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Thompson, 82, was country trailblazer

'Humpty Dumpty Heart' singer dies of cancer

Honky-tonk singer Hank Thompson, who scored 29 top 10 country hits between 1948 and 1974 including “Humpty Dumpty Heart,” “The Wild Side of Life” and “Hangover Tavern,” died Tuesday at the age of 82.

Thompson died at his home in Keller, Texas, near Fort Worth. He had been treated recently for lung cancer.

Accompanied by his Brazos Valley Boys, voted the No. 1 Country-Western band for 14 consecutive years during the 1950s and ’60s, Thompson was known for his Western swing sound which incorporated big band sounds, fiddle and pedal steel and had its roots in the early 1940s music of Spade Cooley and Bob Wills.

An electronics wizard, Thompson was known for state-of-the-art sound and lighting at his shows. He was the first act to tour with a sound and lighting system; first to receive corporate tour sponsorship; first country music show to play in Las Vegas; first to record in Hi-Fi stereo; and the first to perform on a color broadcast of a television variety show.

Born Sept. 3, 1925 in Waco, Texas, Thompson started playing at clubs in San Diego while in the Navy. He studied at Princeton University before returning home and forming the Brazos Valley Boys and recording locally. Singer Tex Ritter secured a contract with Capitol Records for Thompson in 1948 and the baritone started churning out hits immediately. He registered his last top 40 single in 1979 with “I Hear the South Callin’ Me.”

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997.

Thompson’s last show was Oct. 8 in Waco. The day was declared “Hank Thompson Day” by Gov. Rick Perry and Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy. Last week he announced he was retiring from perfoming.

He is survived by his wife, Ann.

There will be a celebration of Thompson’s lifeNov. 14 in Fort Worth.

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