Memorials may be made to:
  • "The Tommy Thompson Memorial Fund" for the curriculum in Folklore, UNC English Dept., The Arts and Sciences Foundation, CB #6115, UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6115
  • "Scholarship Fund", Charles House Association, 109 Hillcrest Ave., Carrboro, NC 27510
  • The Duke Family Support Program, Box 3600, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710. 

Mike Craver is posting a list of radio and news tributes to Tommy Thompson.  Check his list for shows yet to be broadcast, many of which can be heard on the web.  Mike also writes about the funeral services and the wonderful music played by Tommy's friends.

Tommy Thompson was born in West Virginia, in 1937. He graduated from Kenyon College in 1959 and spent the next four years as a Coast Guard Officer in New Orleans. During this time he was privileged to hear many of the great old time Jazz players. His Coast Guarding duties required occasional visits to bayou country, and there he was introduced to the noble crawfish and the sound of Cajun music. 

In 1963, Thompson entered the graduate program in Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He divided his time between five-string banjo and academia, specializing in drop-thumb clawhammer and conceptual analysis. In 1966, he formed the Hollow Rock String Band, a group devoted to the old time dance tunes of the southern mountains. The Hollow Rock band won many prizes at fiddlers conventions in the late sixties, and in 1971, Thompson won the World Champion Old Time Banjo Contest at Union Grove, North Carolina. With Jim Watson and Bill Hicks, in 1972, he formed the original Red Clay Ramblers, a three-man string band devoted to styles of early recorded country music. Mike Craver and Jack Herrick soon became members of this group. The Ramblers joined the cast of DIAMOND STUDS, a musical about Jesse James, and spent the first seven months of 1975 performing Off-Broadway in New York City. Thompson was singled out by the New York Times for his performances as Cole Younger and Jesse James' mother, Zerelda Samuels.

Since their first tour in the fall of 1975, the Ramblers, now a five-man band, have traveled throughout the United States and Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Thompson has composed many songs performed and recorded by the Red Clay Ramblers and other artists. Tommy last performed with the Red Clay Ramblers at the Carrboro ArtsCenter in September 1994. In addition to his legacy in RCR and Hollow Rock String Band music, Tommy's credits include the following:

Hollow Rock String Band 1966 - 1968
Red Clay Ramblers 1972 - 1994.
Life on the Mississippi - 1981
The Last Song of John Proffit - 1984 
Ear Rings - 1986
Lie of the Mind - 1985
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas - 1988
Far North -1988
Silent Tongue - 1992

Survived by:
Daughter, Jesse L. Thompson Eustice
Son, Tom A. Thompson
The Red Clay Ramblers
Great Friends
Many Fans

  • Visitation: 6-8 Monday 1/27/2003 at Hall Wynne 1113 West Main St., Durham, NC 
  • Services: 7 pm Tuesday at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church, 1902 W. Main St., Durham, NC  (286-1064)

Tommy Thompson Memorial Site
February 15, 2003