Heart of Texas Records. He died just days after canceling his tour and announcing his retirement.

“He was battling aggressive lung cancer,” Pitcox said Wednesday in a statement. “He remained conscious until the last couple of hours and passed away peacefully at about 10:45 p.m. on Tuesday night surrounded by his friends and family.”

The last show Thompson played was Oct. 8 in his native Waco. That day was declared “Hank Thompson Day” by Gov. Rick Perry and Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy.

Fans loved Thompson’s distinctive voice and his musical style, which drew on the Western swing first developed in the 1930s by fellow Texan Bob Wills. Thompson was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

His first hit record was “Whoa, Sailor” in 1946. That year, he started a band called the Brazos Valley Boys, which won Billboard magazine’s touring band of the year award 14 consecutive times.

Thompson had 29 hits reach the top 10 between 1948 and 1975. Some of his most famous songs include “Humpty Dumpty Heart” and “A Six Pack to Go.” Among others: “Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart,” “Broken Heart and a Glass of Beer”; and “Cat Has Nine Lives.” He wrote many of the songs himself, including “Whoa, Sailor.”

His “The Wild Side of Life,” which reached No. 1 in 1952, inspired a famous “answer song” written by J.D. Miller, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” Recorded by Kitty Wells, the song was the first No. 1 hit by a woman soloist on the country music charts and made Wells a star.

Thompson’s song was about a guy who’d lost his wife when she left him “and went back to the wild side of life.” The song says, “I didn’t know God made honky-tonk angels.”

“It wasn’t God who made honky-tonk angels, as you said in the words of your song,” sang Wells, who worked with Thompson for many years. “Too many times married men think they’re still single, that has caused many a good girl to go wrong.”

Wells, 88, said Wednesday she never took Thompson’s tune personally and didn’t record the response for personal reasons.

“It was just a song,” she said from her Nashville home.

The two hits were both on the charts at the same time.

“I think mine kind of helped his record, and his helped mine,” she said.

Thompson’s death was the country music world’s second big loss in as many weeks. Porter Wagoner, the Grand Ole Opry star who helped launch the career of Dolly Parton, died Oct. 28 at age 80.

Thompson grew up a fan of Gene Autry, which fueled his love of the guitar. By the time he finished high school, he was playing on a local radio show in Waco, where he was featured as “Hank the Hired Hand.”

He served in the Navy, and studied electrical engineering at Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas and Princeton.

Thompson considered a career in engineering, but remained in show business. He caught the attention of Tex Ritter, who helped him get a contract with Capitol Records.

Pitcox said Thompson requested that no funeral be held.

A “celebration of life,” open to fans and friends, will be held Nov. 14 at Billy Bob’s Texas, a Fort Worth honky-tonk.

Survivors include his wife, Ann. He had no children.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.