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More Tributes to Tommy Thompson

Songwriter, Banjo Player & Founder of the Red Clay Ramblers

WUNC Public Radio
& Celebration Photographs
Press Tributes
Personal Tributes

I've been lucky enough in my life to enjoy many rich and wonderful musical moments and opportunities. I owe a great debt to Tommy, for I am sure that without his encouragement, foresight, inspiration and guidance, many of my musical adventures and those of a great many of my colleagues and peers, might never have happened. That's one of the reasons I wanted to put up these pages, and here are many heartfelt thoughts from others about Tommy too:


hand.jpg - 1377 Bytes "The State of Things" was broadcast on WUNC Feb. 26th, 2003. The host was Melinda Penkava. The program featured conversations with folks who knew Tommy Thompson well, who were there from the old-time/bluegrass Hollow Rock days up to when the Ramblers started their theatrical careers and became a concert band. Penkava stated that Tommy Thompson and the Red Clay Ramblers had "taken string band music and expanded far beyond. And that when Thompson died, last month, he left behind not only a wealth of music and song, but also in that most bittersweet of ironies, a host of memories -- among those who knew him personally and those who may have known him only through his music". She interviewed Alan Jabbour, Barry Poss and myself.

Jabbour, an old friend of Tom's and a member of the Hollow Rock String Band and also founder of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, said that he and Thompson, and other young musicians back in the late 60's, were eager to learn everything they could about old traditional Southern Appalachian songs and fiddle tunes. They were on a mission and were excited about performing an "aesthetic rescue operation on many of the old time tunes that seemed poised at the point of oblivion".ttechallens.jpg - 85443 Bytes

Barry Poss, founder of the Durham based Sugar Hill record label, rememebered those legendary music parties every Friday night at Tommy's house in the Hollow Rock community just outside of Durham. There would be music in every room. "It was so perfectly 'sixties'," Barry said with a smile. "There would be music everywhere, and conversation everywhere, and food and drink everywhere, and in the center there would be Tommy. And he would orchestrate it all in such a way that he made everyone feel welcome, even those on the outer edges. He had a commanding presence, and he seemed to define a character type of that era," said Poss, who was born and raised in Canada. "Tommy was a man of the South, in general, and Chapel Hill, in particular -- and he seemed to define the type of sophisticated and creative Southerner who was still very 'country'." Poss compares Thompson with other southern artists such as Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Lee Smith and Larry Brown." Jabbour, who was born and raised in Florida, said "Tommy and I both grew up in the South during the l950's and '60's. In a sense it was a revolutionary period in the South. It was a time that forced every Southern lad to assess who he was and what was worth keeping and what needed to be pitched out. I think we were all affected by that searing experience of restructuring the South that we grew up in -- as it restructured itself around us and we perhaps lent a hand in small ways in it ourselves. But I think, to an extent, we didn't realize at the time that being Southern in the 1960's was a profound influence on us all." (photo of Tommy taken in Echallens, Switzerland, l977 by Mike)

Both Jabbour and Poss stressed Tommy's fondness for building on tradition, in both his song writing and his playing the banjo. Jabbour: "Tommy had a considerable influence on young banjo players. He shaped the banjo in important ways. People will note his banjo playing as well as his other talents." I recalled how often there was a coterie of younger players following Tommy and fiddler Bill Hicks around, hoping to learn from these 'masters' -- "much to the disdain of people like Jim Watson and me, who never quite got that kind of attention for our mandolin and piano!" Poss, who was once a pupil of Tommy's and credits him with providing Poss his "entree" into the world of regional Southern music, says Tommy "wasn't a purist but understood the essence of old time banjo playing and had a style all his own." Poss views Thompson's songwriting style as a "powerful way of looking at the past from the perspective of the present. In his songwriting and storytelling he could take you along with him, so that it didn't seem like someone else's idea, but your own."

Jabbour thinks of Tommy, particularly in his play THE LAST SONG OF JOHN PROFFIT, "as rexamining the relationship between black and white, and the transfer of the banjo from black musicians to white musicians, and of exploring how that happened spiritually, and bringing to bear a contemporary way of looking at the tradition itself." Poss considered Tommy "a literary songwriter, his words and poetry invoking really powerful images, which often involved a look back, not in a romantic but a sort of hard core way."

Jabbour shared the sense of sadness and pain that many felt in Tommy's gradual demise but he also "felt a sense of release that the long attenuated struggle was finally over, release for Tommy and for the rest of us." Jabbour spoke of the final loss. "People had gotten used to the idea of him and thought 'We've always got a Tommy,' -- but we don't. Tommy has come and gone and we've got to take a new measure of what he did, which was to refresh and add some new creative juices to American music." Jabbour said he considers Thompson, who always strove to be creative with, and creative about tradition, to be in fact "a significant artist of the 20th century".

