passed away on January
24, 2003, after suffering from an Alzheimer's-like illness for several
years. He last performed with the Red Clay Ramblers at the Carrboro
ArtsCenter in September 1994, and his last public performance was with
fellow founders of the Red Clay Ramblers Mike Craver and Bill Hicks at
Carrboro's Fete de la Musique in 1998.. In addition to his
legacy in RCR and Hollow Rock String Band music, Tommy’s credits include
many theater productions. He created and performed the one-act play The
Last Song of John Proffit. With Bland Simpson, he wrote the musical
on the Mississippi, based on Mark Twain’s novel. With Jack Herrick
and Don Baker, he co-authored Ear Rings, a musical adaptation of
Lee Smith’s Oral History. Tommy, Jack, and John Haber created
the Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas. Tommy and RCR provided
the music for Sam Shepard’s play Lie of the Mind and his film Far
North and performed in a second Shepard film, Silent Tongue.
July 22, 1937 - January 24, 2003
writes of her journey with her dad and his Alzheimer's-like illness in
Letters. These letters grew into parts of the play A
Tune for Tommy, written, by Jesse, Jeff Storer, and Ed Hunt.
October, 2010, Tommy Thompson was elected to the West Virginia Music Hall
of Fame. The induction ceremony takes place in October, 2011.
His nomination said: "Tommy Thompson of St. Albans. Born and raised in
St. Albans, Thompson first heard many of the old jazz players and was introduced
to Cajun music during a stint as a Coast Guard officer in New Orleans.
He entered the graduate program in philosophy at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1963 where he divided his time between the five-string
banjo and academia. In 1971, he took first place at the prestigious World
Champion Old Time Banjo contest in Union Grove, NC. That same year, he
co-founded the original Red Clay Ramblers, which he anchored for 22 years.
Thompson died in 2003."
Co (NC) Resolution Honoring Tommy/Red Clay Ramblers: "Celebrate
the outstanding creative, cultural, and intellectual contributions of Tommy
Thompson's life and his deeply rooted commitment to civil rights and progressive
achievements during his life, and mourn the loss of this great cultural
resource, who came to represent the music of the Tar Heel State to a worldwide
Rock String Band - an early band for Tommy and Bobbie and part of the
roots of the Red Clay Ramblers. New for 2004
- a new CD reissue of the second Hollow Rock String Band LP as part of
the double CD Hollow Rock Legacy. Hollow
Rock fiddler Alan Jabbour writes "there is no better collection anywhere
of the oldtime banjo playing of Tommy Thompson, who passed away in 2003."
Tommy left the Red Clay Ramblers in 1994, he still sang with his daughter
Jesse at Carrboro Day, 1998 as well as with Mike and Bill at Carrboro,
Fete de la Musique.
Craver wrote "Visiting Tommy"
Tommy has received from his friends and fans. We thank folks who
have taken the time to send along their special memories
the early 90's, Tommy wrote his memories of the
Hollow Rock years
Last Song of John Proffit, Tommy's one-act, one-actor play about
Dan Emmit, the birth of American music, and life in pre-Civil War North
Carolina. And we just added Tommy's poem "Banjo."
Articles and Interviews
with Tommy and Jesse about their Carrboro performances from The Chapel
Hill Herald and The Chapel Hill News
music’ a Rambler calls it" - 1984 Richmond (Va) Times Dispatch
interview with Tommy Thompson
On in 1970: Interview with Banjo Player Tommy Thompson" from the NC
Through Stages: The Many Careers of the Red Clay Ramblers" 1988 Interview
with Tommy Thompson in Option Music Alternatives. Tommy discusses
the band's relationship to old-time, Sam Shepard, Eugene Chadbourne, and
Heel of the Week - Raleigh News & Observer profiles Tommy
Thompson - High-energy Clawhammer Banjo - Frets Magazine, November
1980 - lots of info about Tommy's banjos and playing style
Life Interview with Tommy Thompson, April, 1978 - and we now have
our "Souvenirs" page for many other articles about Tommy's last years in
the band. We add new ones all the time.
Alzheimer's Resources with
Tommy Thompson Sections
Two Worlds: Special Moments of Alzheimer’s and Dementia by Ellen P.
Young has a chapter in it about Tommy Thompson. The hardcover book,
released in May, 1999, is available through www.barnesandnoble.com.
It’s not a reference, but rather a quiet boost toward the brighter side
of a difficult time. All royalties go to Alzheimer's research for a cure.
The book is reviewed by the Editor of Geriatric Psychiatry News,
Sandra Swantek, M.D., who also is a long time Red Clay Rambler fan.
You used to be able to read her comments online about both the book and
the music. Try Google.
Here to Hope, a video about how families cope with Alzheimer’s and
dementia, devotes a large section to Tommy and Jesse under the topic Mid-Stage
Alzheimer’s. Lisa Gwyther and Claiborne Clark of Duke made the video.
The cost for VHS format is $25 plus $5 shipping and handling. Call
919-684-3748 to order.