Hank Thompson performs “The Wild Side of Life” Live On The Tommy Hunter Show 1991.

The song reached number # 1 in Billboard country charts for 15 weeks, until August 16, 1952.

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YouTube When The Cowboy Sings Channel

The Wild Side of Life

Lp cover Hank Thompson ( Capitol 1952 )
Lp cover Hank Thompson ( Capitol 1952 )

“The Wild Side of Life”, a song written by Arlie Carter and William Warren, was first recorded by Jimmy Heap & The Melody Masters in 1951 for the Imperial label, but Hank Thompson was the one who made the song a great success of the country music, Hank recorded his version for the Capitol label, was recorded on December 1951, at Capitol Recording Studio, 5515 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, CA, along with The Wild Side of Life, in the session three more songs were recorde, in the recording session Hank was accompanied by: Billy Gray (guitar and leader), Curly Chalker (steel), Billy Briggs Stewart (bass), William Wayne Foster (drums), Joe Herman, “Big Red” Hayes (fiddle), Kenneth Allen, “Little Red” Hayes (fiddle), Gilbert “Gil” Baca (piano). With the production of Ken Nelson, the song was released in March 1952, on May 10, 1952, reached number # 1 in Billboard country charts for 15 weeks, until August 16, 1952. It was the first number one of Hank’s career.

The song was included in the first studio album by Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys, Hank Thompson Favorites (Capitol 1952).

Single Kitty Wells ( Decca 1952 )
Single Kitty Wells ( Decca 1952 )

Story behind the song:

“The Wild Side of Life”, is one of the greatest hits of country music, was the third classic song to use a family melody that the Carter family heard commercially in 1929 on one of their albums called “I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes. “ The patriarch of the group, AP Carter, generally receives the composer’s credit for the piece, although it is well-known that it originated as an old English folk melody more than two hundred years ago and was brought to America. Carter simply discovered it and shaped the lyrics and the melody to adapt them to the style of the Carters, thus putting their “seal”. Eight years later, the same melody was reused for a number that Roy Acuff made famous and called “The Great Speckled Bird”.

The wife of composer William Warren after eight months left him. A few weeks later, Warren saw his now ex-wife dancing and drinking in a Texas honky-tonk. Devastated, he went home and immediately wrote lyrics about the event that coincided with the same melody used in “I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes” and “The Great Speckled Bird.” Warren then gave the song to Jimmy Heath and the Melody Masters, a local group that played in the honky-tonk that his ex-wife visited regularly. As soon as he heard the song, he immediately knew who wrote the lyrics and what inspired them. The Melody Masters cut “The Wild Side Of Life” on a local label and placed it on the record machines in the area. Hank Thompson and his wife Dorothy listened to him during one of Thompson’s East Texas swings. Dorothy immediately liked the song and hinted to Hank that he might consider recording it. However, Hank believed that the melody was worn, that it had simply been used too many times before. Dorothy Thompson managed to convince her husband to copy the lyrics. In doing so, he combined verses two and three, thus simplifying Warren’s original story.
Hank and his band traveled west to cut a new series of records for Capitol. Ken Nelson, a producer assigned to work on Thompson’s recording session in Los Angeles, asked Hank if he had anything for the “B” side of the singer’s “Crying In The Deep Blue Sea” self-writing. Thompson mentioned “The Wild Side Of Life.” ”He pulled the scribbled letter from his bag and, without rehearsal, Hank and his Brazos Valley Boys cut it in one shot. Then they packed up and went home. This “B” side became a huge success. It reached the position n. 1 on the Billboard Country singles list and remained there for fifteen consecutive weeks, making Hank Thompson’s “The Wild Side Of Life” the seventeenth greatest success of all time in the history of country music.
The following year, the song reappeared with another set of lyrics: JD Miller’s response to “The Wild Side of Life,” which he called “It was not God who made Honky Tonk Angels.” This song would launch the sensational career of Kitty Wells and become another authentic classic of the country in its own right. The Kitty version is the answer to the original version, Wells blames the infidelity of women to men, and replies that by Every unfaithful woman is a man who has led her astray.

This song has also been very versioned with more than 80 versions .

Single Freddy Fender ( Duncan 1960 )
Single Freddy Fender ( Duncan 1960 )

Some versions :
Tiny Hill & His Orchestra 1952 ( Mercury )
Bob Sandy & His International Cowboys 1952 ( Tops )
Bill Haley & His Comets 1960 ( Decca )
Freddy Fender 1960 ( Ducan Records )
The Wilburn Brothers 1962 ( Decca )
Mickey Gilley 1962 ( Princess )
Ernest Tubb & His Texas Troubadours 1965 ( Decca )
Conway Twitty 1966 ( Decca )
Webb Pierce 1967 ( Decca )
And many more ….

Hank Thompson – The Wild Side of Life 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’m wanting to tell you
So I wrote it in the words of this song

I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels
I might have known you’d never make a wife
You gave up the only one that ever loved you
And went back to the wild side of life

The glamour of the gay night life has lured you
To the places where the wine and liquor flows
Where you wait to be anybody’s baby
And forget the truest love you’ll ever know

I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels
I might have known you’d never make a wife
You gave up the only one that ever loved you
And went back to the wild side of life

Single Hank Thompson ( Capitol 1952 )
Single Hank Thompson ( Capitol 1952 )

Miquel Batlle
djmiquel@whenthecowboysings.org