The program featured some of Tommy's better known songs, including Hot Buttered Rum, Twisted Laurel, Black Smoke Train and Merchants Lunch -- and also some newer unrecorded ones (not recorded) such as "The Wall of Time" which Melinda had culled from an interview she conducted with Tommy in the mid nineties in his little apartment above the Clean Machine in Carrboro -- and also songs ("Jordan is a Hard Road To Travel" and new verses to "Dixie") and excerpts from the radio adaptation of his play "The Last Song of John Proffitt". Red Clay Rambler music included Elzic's Farewell, Fifty Miles of Elbow Room, Traveling That Highway Home, and the Flying Cloud Cotillion. Then Essayist John Rosenthal read a piece he had written about Tommy's and the Red Clay Ramblers' early days at the old Cats Cradle: John Rosenthal Commentary Transcript. "The State of Things" ended with Bland Simpson giving a fond account of traveling with Thompson through some of his most treasured West Virginia sites, in particular seeing the New River train and crossing the Chuck Yeager Bridge over the Kanawa River. "The State of Things", produced at WUNC Radio, airs M-Thurs at 12N and 8 p.m. More info: http://wunc.org/tsot/.


hand.jpg - 1377 BytesJohn Haber organized a gathering to celebrate the life of Tommy Thompson on February 27th, 2003 at the West Bank Cafe in NYC, in words and music. Performances included "These Southern States That I Love" and "Cakewalk into Kansas City" from DIAMOND STUDS, "Hot Buttered Rum", "Twisted Laurel", "Black Smoke Train", I've Got Plans", "The Face in the Mirror", "A Beefalo Special" and "The Ballad of John Falstaff". Musical performers included Guy Strobel, Scott Wakefield, Jay O. Sanders, Clark Thorelle, Sarah Knapp and Steve Alper. Jim Wann sang "Journey from Heart to Heart", from his latest show JIM'S GARAGE. Nick Plakias performed a new song he's written about Tommy called "The Last Banjo Man". "Happy Trails" was sung by Jay O. Sanders commemorating Tommy's version at the end of the original "Merry Wives" in the Forest Theatre in the early '70s. After a spirited sing-along of "Fifty Miles of Elbow Room", the evening closed with Cass Morgan singing "Forgiveness' Embrace" a song written by Stephen Schwartz for her musical TRUE HOME.

Taped messages had been sent from lots of folks who couldn't attend, including John Foley, who is now a middle school teacher in Chicago and sent a tape of a song entitled "There is Peace" performed by his son Jack's class. Rhonda Coulette left a message saying she looked forward to seeing Tommy in "Outlaw Heaven". Jim Lauderdale faxed something in his inimitable handwriting which Habie wasn't able to entirely decipher, but he did read a portion to the crowd assembled. The Red Clay Ramblers sent a tape from St. Louis of their rendition of "Boatman". I sent a taped message saying hello to all my NY buddies and introducing a recording of Tommy singing "I've Got Plans". Gary Kupper, who could not attend, sent his regrets from Las Vegas where he is the musical director for the Drifters and the Platters at the Sahara Hotel! Somebody remarked that is was all "like having our very own PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION right here on 42nd Street!"

Tommy's children, Jessie Thompson Eustice and Tom Ashley Thompson, had come up from North Carolina for the event. Habie reports that everyone was amazed by how much Tom Ashley looked like his Dad, and Tom Ashley seemed amazed at how many New Yorkers he remembered from when his dad was doing DIAMOND STUDS. Evidently there were at least 4 Bob Fords present or involved in the evening -- that is four actors who had played Bob Ford, in the musical DIAMOND STUDS -- John Foley, Guy Strobel, Nick Plakias and Scott Wakefield. Special "Tommy" cookies were created for the occasion by John, shortbread cookies in the shape of "T's". In addition to all the musicians involved, lots of old friends and associates crowded into the Westbank's downstairs, including Edith Davis, Joan Kaghan, Joe Coleman, Patricia Birch, Bill Becker, Janet Watson, Randy Skinner, Tom Bullard, Bill Irwin, Michael David, Jonathan David, Ed Strong, Michael Bogdanov, Nan Bases, Peter, Florence and Greg Alkalay, Jessie Wann, Godfrey Cheshire, Wayne Robbins, Linda Wright, Steve Olsen, Hank Meriman, Aaron Mason, Darrie Lawrence, Sara Gettelfinger, Allison Briner, Joe Mahowald, John Jellison, Walter Charles, Nick Sullivan, Tracee Beazer, Kevin Carolan, Michael Vergoth, Mark Smith, Richard Cohen, Steve Margaritov, Reggie Barton, Thomas Brooke, Carey Davis, Susan Smyley, Klea Blackhurst, Parthy Monagan and "Uncle" Bill Parsons. Evidently it was a very special and inspired gathering, and also very carthartic in many respects. "Why can't life always be like this," someone was heard to remark. To me this is evidence of and a tribute to Tommy's spirit -- that such a powerful and positive emotional experience of fun and music and togetherness could be inspired by the spirit of one person. This amazing feeling was also very evident in Durham, at St. Joe's, on January 28th.

Tributes in the Media

There have been some wonderful tributes to Tommy, including one from David Eustice and one from Ken Sole, a great friend from the early days of the RCRs. (see Tributes below). Also alot of nice radio tributes, including Mike Kelsey's "These Friends of Mine", WFHB, Bloomington, IN. Mike played "The Ace" 2/12 as his"Valentine's Day song". Mike will be doing a full length tribute to Tom soon. Also Robyne Fawx's 2/01 broadcast of "Saturday Morning Folk Show" on KDVS Radio, University of California at Davis; Bob McWilliams' show "Trail Mix", on Kansas Public Radio; Rik James' "Americana Backroads", on KGLT, Bozeman, Montana; Frank Gosar's "Saturday's Cafe" KLCC, Eugene, OR; and KSJN's "Morning Show" from St. Paul, MN. (See complete playlists below.)

