Tommy Thompson

New-Timey String Band Musician

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About the Book

Tommy Thompson arrived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1963, smitten by folk and traditional Appalachian music. In 1972, he teamed with Bill Hicks and Jim Watson to form the nontraditional string band the Red Clay Ramblers. Mike Craver joined in 1973, and Jack Herrick in 1976.  Over time, musicians including Clay Buckner, Bland Simpson and Chris Frank joined Tommy, who played with the band until 1994. Drawing on interviews and correspondence, and the personal papers of Thompson, the author depicts a life that revolved around music and creativity. Appendices cover Thompson’s banjos, his discography and notes on his collaborative lyric writing.

About the Author(s)

Clawhammer banjo player Lewis M. Stern has written about traditional musicians including Dwight Diller, Tommy Malbeouf, and Jim Scancarelli. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Lewis M. Stern

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 247
Bibliographic Info: 70 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7508-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3554-5
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1

ONE. Early Life 9
TWO. Studying Music 30
THREE. Playing Music 48
FOUR. Studying Musicians 65
FIVE. Studying Thinking 86
SIX. Red Clay Rambling 106

Conclusion: Writing, Theatricalizing, Teaching,
Thinking, Entertaining 139
Appendix I: Tommy’s Banjos 159
Appendix II: Discography 166
Appendix III: Notes on Tommy’s Collaborative
Lyric Writing 168
Chapter Notes 173
Bibliography 206
Interviewees 215
Index 229

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Looking at Tommy’s life through old-time back to the early 1960s, of all the books I have read, this book is one of the most concise accounts of those days, and Tommy was at the center of it all! … In so many ways this book is as much a biography of the continuation, growth and transformation of the old-time fiddle tradition as it moved from the hands of one generation to another and has influenced several generations since. … Take time to read and savor this book, giving it the attention it deserves in both describing this wonderful musician and his life through old-time music and beyond.”—Banjo Newsletter

• “Stern’s carefully researched thoroughly annotated, intensely informative book is a study of Thompson’s intellect and temperament… There isn’t a page without a payoff in Stern’s book, and this includes the not-to-be-missed footnotes, which are full of anecdotes about the string band revival, excerpts from interviews that didn’t find their way into the main text, and further details about Thompson’s banjos, studies, and projects.”—The Old Time Herald

• “This book is extremely well researched and meticulously documented… I thoroughly recommend this book.” —Old Time News