Sue Thompson - Biography

By Eric Brightwell


Sue Thompson was a girly-voiced pop singer popular in the 1960s who is best known for the hits “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” and “Norman,” both of which were written by John D. Loudermilk. In the 1970s she transitioned into country, often singing duets with Don Gibson.

Eva Sue McKee was born on July 19, 1926 in Nevada (pronounced nuh-VAY-duh) Missouri, a small town on the Osage Plains. An only child in a not-especially-musical family, when Thompson showed interest in music, she was given a guitar for seventh birthday. She began singing and playing guitar at school, church and social functions. After Sue's mother became ill, the Thompson family moved to Sheridan, California, where Sue entered high school and once again began to entertaining in school before her family again relocated to San Jose. As a teen, she worked in a defense plant, got married and subsequently got married when she was twenty.


Three years later, the marriage ended and McKee returned to performing. McKee’s performance at a talent contest caught the attention of bandleader/radio/TV host/singer Dude Martin.  Her win resulted in a two week engagement on Martin’s Dude Martin Show on in 1949 and they went on to marry. In 1950, the two recorded several duets.  The success of “If You Want Some Lovin’” led to Thompson getting signed to Mercury. “Angels Cry,” “Oh, Baby, What you’ve Got” and a re-recorded “If You Want Some Lovin'” were all released by her new label.  In 1951, after The Dude Martin Show moved to KTTV in Los Angeles, the duo began also performing at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood. That year’s “I'll the myself in the Morning” and “I Think I'll Eat A Tadpole” were followed in 1952 by “You Belong To Me,” “Last Night I heard Somebody Cry,” “How Many Tears” and “I'm Not that Kind of Girl.”


Martin added singer/comedian Hank Penny to his revue in 1952. Before the end of the year, Thompson divorced Martin and married Penny (although their marriage too, would end in divorce). The new pair hosted a TV show in Los Angeles for two years before moving to Las Vegas to work the casinos. They recorded separately and together for Decca but failed to land any major hits. Still at Mercury, in 1954 she released “Donna Wanna,” “Take Care of My Baby,” “Say It with Your Heart” and a duet with Penny, “Walking in The Snow.”  Three years later, in 1957, she released “Walking to Missouri.” In 1960, on Columbia, she released “Say Something Nice to Me” under the pseudonym “Taffy Thomas.”


Early the following year, Thompson signed with Nashville’s Hickory Records. “Angel, Angel" performed well but it was the John D. Loudermilk-penned novelty tune "Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)" that really broke her, reaching the Top 5. Another Loudermilk composition, "Norman,” also went Gold. All three songs appeared on her debut, Meet Sue Thompson (1961-Hickory). In 1962, Loudermillk’s "James, Hold the Ladder Steady" matched its predecessor’s feat. The single was followed up by Two of a Kind (1962-Hickory Records). 1964’s “Paper Tiger,” which later showed up on the album Paper Tiger (1965-Hickory Records), was Thompson’s last Top 30 hit. In 1966, she released Sue Thompson with Strings Attached (1966-Hickory Records). Mercury Wing, hoping to cash in on her recent successes compiled her earlier material, more straightforwardly country material and released it as The Country Side of Sue Thompson (1966-Mercury Wing). It wasn’t until This Is Sue Thompson Country (1969-Hickory Records) that Thompson returned with another proper album.


Thompson’s turned back toward country in the 1970s. In 1972, teamed with Don Gibson, and the two ultimately recorded two duet albums, The 2 of Us Together (1973-Hickory) and Oh How Love Changes (1975-Hickory), with “I Think They Call It Love” and “Oh, How Love Changes” providing them with modest hits.  At the same time, Thompson maintained her solo career, releasing …And Love Me (1974-Hickory Records) Sweet Memories (1974-Hickory Records) and Big Mable Murphy (1975-Hickory) which provided her with the biggest solo hit of the period, "Big Mable Murphy." Her last chart single came in 1976 with "Never Naughty Rosie" which reached #95 in the Country charts.


After that, Thompson she retired from recording and moved to Las Vegas where she performed on the casino circuit.  She remarried once again (a guy named Ted) and later once again moonlighted as an MC at the Palomino Club, where she’d performed years earlier with her first husband. In 1991, she was elected to the "West Coast Western Swing Hall of Fame.” Afterward, she moved back to Vegas and performed from time to time in the '90s.


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