David Brower did a great piece about Tommy on WUNC's Morning Edition, January 27. I had hoped to have an audio link to that interview very soon, but it's taking awhile. In the meantime here is the text transcript of the interview: David Brower's piece on Tommy Thompson, WUNC RADIO 1/27/03

Article about Tommy in the Chapel Hill News Jan. 28th, by Dave Hart.

Article about Tommy in the News and Observer Jan. 25th by David Menconi

"They Were Southern Treasures", a tribute article by Gene Owen in THE MOBILE REGISTER

Article on Tommy Thompson in "The Daily Tar Heel

For more information about Tommy, go to "The Original Red Clay Ramblers Site" -- there's an amazing guestbook there where people are posting their thoughts and memories about him.


There was a visitation with family and friends on the evening of Jan. 27th. The funeral service was held Jan. 28th at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church in Durham. Music in the service included "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" (traditional Irish melody), choir and congregation; "Bright Morning Stars Are Rising", choir and congregation, and "Fifty Miles of Elbow Room", Mike and Jim. (A friend of mine heard a Catholic choir director who was planning a funeral say "Why does everybody become Baptist when people die?" We guess it's because people want good old hymns at the funerals!) Anyway... an amazing musical and social celebration followed in the fellowship hall upstairs after the funeral service. (Photos.) There were impromptu music jams each night which included Alan Jabbour, Jim Watson, Alice Gerrard, Bill and Libby Hicks, Joe Newberry, LaNelle Davis, John McCutcheon, Carl Jones, Susan Ketchin, Gail Gillespie, Ted Ehrhard, Mark Sahlgren and Jim Collier. There was a particularly moving accapello version of "Time Has Made A Change In Me", in the first night. There were lots of dear friends and familiar faces present on both occasions -- this is just a partial list of folks who attended the service and/or the get together and the visitation the night before. Of course there was the immediate families: Jesse Thompson Eustice, David Eustice, Tom Ashley Thompson, Brenda Osborne, Cece Conway, Eugenia Ahart, also Anne Berry, Janette Carter and Dale Jett, Parthy Monagan, Lucretia Pineo, Don Dixon, Jeffryn Stephens, Virginia Hill, Clark Jones, Jim and Susan Smith, Susie Winters, Mary Regan, Sally Council, Betsy Buford, Jerry and Alice Cotten, Don Wells, Carlann and Bill Graves, John Rosenthal, Jacques Menache, Dave Southern, Dan and Beverly Patterson, Jim and Florence Peacock, Bill Lachicotte, Dottie Holland, Betsy Alden, Mary Lou Sargeant Teale, Jake Phelps, Jim Seay, Vic Lucas, Susan Sheffield, John Sheffield, Charles Odum, Bill Graves (fils), Marilyn Miller, Dwight White, Donald Whittier, Mary Whittier, Bud Matthews, Noah Matthews, Chris Meade, Henry Walker, Evan Juhlin, Tom Krueger, Callie Warner, Paul Mitchell, Deb White, Townsend Luddington, Jim Warburg, Ruthie Rankin, John Anderson, Sherry Simpson, John Rietsel, Jim Byrum and Jane Oliver, Penny and Gene Knight, Bob Carlin, Hal Crowther and Lee Smith, Sprague Cheshire, Mary Cleary, Melissa Penkava, Joe Newberry, Bland Simpson, Allison Lee, Peter and Cissie Anlyan, Rick Wheeler, Susan Leete, Hannah Byrum, Pat Beaver, Jamey Tippens, Nettie Lassiter, Homer Foyle, John Haber, Tom Haber, Anne Gilland, Hunter and Susie Simpson, Eli Frank, Emmitt Frazier, Davi and Sarah Cheshire, Anne Simpson, Kristin Nygard, Laurel Urton, Madelyn Smoak, Dennis Rickman, Bill Smith, Susan Perry, Kaola Phoenix, Kim Kersey, Karen Thompson, Kit Olsen, Nowell Creadick, Susan Ketchin, Harley Henry, Lynn Sahlgren, Darcy Sahlgren, Matthew Sahlgren, Michael Barker, George Holt, Tom Rankin,, Jim Collier, Greg Bell, Tony Ellis, Pam and Snuffy Smith, Bob Brown, Jean Carey, Barry Poss -- more accounting to come...

Personal Tributes

tommy.jpg - 5195 BytesFollow this link for a nice tribute from
Diane Sanabria and others.
"Tommy showed the world much more than a tune, lick and phrase. His courage in such hard times is a source of strength. Music was in his heart up to the end. He lives in our singing and our humor." --David Eustice

"I knew Tommy for about thirty years. We first met when I was a graduate student in Social Psychology. At that time, I had the administrative responsibility of arranging the department's colloquia. I would call potential speakers who were interested in presenting their ideas to our department, arrange their travel and lodging etc.

One of my professors gave me the name of a gentleman who taught philosophy of Psychology, and so, I called North Carolina State's department to speak with "Charles W. Thompson." I dialed, the phone rang, and a very southern voice answered. I asked "Is this Charles Thompson" and he responded "Yeah, this it Tommy."

