News

Country music pioneer Hank Thompson dies at 82

Preston Jones
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

(Ralph Lauer/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Hank Thompson, a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, died Tuesday evening at his Keller, Texas residence, four days after canceling the remainder of a tour. He was 82.

"He was battling aggressive lung cancer," Tracy Pitcox, president of Heart of Texas Records and Thompson's spokesman, said in a statement. "He remained conscious until the last couple of hours and passed away peacefully at about 10:45 p.m. ... surrounded by his friends and family."

According to his bio, Thompson began playing the guitar and working local talent shows as a teenager. His first radio program, "Hank the Hired Hand", was on WACO-FM in his hometown of Waco, Texas.

He was the first country entertainer to travel with his own light and sound systems, the first to have a corporate sponsor, the first to record in high-fidelity stereo and the first to broadcast his TV show in color. And in 1960, Thompson recorded "Live at the Golden Nugget," one of country's first live albums.

"He was one of a kind," said D.D. Bray, Thompson's manager and booking agent for 25 years. "It's a long, long legacy. ... His songs will live forever."

Thompson recorded 21 songs that reached the Top 20 (including "Humpty Dumpty Heart" and "A Six Pack to Go"), sold more than 60 million records and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989. His final performance was Oct. 8 in Waco.

"Mr. Thompson requested that he not have a traditional funeral service," Pitcox said in the statement. "He wanted a celebration of life ceremony."

That ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Billy Bob's Texas country-western nightclub in Fort Worth. The free event will be open to the public "to share memories and honor this country great," said Pam Minick, Billy Bob's marketing director.

"The type of person Hank was, he was more into celebration than mourning," Bray said. "He was a fun man and just wanted celebration. I think it's a terrific tribute."

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