The song opens up with the lyrics “You wouldn’t read my letter if I wrote you/You asked me not to call you on the phone/But there’s something I am wanting to tell you/So I wrote it in the words of this song”. These words belong to the song “Wild Side of Life” and it is a classic tune that has been covered by numerous artists from several genres of music. It was originally a country song and has the standard country beat to it. But the lyrics perfectly capture that feeling of a lost love and cemented it as one of the great country songs of all time. But who sings “Wild Side of Life”? The answer to that was country music legend Hank Thompson.
Who Was Hank Thompson
Thompson was known for his style of country music. Termed Western Swing, it was a blend of electric and steel guitar, and fiddle. His band was known as The Brazos Valley Boys (named after the Brazos River that runs through Waco). Thompson sang in a deep voice that was similar to Johnny Cash or Ernest Tub. As a type of Western music known as honky tonk music, he sang about nightclubs, women, drinking, good times, and bad times.
In an attempt to be more marketable and to gain more jobs playing in the dance halls of the era, Thompson altered his style a bit. He switched to a type of Western Swing, made famous by Bob Wills, that had a better beat and was more suitable for dancing.
In 1952 brought his first number one hit with “Wild Side of Life”. He followed it up later with another hit, “Waiting in the Lobby of your Heart”. After that he had a string of other hits that followed one after another. Most of his successful works were during the 1950’s and 60’s.
Hank Thompson performed for over six decades. He was not as prominent in the last few decades of his career but he was still active and recording. He recorded for Capital Records until 1965 and then switched over to Warner Brothers Records until 1967. For the next 12 years, he recorded for Dot Records which later became ABC Dot and MCA Records.
In 1989, Hank Thompson was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997.
At this time he was still touring with The Brazos Valley Boys. However, in 2007, he had to cancel the rest of his Sunset Tour after he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer. His last performance was on October 8, 2007, in his hometown of Waco, texas.
Hank Thompson died on Novermber 6, 2007. He had requested that no funeral be held so to honor him, a celebration was held at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas. Fittingly, it is the largest (and probably most famous) honky tonk nightclub in the world.
Wild Side of Life Song History
“Wild Side of Life” was written by Arlie Carter and William Warren and was released as a single in 1952. It spent 15 weeks at number one on Billboards country charts.
Writer William Warren was inspired to write the song after his experiences with a woman who left him for the lure of the honky tonk nightlife. It completely captured the essence of that life and its use of a woman as the source for all of men’s problems is a theme that has dominated country music.
Interestingly enough, Hank Thompson was the not the first person to record “Wild Side of Life’. Country musician Jimmy Heap and the Melody Masters recorded the son in 1951 but never had any suiccess with it. It wasn’t until Thompson recorded his version a year later that it became a hit.
Country music singer Kitty Wells sang a song in asnwer to “Wild Side of Life”. It was titled “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” and was released later in 1952. It is a woman’s answer to Thompson’s song where Wells pointed out that men, not just women, were unfaithful and strayed occasionally. Like the song before it, Well’s version also hit number one on the charts.
Wild Side of Life Covers
There have been so many cover versions done for “Wild Side of Life”. Most of them have been by other country artists such as Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Hank Williams, and Ray Price.
There have also been successful cover versions done by artists of other genres. In the 1970s, the song became popular when the British rock band Status Quo covered it and it became an international hit. Later that same decade, the song snuck into the limelight again when Rod Stweart covered it. Bonnie Tyler also did a version released in 1981.