Months later, a huge bearded fellow showed up at my Columbia University office wearing chino pants held up by both a belt and suspenders. (Taking no chances...)

Tommy gave his talk, and, on concluding, thanked me for making the arrangements for his visit. Then, as people left the room he came over to me and said "Let's meet at Peter's later and go out for some dinner."

I went up to Peter's apartment, opened the door, and was welcomed by a small group of friends and colleagues, but, in truth, I really did not see them. Instead, my eye was drawn to the far wall where I saw perhaps a half dozen banjos leaning. I moved to the one that called me. As I gently picked it up Tommy said "You have good taste..." It was a Fairbanks Electric #6 that was made in 1894 if memory serves. At that time, I had never seen anything like it.

As I held that beautiful banjo I turned to Tommy and asked "Do you play."

He said simply, "Some..."

Of course by that time he had won the blue ribbon at Union Grove.

We remained friends for many years.

Then, in 1995 or so, my wife and I were driving north from Boston and heard RCR music on the radio. It was the intro to a Terry Gross interview with Tommy. He said in that interview that he would no longer perform and I turned to my wife and said "God, I hope he's not sick." You know the rest...

When I got home, I called and left a voicemail. A few hours later my phone rang and I heard that wonderful voice say "Ken, it was so great to hear from you..." We talked for a few minutes about his diagnosis and he reassured me that though this might be a problem at some future point, there was absolutely no difficulty at that time.

We then talked about friends and music for more than an hour.

The following day, my phone rang and there was that wonderful voice again. He said "Ken, it was so great to hear from you..." and within a few moments it became clear that he did not know we had talked the day before...

I started missing him that day, and I miss him now." --- Kenneth Sole

"I have fond memories of Tommy. I first met him in 1971 when I was touring with Hazel & Alice and we stopped in Durham to play and hang out. He was very kind to me. Later, during the Red CLay Ramblers days, he let us film them at Janette Carter's "Fold." Amongst the tunes we filmed was "Daniel Prayed." Later that night, we had a great little singin' party back at the motel. Frankie Taylor got so excited he used their bass as a drum while we sang. That didn't go over well with the bass player, but Tommy just laughed. That performance is in the film "Sunny Side of Life." One of the best little pieces of theater I ever witnessed was his one-man show of Dan Emmitt ["The Last Song of John Proffitt"]. I can't recall if he wrote it [he did! -ed.] but it was a fine piece of work. Finally, the last time I saw him was at Lime Kiln Theater where he did a wonderful job. Though he was having a terrible time in rehearsals memorizing his lines, he finally got them and did a great performance. So, Goodbye ole friend, you are gone but we will not soon forget you. Rest in Peace and I can still hear that ole banjo ring." --Jack Wright

from a longtime fan: "I thought the funeral and the gathering were a moving tribute to Tommy. It was really nice to hear all that music, too. It's amazing how the music of the Ramblers has drawn so many people together over the years. There seems to be a bond between those who shared the music, especially back in the 'golden age' days in the late 70's when the "Blurs" played almost every month at the old Cat's Cradle on Rosemary Street. I wouldn't miss those shows for anything. Although those years were very unsettled for me and I was often confused and depressed, hearing that music was such a balm. During those hours when the band was playing I would feel downright happy and unconcerned about the troubling things in my life. Those memories are still strong!"

"I am a piece of Tommy Thompson's legacy. His banjo playing is burned into my life's permanent soundtrack along with my father's accordian playing, my mother's singing, and Alan Jabbour's fiddling. He is with me when I perform and teach lessons, and my banjo students echo Tommy's spirit and drive when they play." --Diane Sanabria

"I was feeling a selfish loss for that incredible sense of community we had when you guys played: everybody loved everybody, the world was open and accepting and the music was perfect: wryly happy, and lonely, and funny -- a little peculiar, and just wonderful....I wanted to feel all that again, and see all the old gang...and be with people who knew how beautiful and sad it all was..... --a long-time RCR fan

"The trail of (no) tears" --
Dear Editors: Thank God there are now mountain bikes. There are no old sprinters with mirrors on their helmets sitting on your wheel in the rocks and the roots. "Out of sight where the twisted laurel grows."
Bill Humphreys
USA National Road Team 1973-75
(Anybody who can quote Tommy Thompson's "Twisted Laurel" is a man to be reckoned with. Especially if he's an old roadie. - Editor.) --this was a letter to the editor of velonews.com -- a website devoted to cycling.

