FLASHBACK: WILD RIDE AT THE TOP

Hank Thompson forged his musical style from a variety of influences, mainly Western swing and old-time, barroom honky-tonk. In fact, he got his start playing the rough-and-tumble Texas bars, though he wasn't much of a carouser himself.

"I always just tried to roll with the flow," says Hank, now 78 and still active on tour. "I've always taken real good care of myself, and made sure I got enough rest. My idea was just to enjoy myself without letting things get out of hand."

Ironically, Hank enjoyed the biggest hit of his career with "The Wild Side of Life," a noholds- barred testament to drinking and running around. Now considered one of the classic country tunes of all time, "The Wild Side of Life" went to No. 1 May 10, 1952, and stayed there for a phenomenal 15 weeks.

The tune was responsible for also inspiring an "answer" song, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," which was released in July of 1952. A thenunknown vocalist named Kitty Wells took that song all the way to the top, and she became the first female in country history to have a No. 1 record.

"Who would have ever thought that would happen?" says Hank with a laugh. "I'm just glad that my song also did well. It talked about things that you don't hear much in today's music, like drinking and cheating. But, hell, that's part of life!"

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