TOMMY THOMPSON: NEW-TIMEY STRING BAND MUSICIAN
BY LEWIS M. STERN
McFarland Books 9781476675084. Paperback, 247 pp. $39.95.
(McFarland Books, P.O. Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640, www.mcfarlandbooks.com.)
Another fascinating, thoroughly researched book in the Contributions To Southern Appalachian Studies series. The author Lewis M. Stern is an old-time banjo player and has written for the Old Time Herald and Banjo Newsletter. More than that, he clearly has a deep love for the music and culture of the old-time scene.
This is a biography of banjoist Tommy Thompson, but one that ranges across the history of that second generation of old-time players—specifically the influential Hollow Rock String Band and the more widely-known Red Clay Ramblers. Thompson died in 2003 of complications from Alzheimer’s after a life of music, playwriting, traveling, collaborating, and creativity. Stern’s biography is an in-depth and painstakingly researched account of Thompson’s life and work. The list of interviewees is a who’s who of the old-time world and the photographs accompanying the text are worth the price of the book alone.
Readers of this magazine might be more interested in bluegrass-centric biographies, but in the ’60s and ’70s, those worlds were not nearly as separate as they are today. A highly readable and thorough account of a great musician and an influential life. Highly recommended.CVS