Honky-Tonk Man

He had 78 hits spanning five decades and revolutionized country music. Now, Fort Worth's Hank Thompson gets a new green light.

Thanks to labels like San Francisco's Joaquin, names like Billy Jack Wills (Bob's youngest brother) and Jimmy Rivers are once more out where people can hear and appreciate them. Every person who hears and likes Big Sandy or Ray Condo will eventually find his or her way to Hank Thompson, and with the help of his outstanding new album that might just be enough--at last--to get this pioneer and American legend his due.

But there's something more. If you ask Hank Thompson, he'll tell you, and he might just tell you even if you don't ask him. "I have a 'live and let live' attitude," he says, "which is not that usual around here. I let things go pretty quick, and I think a lot of that strength comes from being personally satisfied. I've always liked to be able to do what I want to do, which is why I left the Opry way back then. I did my music the way I wanted it to sound. To figure out how to please those people out there was my responsibility, and I wanted to do it without someone breathing down my neck." He looks you straight in the eye, as friendly as an uncle and as certain as a preacher. "I do it my way.

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