Hayden Thompson

Hayden Thompson Born in Booneville, Mississippi, just a stone's throw from Elvis's hometown of Tupelo, Hayden Thompson crystallized the music we now know as rockabilly when he too, recorded at Sun Studio, the locale that propelled his more well-known neighbor to stardom. The song: a killer rendition of Junior Parker's "Love My Baby" that was as simultaneously bluesy and rocking as Parker's original. Not surprisingly, Thompson was born with music in his bones. His father was a guitarist while his mother sang gospel and played harmonica. Hayden's first guitar, a Gibson, was a gift from his parents when he was 5 and it wasn't long before he was picking up on early country acts such as the Delmore Brothers, Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow via Booneville's country station WHIP. The root of the Thompson sound, however, drifted over the airwaves from Memphis's WDIA which, besides spinning the latest blues and R&B discs, also featured live shows from the likes of Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King.

Thompson formed his first band, the Southern Melody Boys, while still in high school and they cut a record for the local VON label—home also to the Rock 'n' Roll Trio's debut recording—in 1954. "I Feel The Blues Coming On" was a country record, but it's flip side, "Act Like You Love Me" pointed the way to Hayden's future as a rock 'n' roll king pin. The band broke up over musical differences; they didn't share Thompson's fervor for the emerging style. After working the Mississippi-Arkansas-Tennessee-Louisiana circuit with the Dixie Jazzlanders, Hayden joined Sun artist Slim Rhodes' band as vocalist, where he rocked alongside drummer James Van Eaton, who would soon gain fame with Jerry Lee Lewis. But before the killer's records made Van Eaton's tom-tom-flavored backbeat a household rhythm, both he and Lewis had played on Thompson's "Love My Baby" cut in 1956. Roland Janes, whose explosively bluesy guitar work would also become a hallmark on Lewis's Sun sound, provided the dazzling six-string blasts. Phillips waited until 1957 to release the record, but when he did Thompson hit the road with fellow rhythm marauders Sonny Burgess and Billy Riley to promote it. One can only imagine what this tour must have been like! Further sessions for Sun produced superb material like "Fairlane Rock" and "Blue, Blues, Blues" but they went unreleased at the time. In the intervening years, they've become trademarks of the Thompson legacy.

Hayden moved to Chicago in 1958 and continued recording, notably "Watcha Gonna Do" on the Profile label, an imprint most famous for releasing some of Junior Wells' finest sides. He starred on WGN radio's legendary Barn Dance, the Midwest's answer to the Grand Ole Opry. Then in 1962, his former Sun producer, Jack Clement, beckoned him to Beaumont, Texas where he cut a single for Arlen Records, "Queen Bee," then followed it with his first album, Here's Hayden Thompson on Kapp. One of his songs was recorded by Charlie Louvin and he was a common sight on the stage of Chi-Town's Rivoli Ballroom during the '60s, along with the likes of Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. Retiring from music in the early '70s, Thompson was talked into going to Europe a decade later by his old Sun cohort Roland Janes. He found an enthusiastic audience for his music and since then, he's continued to write and record in the style that first put him on the map

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