Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Who left the door to Heaven open

The title of this post was the last record by the legendary country music great Hank Thompson to hit the Top 10—just managing to scrape the #10 position in 1974. Three days ago, I posted a brief blurb that Hank was announcing his retirement from performing (the title of the that post. The Older the Violin, the Sweeter the Music, was his second-to-last Top 10, released that same year) and as I commented to Bill Crider, I wasn’t too eager to post an obituary anytime soon.

But what be must be. Thompson has left us at the age of 82. I can’t even begin to tell you how devastating that is to hear, since Hank (along with his Brazos Valley Boys) was one of my favorite country music singers, whose records were a perfect blend of honky-tonk and Western swing (keeping the legacy of such immortals as Bob Wills alive and kicking) and whose hits—The Wild Side of Life, Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Wake Up Irene, Squaws Along the Yukon, Oklahoma Hills—were part of the soundtrack of my childhood.

Growing up, my folks were country music fans, and since I never rebelled against this (I was born to be mild) I became enamored of it as well. Now that I’m rapidly heading towards old-fartdom, I still find myself enjoying the older music, which Hank played and sang with gravelly-voiced gusto. (My buddy the Chief related to me a recent radio interview he’d heard with the one-and-only George Jones, in which the Possum was asked what he thought of today’s country music. His diplomatic reply was that he didn’t know what that today’s music was, but “it ain’t country.” And he speaks the truth—when was the last time you heard a steel guitar in a “country” song?)

I first got into radio (as a DJ) in 1979, and while at the time I was unprepared for what would be considered one of the darkest hours of country music (the whole “Urban Cowboy” phenomenon), Hank Thompson was still enjoying Top 40 hits like I Hear the South Callin’ Me and Tony’s Tank-Up, Drive-In Café. This would be short-lived, of course, and although I’d catch holy hell from the program director for sneaking in tunes like A Six Pack to Go and Smoky the Bar, I’d end up doing my damndest to make sure Hank still had an audience as long as I was spinning records.

R.I.P., Hank. You still have an audience, and will most certainly be missed.

On tap, in the can or in the bottle
To me it will all taste the same
Down the hatch cause my throat’s open throttle
My heart is pumping sorrow through my veins
I could drink to the times when I was happy
But here’s a toast to my misery
On tap, in the can or in the bottle
Oh bartender bring it to me

On tap, in the can or in the bottle

I wonder who’s kissing her now
My life I’ll have to remodel
And learn to live without her somehow
There’s no place to go and hide myself
The only sanctuary I seek
Is on tap, in the can or in the bottle
Oh bartender bring it to me

There’s no place to go and hide myself

The only sanctuary I seek
Is on tap, in the can or in the bottle
Oh bartender bring it to me
On tap, in the can or in the bottle
Oh bartender bring it to me

“On Tap, In the Can or In the Bottle” (1967) – written by Hank Thompson & Dick Hart

1 comment:

Toby said...

Excellent tribute to Mr. Thompson, Ivan, and that from somebody who never heard of him before. I'll have to sample some of his work now....