"For some of you guys who're just coming around, and weren't here - doesn't make you a bad person - for Tommy Thompson's heyday, as the leader of the royally slap-happy Red Clay Ramblers, from about 1972 or so until his incapacitation by early onset of Altzheimers, about twenty years later: he was a very funny guy, who started out with the nickname "Uncle Wide-Load," because he was just enormous, and then dropped I don't know how many pounds and wound up looking like a highly dangerous professional football quarterback who coulda been on the field at Superbowl his past Sunday if life had happened to go that route. Still slap-happy onstage, tho, with a sardonic sense of wit that never quite made it over to PC, in public. Part of the act, of course. In private, he'd begun life as a teaching assistant in philosophy, while a grad student in a PhD program, and knew old-time music from the scholarly or ethnomusicological side; sometime you might want to check out his notes on the African origins of the banjo, for a play on minstrel music in America which he wrote in between gigs with what we now call The Original Red Clay Ramblers (a wild and wacky bunch -- Bill Hicks, Jim Watson, Mike Craver and Jack Herrick - who had to run to keep up with Uncle Wide-Load). Onstage, The Red Clay Ramblers were a joy, playing shows that always looked as if they were about to fall apart with fits of zaniness that accidentally fell into note-perfect Irish dances and Appalachian hoedowns interlaced with melancholy blues, ragtime and old vaudeville songs and back to zaniness again. They were the guys, the best old-time music show bar none of the folkie revival of the seventies. Tommy was their leader, their clown-prince and their centre of gravity. It couldn't last forever, nothing does, tho they did manage to get a good slice of their repertoire on record for Bruce Kaplan's lovely Flying Fish label out of Chicago, and so far Rounder Records, which took over Flying Fish after Bruce's death, has managed to put out a two-LP set on one CD, a good-sized chunk, *Twisted Laurel/Merchant's Lunch,* from which you'll doubtless see quite a bit in the next few days on playlists here.

But I guess that's what we're missing, us old farts who're laying Tommy Thompson and the Red Clay Ramblers on you these funereal days, and sorry if it's sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes blue, sometimes wackadoo. That's how they were, it's how some of us feel about Tommy and the guys, and I just felt like telling you, if that's alright. Tip of the hat to Jesse Eustice Thompson, the devoted daughter who lavished years of loving care on her old Dad in the long nursing home years, and on with the music. Tommy's prolly lying back on a cloud somewhere, merrywang aloft, a song on his lips and a gleam in his eye. We miss him, we loved him. OK?" -- John McLaughlin: (johnmcla@earthlink.net) http://johnmclaughlin.hypermart.net/ (John has a radio show, "Roots and Wings" on WESS in eastern Pennsylvania.) John also conducted an interesting in-depth interview with Tommy back in l977:
McLaughlin Interview with Tommy Thompson

"I wanted you to know that we heard Tommy passed away last Friday 1-24-03. As a board member of the Anhcorage Alaska Folk Festival we made an announcement of this on our final night. Our theatre holds 900 people, we had a full house. I told the crowd that tradition folk music and especially Appalachian String Band music has come a long way.
I said if someone is talented enough, creative enough and genuine enough they move the music along with an indelible stamp. Tommy was one of those people. Especially with "Diamond Studs", "A Lie of the Mind" and other productions this has been a lasting achievement. We asked for a 30 second moment of silence. Mark Roberts was playing with the Sevens and dedicated "Ain't No Ash Will Burn" to his memory. Thanks Tommy." -- Steve and Christy Montooth, Anchorage

"Folks, I heard from Cindy that Tommy passed away and wanted to pass along my sorrows, and continue to reflect on the good times Tommy and the Blurs had at Godfrey's throughout the years. They were the first "supergroup" to ever play the club, a group that we dreamed of having, and the dream came true. Thanks.... " Dave Fry, GODFREY DANIELS Coffeehouse, Bethlehem, PA

"I know Tommy's a great big angel now, watching over us all; and his spirit is all around us." -- Triona Ni Dhomhnaill

SING OUT! obit

A short obit appeared in the "Over Jordan" section of the March/April issue of the International Bluegrass Music Association Magazine (IBMA)

Tommy's son, Tom Ashley Thompson, wrote this very eloquent tribute for his dad and associates, which he read at the Red Clay Ramblers Reunion for Tommy Thompson at the North Carolina Museum of Art in June of 2003:

"Charles William Thompson -- Tommy Thompson. 'Dad' to Jesse and myself -- Dad once said to me "Son, keep good company and you will be good company."
On behalf of my father I would like to thank some of that good company.
My Mother, Cece Conway, who chose my Dad.
Mike Craver, who taught me to exercise my dim conscience as it emerged.
Bill Hicks who taught me to pick the smooth, flat, round stones that would skip 13 times on a pond.
Jim Watson and Jack Herrick who taught me countless roadtrip games, and how to spin, flick, and throw all kinds of frisbees,
Clay Buckner who taught me to have a sense of humor about myself.
Bland Simpson whose narrative story telling taught me to appreciate Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and Hemingway.
The rest of the Ramblers, Friends, and Fans, who enriched my father's life and made him good company. Thank you!"

---Tom Ashley Thompson June 14, 2003

Recent "Tommy" Music on the Radio:

tompup.jpg - 7705 BytesJohn Kalb, host "Just Folks" WSCL/WSDL, Salisbury MD remembered Tom by playing "Blue Jay/The Girl I Left Behind Me", "I've Got Plans", and "One Rose/Hot Buttered Rum"

KSJN's "Morning Show", St. Paul, MN featured a tribute to Tommy. Hosts Jim Ed Poole & Dale Connelly played "Merchant's Lunch" and "Rabbit in the Pea Patch" by the Red Clay Ramblers. Also Tommy's recording of "Way Long Timey Ago" on Daddies Sing Goodnight (Sugar Hill 3821). Also played was Bryan Bower's version of " Hot Buttered Rum" (By Heart -- Flying Fish 70313)

Rich Kirby , an old friend of the band's talked about Tommy last week and played some tunes on his show on WMMT, Whitesburg, KY.

