Diesel + Diction = Radio Hit

One of Zero to 180’s earliest pieces from 2013 makes light of Hank Thompson‘s famously well-enunciated vocals, as featured on “Squaws Along the Yukon” – a Capitol A-side from 1958.  Hank, whose recording career spanned five decades, would wax a classic piece of toe-tapping truck-driving country in 1971 with “I’ve Come Awful Close“:

“I’ve Come Awful Close”     Hank Thompson     1971

“I’ve Come Awful Close” would reach #27 in Billboard’s Country charts for the week of Christmas, 1971.  Billboard already had the song in its line of sight, having identified it the previous month as a “Spotlight Single:  Top 20 Country” (i.e., “spotlights predicted to reach the top 20 of the Hot Country Singles Chart”) in its November 13, 1971 edition:

“Thompson follows his ‘Mark of a Heel‘ hit with this easy beat material (2:49) that will continue his string of Top 20 country singles.  Flip ‘Teardrop on the Rocks’ (2:39).”

Hank Thompson 45 from 1971“I’ve Come Awful Close” is a 45-only track that would be included on Hank’s 1971 2-LP retrospective 25th Anniversary Album, as well as following year’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1.  Written by Ann J. Morton, the song would chart as high as #11 in the US (#19 in Canada) and spend a total of 14 weeks on the charts..

Hank Thompson: Western Swing’s Dean of Diction

In my prior post about the Nashville Chowdown LP, I mentioned that back in the early 70s jazz singer Blossom Dearie‘s  “exceptional annunciation” was being put to good use in the singing rice-ipe radio ads.  If Blossom Dearie had a male counterpart, that person would undoubtedly be Hank Thompson, whose singing style is distinguished by equally excellent articulation.

Someone once humorously described Hank and his band, the Brazos Valley Boys, as a honky tonk band disguised as a western swing outfit – funny because it’s true.  Anyway, here’s one of Hank’s more playful songs – from an earlier time in American popular culture, lyrically speaking – although I have to admit I only just now learned that it is a cover of a Bud Alden & the Buckeroos 1956 recording.  This tune, “Squaws Along the Yukon,” was the A-side of a 1958 Capitol single (with Merle Travis on guitar) that was later included in Hank’s 1960 album, Most of All:

“Squaws Along the Yukon”     Hank Thompson     1958

Talk about a classic cover:

Six Pack o' Hank

Here’s a bonus video link to Hank’s live performance of “Six Pack to Go” at the Opry:

“Six Pack to Go” reached #102 on Billboard‘s Pop chart on March 21, 1960.