Hayden Thompson

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Artist / Musician

Hayden Thompson was born on March 5, 1938 in Booneville, Mississippi to Baxter & Thelma Thompson. After the death of an infant brother, the Thompsons devoted all of their love and affection to young Hayden. He received his first Gibson guitar at age 5. Hayden quickly learned to play and was influenced by the country artists of the day such as Hank Snow and the Delmore Brothers as well as the blues coming out of Memphis by the likes of BB King & Howling Wolf.

After a childhood of talent shows and radio broadcasts, at age 16 Hayden started his first band in High School, the Southern Melody Boys, which featured Cricket Grissom, his sister Marlin Grissom on bass, Clyde Hill on lead guitar, Perry King on steel and Junior Johnson on fiddle. Playing mostly covers of country hits, the group attracted the attention of the Von label, who recorded and released the group’s only single, “I Feel the Blues Coming On”/ “Act Like You Love Me” (Von 1001). It sold respectably but Hayden still had boxes of the record for years. In fact, much to what I’m sure will be the horror of collectors everywhere, Hayden used to use the records for skeet shooting practice.

Fast forward to 1956. Hayden was hanging around Sun studios hoping to get to record for the prestigious little label. In late 1956, Sam Phillips cut 2 songs on Hayden, “One Broken Heart” and “Love My Baby”. The band that played on these tracks featured Roland Janes, Marvin Pepper and Jimmy Van Eaton. Also making his debut on these tracks was a wild-eyed Louisiana piano player named Jerry Lee Lewis.

None of the songs that Hayden recorded for Sun ever did much. In fact, the release was eclipsed by Bill Justis’ “Raunchy”. Package tours followed finding Hayden on the road with the likes of Sonny Burgess and Billy Lee Riley.

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 as a result, he continued to write and record in the style that first put him on the map.