People of Pittsburg: Bill Thompson
He’s b-b-b-b-bad to the bone
Val Vita | Managing Editor
“Bad to the Bone,” an ‘80s song by George Thorogood and The Destroyers, tells the story of a man who was so bad that the hospital nurses knew it the day he was born. This song is one of Bill Thompson’s favorites and his performance can be seen every Thursday at 505, a karaoke bar in Pittsburg.
Thompson says it all started two years ago, when he was at a karaoke bar in Branson, Mo., singing “Folsom Prison Blues,” by Johnny Cash. He says he ended up among the five finalists that night, even though he didn’t know it was a competition.
“And since that night I’ve been expanding my songs and singing a lot,” Thompson said. “A lot of people told me to come sing here at 505, and the owner of the bar told me: ‘I want to see you singing here every Thursday.’”
Thompson says he was afraid of how the young crowd at 505 would react to his classic repertoire when he started singing in Pittsburg.
“I was worried because I like older stuff,” Thompson said. “But they seem to love it. Usually they clap and cheer and that makes me feel good.”
Thompson says his signature song is “Bad to the Bone,” because he has been a big fan of the song since he was a teenager.
He says he usually presents it at the stage of 505 while wearing rodeo accessories, like a hat and big belt. Thompson says he does this because he was a rodeo clown for 17 years, from 1987 to 2004. He says the job always demanded courage, and it proves that even a clown needs to be bad to the bone sometimes.
The 17 years as rodeo clown might explain Thompson’s ability to move well on the stage, since he doesn’t just sing, but dances as well.
“I’ve got some pretty good moves,” Thompson said. “I also had a bad back and bad knees because of the job.”
His traditional “Bad to the Bone” choreography was missing for a while this summer. Thompson says he stepped off a ledge and hurt the meniscus in both knees. He says he had surgery to fix them in July, but it didn’t stop him from singing. One night, he showed up at 505 using crutches.
“I’m still not ready to be jumping around and stuff like that,” he said.
Thompson, who is 53, says he has been singing other songs he enjoys while he recovers. He says a number of them can be seen on his YouTube channel, and there are about 140 videos of him altogether. Although he has been married for 14 years to his wife Marti, Thompson says he always goes to 505 alone and films himself singing. To watch Thompson’s videos, just type “Bill Thompson 505” into YouTube.
Besides rodeos and karaoke, one of Thompson’s passions is football. He has a football helmet tattoo on his right arm. He says it’s not just any helmet: it’s a Pitt State helmet.
“I was born in Chetopa, Kan., but I consider Pittsburg my hometown,” he said.