June 17, 2000
Musical Memories

Switching tracks for a minute to give you some background information, I don't know if I've ever told you about how dad holds his hands.  This started about two years ago, but it has become much more pervasive in recent months.  Dad clasps his hands together in front of himself especially when he is singing, listening to music, or trying to follow a command.  It is significant.  The way he clasps his hands together, one can tell he is playing banjo or doing something constructive in his mind.  When I play recorded music for him, he remembers what it felt like to play, and he clasps his hands together.  He squeezes then together really tightly and moves them or shakes them as if he were playing banjo.  He smiles and declares, "This is great!" or just "...Great!"  Sometimes he requests his banjo, and sometimes I do bring it.  Then he sits (with much guidance) in an armchair with the banjo in his lap.  After several minutes he seems to trust that he really does have his banjo, and he releases his hands to grasp the neck of the banjo.  Sometimes he even manages to tap out a rhythm on the head.  He says, "I'm happy."

Chris Frank made dad a set of cassette tapes of all dad's music recordings since the beginning of the Red Clay Ramblers.  Dad and I often listen to these tapes together.  I am filled with the memories these recordings represent: our living room at Broadmoor apartments, a period of time when dad was learning a new song he loved ("Boogerboo"), a van ride while he and Mike composed a song together ("The Ace"). I love the early Rambler works in a peculiar bittersweet way.  These works remind me of a rough and rugged time: playing smoky beer-joints and travelling in the unreliable "beefalo," laughing when a "yahoo" complimented the RCRs by saying "You're good as shit!"; trudging through mud to the port-o-lets at some festival, hiding a beer cooler when police raided a festival in a dry county and then breathing a sigh of relief when a coal county landlord sent the police home--the American precursor to "Regions of Rain."  1972-1979 were very strange years for a motherless girl just hitting adolescence.  Read Bill Hicks' Blurred Time.

To be continued....

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Besides Tommy's section of the site, the following pages are also related to Jesse and Tommy:
Blurred Time "The Sleeper": the aftermath of Jesse and Bobbie's car accident
Mike Craver's "Visiting Tommy"
Roots of the Red Clay Ramblers:
Fuzzy Mountain String Band: Jesse's mom, Bobbie, recorded with Rambler Bill Hicks and others
Hollow Rock String Band: Tommy and Bobbie Thompson named this band for their community

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June 17, 2000