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Hank Thompson makes it "Seven Decades"

By Robert Wooldridge, July 2000

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"It had just about peaked out and was on its way down when Kitty Wells came out with the answer to it," says Thompson. "For her record to make any sense, you had to hear mine. So, they would go back and play mine right before they played hers so it brought my record right on back up. I got about another three or four months ride out of it because of Kitty's record."

In 1961, Thompson made history with the first live album by a country artist. "Live At The Golden Nugget" was inspired by the success of a live album by the Louis Prima band recorded on stage in Las Vegas.

"I used to go out there and watch them when I got off work," Thompson says of Prima and company. "They were the entertainer's entertainer because they put on

such a fast moving, high energy type music show. It was so electric that they got the idea to do a live album."

Capitol was eager to duplicate the success they had enjoyed with Prima and agreed to do a live Thompson record. "It turned out to be a big hit," says Thompson. "The biggest album that I'd had at that time. We were the only ones in the business that could have done that. We were the only ones playing a venue like that in country music and the only one that had a standing band. So, we did what we were able to do that nobody else could do."

Through the '60's and '70's, Thompson continued to have chart success, but by the mid-'80's, the hits dried up. Thompson stayed active, however, and in the early '90's became popular amongst younger fans of alternative country.

"Everybody's always label conscious," Thompson says of being considered "alternative" at this point in his career. "I guess it's a way of defining it as not being something. What they call country music today is a far cry from 'country.' So, 'alternative' would be to say this is the alternate, and it is not that - this is something else. So, I'm glad to see that we have that market because we have many people that like country music - like the tradition of it, and they do not like what Nashville is putting out and calling country music. Including me. I never listen to it because I don't care for it."

Fellow Texan Don Walser recently recorded Thompson's "Here's to Country Music" which reflects Thompson's view of the current country music scene. "He does a good job on it," Thompson says of Walser. "He's one of my favorite singers in today's 'alternative' or 'traditional,' whatever you want to call it. He's a damn good yodeler and he sings good songs."

In 1997, Thompson released "Hank Thompson and Friends" on Curb Records, which paired him with such artists as Lyle Lovett, George Jones and Junior Brown. Despite the success of the single "Gotta Sell Them Chickens" with Brown, Thompson was disappointed with Curb's handling of the project.

"Curb did not do a whole lot with that album of ours. They just threw it out there without any promotion or push," says Thompson. "But, of course, they have LeAnn Rimes selling millions of records, and Tim McGraw. So, obviously, you're gonna dance with the one who brung you, so I don't blame them. So, that wasn't good for me. but I can understand it.

After having completed the new album, Thompson needed a title. "The album is not a theme album - it's just a bunch of songs," says Thompson. "There was nothing in there - any songs, any themes - that suggested any type of a title. So, the best thing we could come up with was 'Seven Decades.' This, in the year 2000, means that I'd recorded in 7 decades."

In his research, Thompson found that there was one other artist to record in seven decades. "The only other person we could find that had recorded in seven decades was Frank Sinatra. He recorded in 1939 with Harry James," says Thompson. "So I've got a shot at eight."

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