Country Music Memories: Hank Thompson Dies From Lung Cancer


Thirteen years ago today, on Nov. 6, 2007, Hank Thompson died after a short battle with lung cancer. The singer was 82 years old.

Thompson was born in Waco, Texas, on Sept. 3, 1925, and showed an early propensity for music. After serving in the Navy in World War II, Thompson began launching his music career. He had some local success with his single “Whoa Sailor,” before releasing his debut album, Hank Thompson Favorites, in 1952.

Thompson got the attention of Tex Ritter, who helped him secure a recording contract with Capitol Records in 1947. Credited with helping popularize what became known as honky-tonk Western swing, Thompson released more than 45 albums and over 80 singles; “The Wild Side of Life,” “Rub-a-Dub-Dub” and “Wake Up, Irene” were all chart-topping hits for Thompson.

As his career soared, Thompson became one of the very first artists to use a tour bus to transport his band, although he preferred to fly by private plane to his various gigs. He became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

Thompson remained a performer, touring all over the country, until he was diagnosed with cancer. At the time of his illness, the singer had a calendar full of concert dates but was forced to cancel them after his hospitalization. His last show was on Oct. 8, 2007, in Waco; the day was declared Hank Thompson Day by then-Gov. Rick Perry and Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy.

Thompson was survived by his wife, Ann Thompson. A celebration of life service was held at Billy Bob’s, the well-known honky-tonk club in Fort Worth. Per his request, no formal funeral service was held.

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