"King of Western Swing" Hank Thompson dead at 82

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - Honky-tonk baritone Hank Thompson, the “King of Western Swing” who churned out a string of top 10 country hits during a decades-long career, has died at 82, his family said on Wednesday.

Thompson’s death was announced by his wife on Thompson’s Web site, which carried a notice that he died on Tuesday in the Fort Worth, Texas, area where he lived. He had been treated recently for lung cancer.

Thompson got his first break in 1948 when fellow singer Tex Ritter got him a contract with Capitol Records and he immediately began turning out hits.

In 1952 he and his his recording with the Brazos Valley Boys of “The Wild Side of Life” brought a rebuttal from Kitty Wells who protested his depiction of women and responded with her own hit, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels.”

Other hits were “Green Light” and “Whoa Sailor” and “Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart.” Between 1948 and 1974 he scored 29 top 10 hits and another 19 in the top 20 country charts.

A native of Waco, Texas, Thompson’s career spanned the years from a stint in the U.S. Navy when he played local clubs around San Diego to his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989, followed in 1997 by a “Hank T & Friends” album doing duets with current stars.

He was one of the earliest country music artists to perform in Las Vegas and used electrical engineering knowledge he acquired in courses at the University of Texas, Princeton University and Southern Methodist University to highlight his concerts with top flight sound and lighting systems, an innovation in those days.