Gaynor Johnson, host, "Folkwaves" KAUR Radio, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, did a tribute to Tommy Feb. 1st. Song selections from RAMBLER included Black Smoke Train, Ninety and Nine, What Does The Deep Sea Say?, One Rose/Hot Buttered Rum, Cotton Eyed Joe, Mile Long Medley, Darlin Say/Pony Cart. From FLYING FISH 20th ANNIVERSARY SAMPLER: Merchants Lunch. From HARD TIMES: Chesapeake Bay, The Face in the Mirror, Fiddler a Dram/Murphy's Hornpipe, Chicken, Trip to Sligo/Priest and his Boots/Three Little Drummers, I Crept into the Crypt, and Long Time Traveling.

Mike Kelsey, host: "These Friends of Mine", WFHB, Bloomington, IN, did a tribute to Tommy 1/29 that included "One Rose/Hot Buttered Rum", "The Year of Jubilo", Merchant's Lunch", "Stern Old Bachelor" (Meeting in the Air);
"Satan's Choir" (It Ain't Right): [speaking of that title, Mr. Kelsey says "did you hear about the dyslexic blues player who went to the crossroads at midnight and made a deal with Santa?"]
"Twisted Laurel"; "Woman down in Memphis"; "The Ace"; "Honey Babe" Stolen Love); "Paddy Won't You Drink Some Cider" (Chuckin the Frizz).
Mike says that Tommy "was a hell of a presence in the world of good music!!" He goes on to say that "Alastair Moock, a songer/songwriter out of Boston with a beautiful gravelly voice, has a song about John Lee Hooker in which he says something to the effect that all of the real ones are leaving us, and soon there will be nothing left but tribute songs."

Frank Gosar, host, "THE SATURDAY CAFE" 2/01/03 on KLCC, Eugene, OR
[A couple of sets in memory of Tommy Thompson. I was the producer of the last concert the Ramblers played in Eugene, in 1987. Wish I'd got to know them all better, but I was totally starstruck, unable to say a word around them. *sigh* Jamie May, then host of the show I now call home swooped in and took care of them so I could concentrate on stressing about my first big-budget concert. They were *marvelous.* Of course. Most of the music in these sets features Tommy on lead vocal or banjo,though I threw in the last song in this set just because it's so lovely.]
Red Clay Ramblers - Cabin Home - CHUCKIN' THE FRIZZ/Flying Fish
Red Clay Ramblers - Staten Island Hornpipe - STOLEN LOVE/Flying Fish
Jim Watson, Mike Craver & Tommy Thompson - Meeting in the Air - MEETING IN THE AIR/Flying Fish
Red Clay Ramblers - Twisted Laurel - TWISTED LAUREL/Flying Fish
Jim Watson, Mike Craver & Tommy Thompson - Are You Tired of Me My Darling - MEETING IN THE AIR/Flying Fish
[Something I never really appreciated til today was the way most of the Ramblers' albums identify who's playing and who's singing on every track. Made my choices much easier. What made them much harder was how few were more than three minutes long. God, cuing records again. Huff, pant, gasp.]
Red Clay Ramblers - Merchant's Lunch, Regions of Rain, Chesapeke Bay, I've Got Plans, Hot Buttered Rum, & Gourd, Part 1.

"Americana Backroads" / KGLT-FM, Bozeman, Montana. Host: Rik James. Playlist February 1, 2003) Show # 03-05
"Stunned as we all were with the shuttle Columbia, the tone was low key, the voices all female for the first half of the show, as they felt consoling to me somehow. Then we paid tribute to Tommy Thompson of the Red Clay Ramblers and Hollow Rock String Band, who died on Jan. 24, and finally a look at Jim & Jesse’s first Capitol sessions."
"My Dixie Darling" -- Meeting in the Air (Flying Fish)
Tommy Thompson – A fine legacy, a fine banjo player, singer – long will we miss him and treasure his music and spirit.
RED CLAY RAMBLERS "Black Smoke Train"/"Ninety & Nine"/"What Does the Deep Sea Say"/"Hard Times"/"Saro Jane"/"Face in the Mirror"
MIKE CRAVER/TOMMY THOMPSON/JIM WATSON: "Meeting in the Air"/"Dixie Darling"
HOLLOW ROCK STRING BAND: "Clog"/"Dinah"/"Jawbones"/"Betty Likens"

Bob McWilliams, host, "Trail Mix" on Kansas Public Radio 2/2
Red Clay Ramblers "Forked Deer"/"Merchant's Lunch"/"Beefalo Special"/"Paddy Won't You Drink Some Cider"
Jim Watson, Mike Craver & Tommy Thompson "The Stern Old Bachelor"
Red Clay Ramblers "Abe's Retreat"/"Molly Put the Kettle On"/"Cabin Home"/"Hot Buttered Rum"

Mary Cliff, host "TRADITIONS", WETA, Washington, DC Tribute to Tommy Thompson of Red Clay Ramblers:
Red Clay Ramblers: Merchant's Lunch/Twisted Laurel/Cabin Home/Hot Buttered Rum/Hard Times

