|Tommy Thompson, Switzerland, 1977, (c) Mike Craver|
From the Charleston Daily Mail, October 13, 2010:
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.
First of all, let me congratulate Tommy's extended family for this well-deserved honor, and I'm sorry Tommy didn't receive it while he still breathed. "Give me the roses while I live" is a dictum up there with "living well is the best revenge," if not a Carter family paraphrase. (Bloomsbury, meet A.P.; A.P., Mrs. Woolf.) And then I'd remark that it is indeed true that Tommy Thompson co-founded the original Red Clay Ramblers, along with Jim Watson, Mike Craver, and myself. Jim, Mike and moi will be playing at Mountain Empire Community College, Big Stone Gap, Va, this coming weekend. Joe Newberry will ably fill the "Thompson Banjo Chair." Y'all come out and give a listen if you're in the general area. There will be no trumpets in attendance, and hopefully no snow cones.
For more about Tommy see my link, Early Blurs, and
Update. The whirlwind weekend gig was a complete success. The good people of Big Stone Gap treated us with wonderful professionalism; there were no sno-cones, which suggests to me that our acceptance of the critique of the sno-cone, even so much later down this road of tears, was acknowleged and accepted with forgiveness by our true and best audience. (One wonders if the Incorporated fared as well up in Asheville.) The Powell valley is a beautiful place, and Mountain Empire Community College a beautiful facility. One glimpses but briefly the great economic engine nestled behind the wooded ridges that line US 23 as it wends it's way to Norton and Alt 58--a quick and vanished view of more distant hills now eroded and flattened by coal removal, and then, at the bottom of a confluence of ridges, a gigantic processing facility, which appears to be in the process of expanding via the use of big red cranes. (Wish I'd had my cam, darn it.) I'll go to work in an hour and possibly watch at some point this week some 80 coal cars full of the black rocks that burn, rumbling past to our own electric plant down in the SE corner of Chatham, augmenting our own Nuclear Plant over in New Hill. My computer works; the fridge mutters; the ball games were on as usual on a beautiful fall Sunday. For another week we're safe from the true climate, which also required yesterday the first fire of the season here in our little redoubt--for some reason I was quite chilled and though it was warm outside, the house had gotten cool over the weekend. There's plenty of wood till January at least, but it's time to get to cuttin'. Good thing I have a full can of gas and a nice Echo at hand, keeping winter at bay. My little forest is bought and paid for; that 'lectricity comes with a bill. And dressing in the dark this morning, my bare little toe found that one chunk of oak I didn't put into the hopper last night--another proof of the season, less visual but more vivid than the maple on the hill.
And discussing colors and such as we were just now, I agree with the suggestion by Charles Pierce that Ole Miss should be called "The Faulkners." And why not the Tennessee Maples, I ask you? They have the colors just exactly right out there in Knoxville.