11/2/02 - WESTLAND, MICHIGAN
WITH SPECIAL GUESTS, SURPRISES
BY BARRY M. KLEIN

HANK THOMPSON PUBLICITY PHOTO

COURTESY OF www.hankthompson.net.

He was born on September 3, 1925, but that's not really important. What is important is that Henry William Thompson, more commonly known as Hank Thompson, is still pleasing legions of old fans and making new ones in his seventh decade as a professional country music entertainer.

There sure are many giants in the country music business named Hank, including Hank Williams, Hank Jr. (we'll have to give Shelton, more commonly known as Hank III, a little more time to attain greatness), Hank Locklin, Hank Cochran, Hank Penny, etc., but Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Thompson deserves to be near the top of the "Hank" list or any other list pertaining to country and western music.

Although I had seen Hank Thompson on television and possess his Capital "Vintage Collections" CD with 20 of his hits, I saw Hank Thompson live in concert for the first time on Saturday, November 2, 2002 in Westland, Michigan. The show, produced by the Westland Police Officers Association, The Wayne-Ford Civic League, and radio station WSDS 1480AM from Ypsilanti, Michigan, was recorded live by WSDS and replayed the next day.


KEITH JASON RESPLENDENT IN MUSICAL MOTIFS.


Keith Jason, manager, deejay and musician for WSDS hosted the show and appeared on stage with the WSDS Radio Gang, as well as Wendy Smith's Detroit-based bluegrass band, Blue Velvet.


BONES MAKI & THE SUN DODGERS


Preceding Hank Thompson on the stage was the famous Detroit rockabilly group, Bones Maki & the Sun Dodgers. Bones Maki & the Sun Dodgers consist of Craig "Bones" Maki who sings, plays rhythm guitar and writes most of the songs performed by the band; Kenny Bruce, the upright bass player, who was formerly associated with Bones Maki in the Big Barn Combo, and has continued his association with Maki in this group; Graham Tichy, a resident of Rochester, New York, is lead guitarist for the group, and anyone who hears his guitar playing is amazed at his command of the instrument at such a young age. Perhaps some credit can be given to Graham's dad, John Tichy, a long time member of the legendary Ann Arbor, Michigan group, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, who during the late 1960's and 1970's brought the practically forgotten musical genres of rockabilly, western swing, and classic country western music back to popular radio programs (and they did a good version of Hank Thompson's hit, "A Six Pack to Go", on one of their LP's).

Bones Maki & the Sun Dodgers were so good that the crowd, most of whom probably had never heard of them before and who had come to see Hank Thompson, gave them several rip-roaring ovations and applauded for so long after the last song of the set, that an encore was mandated.


JACK SCOTT AND THE TOP RANKS


One major surprise of the evening was an unannounced, spontaneous appearance by Jack Scott. Scott, a Detroiter, is a legend in his own right who has mastered country music, rock and roll ballads, and rockabilly in his illustrious career. After a backstage visit with Hank Thompson, Hank convinced Jack to take the stage and do a few songs with his band, the Top Ranks, who also attended.


JACK SCOTT AND HIS DISTINCTIVE VOICE


Despite the absence of additional microphones needed for the Top Ranks to provide their usual vocal backup, Jack handled the solo vocals just fine, and the audience gave him a lengthy standing ovation.


ROCKABILLY HALL OF FAME'S BARRY KLEIN
WAS A GUEST ON THE JACK SCOTT INTERVIEW ON WPON'S WEEKLY
RADIO PROGRAM HOSTED BY DR. ROMAN FRANKLIN.
BARBARA SCOTT, JACK'S WIFE, IS SEATED NEXT TO HIM.


On October 16, 2002, less than two weeks before Jack's appearance at the Hank Thompson show, Jack was the subject of a 2-hour interview on Detroit's WPON Radio, Dr. Roman Franklin who hosts a weekly special every Wednesday night from 5:00 to 7:00 on WPON 1460 AM (www. wpon.com) hosted the interview along with the famous Detroit area musician and radio personality, Benny Spears from Benny and the Jets. Also participating in the interview was yours truly as a guest of the host.


HANK THOMPSON STARTS HIS SHOW.


When Hank Thompson took the stage, it did not take long for him to have the audience appreciating their fortune in being able to see him perform in person: he is still great, gracious and gregarious. Hank, who I believe is about 6 foot 6, was always an imposing presence, and even at age 77, could fool many people with his appearance, always well dressed, sporting the kind of outfits that Nudie (you can see an older picture of Hank in a Nudie suit in my article about Nudie, www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryKNudie.html) used to make for him, and possessing a ruggedly handsome face that has for many years sported a mustache and goatee.

In addition to Hank bringing his own steel guitarist, lead guitar player, and violinist, Bones Maki & the Sun Dodgers, as well as Keith Jason, joined Hank and played with him on stage. During his set Hank played many of his big hits including (I've Got A) "Humpty Dumpty Heart" (recorded originally before 1950), "A Six Pack to Go", "Oklahoma Hills", "The Older the Violin, The Sweeter the Music", "Whoa Sailor", and of course, his immensely popular classic, "The Wild Side of Life" ("I Didn't Know God Made Honky Tonk Angels"). Besides being a mega-hit for Hank, who penned many of his own top-sellers, this blockbuster catalyzed the first of the famous "Answer Songs" when Kitty Wells had her own success with "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels".


HANK THOMPSON AND HIS TOUR PLANE EARLIER IN HIS CAREER - HANK'S A PILOT TOO!


For rockabilly fans, Hank Thompson is known as the man who discovered Wanda Jackson, giving Wanda her first big break by taking her on the road and including her in his shows, not to mention securing a recording contract with Capital Records.

Throughout his musical performance, Hank spoke to the crowd about some of his history and the audience was getting as much of a kick out of his stories as they were enjoying his very distinctive and easy-to-listen-to voice.


HANK THOMPSON AND HIS BRAZOS VALLEY BOYS.


Musically, Hank Thompson was known for his trend-setting development of the western swing sound popularized by the late Bob Wills just before Hank formed a legendary band (with its own web site), the Brazos Valley Boys, which included another legend, Merle Travis, on guitar. The Brazos is a river running through Waco, Texas, which is Hank's hometown. When Hank did his own answer song to "Goodnight, Irene", "Wake Up, Irene", he received special dispensation from the Grand Ole Opry to repeat the snare drum sound when he performed it there. Many people mistakenly believe that Elvis was the first performer to be permitted to use a drum at the Grand Ole Opry.

To my knowledge, only Lefty Frizzell has been previously honored as a country singer with a twelve CD boxed set by Bear Family Records (I am excluding a few other country artists who have cumulatively exceeded 12 CD's in more than one boxed set), and this set has received four stars on every review I have ever read.


HANK HOSTS THE LONG AUTOGRAPH LINE AFTER HIS SHOW.


During his performance, Hank Thompson modestly indicated that he had read that the only other million selling recording artist to be active for seven straight decades was Frank Sinatra, and I can honestly state that seeing and listening to Hank Thompson on November 2, 2002 was a truly unforgetable experience, and I am thankful of the fortune for not only seeing and hearing Hank Thompson perform in person, but HE'S STILL GOT IT!!


Barry Klein - bmk@bmkre.com





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