Robyne Fawx, host: "Saturday Morning Folk Show" on KDVS, Davis CA had a wonderful tribute to Tommy today 2/1. Robyne talked about Tom and the influence he had and his music and some of his background. She played over an hour of Tommy's music or music pertaining to Tommy, including:
"Bright Morning Stars," recorded by Peggy, Penny and Mike Seeger from AMERICAN FOLK SONGS FOR CHRISTMAS -- (Robyne mentioned that this song had been sung at Tommy's funeral.)
"Anchored in Love," from MEETING IN THE AIR, Craver/Thompson/Watson FF LP
"Wild Rose of the Mountain" - Si Kahn and Red Clay Ramblers, DOIN' MY JOB FF CD
"Cabin Creek" from the Hollow Rock String Band RR CD
"Black Smoke Train" from RAMBLER SH CD
"Light Years Away" from Debby McClatchy's CD. This song was written for LIE OF THE MIND SH CD
"Folding the Flag/Hard Times Come Again No More" from MUSIC FROM A LIE OF THE MIND SH CD
"Red Rocking Chair" from Elwood Donnelly & Aubrey Atwater -- RCR version was used in LIE OF THE MIND
"Mile Long Medley" from RAMBLER
"Aragon Mill" from CHUCKIN' THE FRIZZ FF LP
"Regions of Rain" from IT AIN'T RIGHT FF CD
"Long Time Traveling Home" from HARD TIMES FF LP
"Down In The Willow Garden" from IT AIN'T RIGHT FF CD
"One Rose/Hot Buttered Rum" from RAMBLER SH CD
"Devil on a Stump" from HOLLOW ROCK STRING BAND
"Fifty Miles of Elbow Room" from TWISTED LAUREL FF LP
Evidently this broadcast (2/1/03) of Robyne Fawx's "Saturday Morning Folk Music Show" will be archived for seven days. You can hear it on-line -- go to KDVS' schedule page and find the Saturday programs, then look for "Saturday Folk Music" from 9-12 AM with Robyne Fawx, and click on that link.

THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL with Rich Warren, WFMT Chicago February 1
The Red Clay Ramblers: Merchants Lunch (Thompson-Craver)"Twisted Laurel" Flying Fish FF70055
The Red Clay Ramblers: Hot Buttered Rum (CW Thompson)"Chuckin' the Frizz" Flying Fish FF089

Keith Dudding, host, "Down Yonder", KDHX, St. Louis, MO "The second set was in memory of Tommy Thompson of The Red Clay Ramblers, who passed away last Friday. Long may he ramble." The Red Clay Ramblers "Cotton-Eyed Joe"/ "Cabin Home" Mike Craver, Tommy Thompson, Jim Watson: "Meeting in the Air"

Jean Brendecke, host: "Lunch With Folks" on KBCS, Bellevue, Washington -- a Tribute to Tommy Thompson. Jean played selections from Red Clay Ramblers recordings including, "Hot Buttered Rum", "Beefalo Special", "Long Time Travelling", and "Merchants Lunch". From the Hollow Rock String Band CDs she played "Cabin Creek" & "Dinah".

Susan Forbes Hansen, "Valley Folk" WFCR, University of Mass. at Amherst. "Remembering Tommy Thompson:
The Red Clay Ramblers: Regions of Rain & Merchant's Lunch (It Ain't Right)
The Red Clay Ramblers:One Rose/Hot Buttered Rum (Rambler)
The Red Clay Ramblers: Blue Jay/The Girl I Left behind Me & Twisted Laurel (Twisted Laurel)

Suzi Wollenberg, "Variety Folk", WVUD, University of Delaware @ Newark.
"The Ramblers played our local old-time and bluegrass festivals numerous times before they got stage struck; plus, they were also the featured music at the wedding of a certain WVUD dj who will remain nameless --- (and no, it wasn't me)."
RED CLAY RAMBLERS / Daniel Prayed/Merchant's Lunch /Run, Sister Run One Rose:Hot Buttered Rum/ Hard Times
JIM WATSON, MIKE CRAVER & TOMMY THOMPSON: I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow/Give Me The Roses / Meeting In the Air, When the Roses Bloom in Dixieland / Meeting In the Air LP

BACK PORCH MUSIC: WUNC Radio -- Jan. 24-26, Fredddy Jenkins and Keith Weston, hosts:
The Red Clay Ramblers: Twisted Laurel/Merchant's Lunch/Regions Of Rain/Black Smoke Train/I've Got Plans/Chesapeake Bay/Run Sister Run
Jim Watson, Mike Craver & Tommy Thompson -- The Stern Old Bachelor, Lulu Walls, Meeting in the Air, Anchored in Love -- (from Meeting In The Air -- Flying Fish 219 (Lp)
The Hollow Rock String Band:Richmond Cotillion
The Red Clay Ramblers -- Blue Jay/The Girl I Left Behind Me -- Merchants Lunch/Twisted Laurel/Black Smoke Train
The Red Clay Ramblers w/Fiddlin Al McCanless -- epon -- Ducks on the Mill Pond -- Folkways 31039
Alan Jabbour/Sandy Bradley/Tommy Thompson -- "Shoes and Stockings" -- Sandy's Fancy -- Flying Fish 260

from Mike Regenstreif-- CKUT, Montreal. This playlist is archived, with a nice picture of Tom at http://www.ckutfolk.com/jan2303.htm#Jan3003 . "This week’s program was dedicated to the memory of Tommy Thompson, a founding member of the Red Clay Ramblers. Tommy died last Friday following a long struggle with an Alzheimer’s-like disease. He was 65. Except for “One Rose,” the instrumental that precedes “Hot Buttered Rum,” the songs in this set were all written, or co-written, and sung, by Tommy."
RED CLAY RAMBLERS: Black Smoke Train/Run Sister Run/Regions of Rain/Merchant’s Lunch/One Rose/Hot Buttered Rum

