‘Sad Movies’ Pop Star Sue Thompson Passes Away at 96

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Sue thompson, the western swing singer turned ‘teenage’ pop star of the 1960s, died on September 23 at the age of 96.

While signed with Acuff-Rose affiliate label Hickory Records in Nashville, Thomson recorded massive pop hits with “Sad Movies” (1961), “Norman” (1962), “James (Hold the Ladder Steady) “(1962) and” Paper Tiger “(1965). Sue Thompson gave a boost to the writers of the publishing house Boudleaux & Felice Bryant, Bob Montgomery and especially John D. Loudermilk.

She was born Eva Sue McKee in Nevada, Missouri on July 19, 1925. She got a guitar at age 7 and dreamed of becoming a vocal cowboy like Gene Autry. Forced from their land in 1937, the family emigrated to California during the Great Depression to work as fruit pickers.

The Mckees eventually settled near San Jose. During World War II, Sue worked in a defense factory near Oakland. She married in 1944, gave birth to a daughter in 1946 and divorced in 1947. She then worked in a theater box office by day and as a nightclub singer by night.

Discovered by western-swing conductor Dude Martin, she began singing on his local TV show in San Francisco. He also became her second husband. They moved to Los Angeles in 1951 and proved to be equally popular on television there.

Signed to Mercury Records, Sue Thompson recorded a series of slightly popular country singles in the early 1950s. In 1952, she became the first to record the future pop standard “You Belong To Me” (Pee Wee King / Redd Stewart / Chilton Price).

In Hollywood, musician / comedian Hank Penny joined Martin’s cast. He fell in love with her. She divorced Martin in 1953, married Penny, and gave birth to a son in 1955.

The Pennys moved to Las Vegas to work on the casino lounge circuit. She recorded for Decca and Columbia, but failed to score in pop or country musical contexts. But in Nashville in Hickory in the 1960s, she found her place with teenage novelty tunes. Sue Thompson had a brilliant quality in her voice that made her look much younger than a 36-year-old woman when the whiny ballad “Sad Movies” made her a teenage pop star in 1961.

That, plus the “Norman” rock and punctuated by brass (1962) and its sequels propelled the strawberry blonde on Hullabaloo, Shindig, American Booth, Where’s the Action, Hollywood A Go-Go and other pop TV shows.

The honeyed sweetness and innocence of her voice seemed to suit Loudermilk’s songs especially. In addition to her first two hits, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member wrote “If the Boy Only Knew”, “James”, “What’s Wrong Bill”, “Big Daddy”, “Paper Tiger” (one of the greatest hits in Australia and Canada) and “Stop the Music”, all of which landed for her on the pop charts in 1962-66. She and Penny divorced in 1963.

Sue Thompson’s pop albums on Hickory were Meet Sue Thompson, Two of a Kind, Golden Hits, Paper Tiger and With strings attached. During her era as a teenage queen, Mercury released her former sides as Sue Thompson’s campaign.

Publicists had dubbed her cute, sassy, ​​flirtatious voice “itty bitty”. Wishing to get rid of this description, Thompson returned to country music. She released a series of singles on Hickory and MGM in 1971-76, including several duets with future Country Music Hall of Fame member Don Gibson.

She was featured on the country singles charts 12 times with 1974’s “Good Old Fashioned Country Love”, reaching No. 31 as her greatest success in this area. His country records from the 1970s included Big Mable Murphy, and love me, sweet memories and two duet albums with Gibson.

Then she returned to the Nevada casino circuit, where she continued to appear in the 1990s. She also reappeared as the host of a radio show broadcast by the famous North Hollywood nightclub, The Palomino.

She married a fourth time in 1993, but was widowed 20 years later. According to The New York Times, the artist died at the home of her daughter and caregiver, Julie Jennings, in Pahrump, Nevada. Her son, Greg Penny, said the cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to the children Jennings and Penny, she is survived by eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

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