Joe Cline devoted a part of his radio show "This Old Porch" on WNCWto Tommy's and the Red Clay Ramblers' music 1/26. He talked about how Tommy had been a big part of the music scene in North Carolina and how his influence had been felt across the nation too. Then Joe played "The Ace", "Merchant's Lunch", "Face in the Mirror" (from the HARD TIMES LP, which Joe introduced as being a 'wry love song about someone who doesn't deserve one',) the Tom Rozum/Laurie Lewis version of "Hot Buttered Rum" ('probably Tommy's best loved song'), "Daniel Prayed" ('Tommy used to introduce this song by saying it was about Daniel down in the lion's den doing just what you'd be doing if you were down there!'), "Parting Hand", and "Forked Deer". Joe concluded his program by saying that Tommy "was a good friend, a great influence and he will be sorely missed".

There were also tributes on WUNC's "Back Porch Music" and Bill Moffett's program "Country Corner" , on 1420 WCOJ-AM in southeastern Pennsylvania (West Chester).

Also, from the "Salt Creek Show", WVBR-FM Ithaca, NY, host Paul Harnick made the following post and played the following tunes: "Today's album side feature is in memory of Tommy Thompson of North Carolina, a member of the phenomenal Hollow Rock String Band and Red Clay Ramblers. Thompson died at his home this past friday after a long illness."

Album side feature: "Merchant's Lunch", "Rabbit in the Pea Patch", "I've Got Plans", "Kildare's Fancy - Ships Are Sailing - High Yellow", "Daniel Prayed", "Forked Deer", and "Henhouse Blues" -- (LP MERCHANTS LUNCH, Flying Fish 055)

Arthur and Andrea Berman, hosts, "THE PACIFIC PICKING SHOW", CITR, Vancouver, BC
Red Clay Ramblers:Anchored in Love/Black Smoke Train/Merchants Lunch/Cabin Home

Dave Tilley played a lot of Tommy/Rambler music on his 1/26/03 show of "Bull City Cosmic Hoedown" on WXDU, from a bunch of the early RCR records and talked about the Hollow Rock String Band and discussed a lot of the tunes that Tommy wrote. He played some music from "Meeting In The Air" and talked about that as well. Dave also talked about Tom's influence on other musicians based on quotes he had read in various places.

Judy Rose, of "Simply Folk" on Wisconsin Public Radio, played "Daniel Prayed" and "Forked Deer" and talked about Tom.

Bob Blackman, did the same thing on his show "The Folk Tradition" on WKAR, East Lansing, MI. Bob commented that "The Red Clays -- in their glory-days line-up -- remain one of my all-time favorite bands." He then played "Forked Deer", "What Does the Deep Sea Say?", and "Merchant's Lunch".

"Folkscene's" Roz and Howard Larman, on KPFK Los Angeles, remembered Tom and played "Hot Buttered Rum" and "Merchant's Lunch".

John Weingart of WPRB Princeton, NJ, did the same. He also played "Twisted Laurel", "Play Rocky Top" and "I Was Only Teasing You" (one of my personal Tommy favorites, along with "Face in the Mirror" on his program "Music You Can't Hear On The Radio".

Tom Bohan at WRUR in Rochester, NY played "Pretty Saro", from - Rambler, and "The Golden Vanity" from Stolen Love.

Paul Stamler, host, "NO TIME TO TARRY HERE" -- KDHX, St. Louis
This segment was a tribute to the late Tommy Thompson, banjo player extraordinaire, damn fine songwriter, singer, and general good guy. Eight years ago he began showing symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer's, and it took him this past Friday at the much-too-young age of 65. He was a founder of the Hollow Rock String Band and the Red Clay Ramblers, so I played music by both bands:]
Hollow Rock String Band: "West Fork Gals" ("Hollow Rock String Band", Rounder) [this Henry Reed tune became a staple of the string band revival in the 1970s -- still is, for that matter]
Red Clay Ramblers: "Cabin Home" ("Chuckin' the Frizz", Flying Fish) [a sentimental song, originally recorded by the Golden Melody Boys, and a great vocal by Tommy]
Hollow Rock String Band: "Boatin' Up Sandy" ("Hollow Rock String Band", Rounder) [another North Carolina classic]
Red Clay Ramblers: "Paddy Won't You Drink Some Cider" ("Chuckin' the Frizz", Flying Fish) [a Georgia tune, recorded by Lowe Stokes & his North Georgians, also I *think* by Gid Tanner]
Red Clay Ramblers: "Black Smoke Train" ("Rambler", Sugar Hill) a Tommy Thompson original, and a gorgeous evocation of the railroad days.
Hollow Rock String Band: "Rose Division" ("Hollow Rock String Band", Rounder)

b&w Tom photo by Mike Craver
color photo of Tom with pup by Chris Baker

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