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Joe Thompson (1918-2012)

Photo: Down Home Radio Show
Joe Thompson, 93, the last known black string band musician, died Monday night.

He was born in 1918 in Orange County, in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, and moved near Mebane in 1948, where he spent the rest of his life.

Thompson learned to play the fiddle from his father, Walter Thompson, and played square dances with his brother Nate and cousin Odell Thompson for many years.

He received the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007 and the North Carolina Heritage Award in 1991. You can view his performance at the Kennedy Center website from the NEA ceremony in 2007.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops credit Thompson as an inspiration and mentor for their music, and released a live album with the fiddler from a 2008 performance at Merlefest.

The Dust Busters visited with Thompson in 2010 and recorded the meeting for an episode of the Down Home Radio Show (which is where we swiped the photo above).

To learn more about Thompson, you can view his obituary from the Burlington Times-News and his profile at the North Carolina Arts Council.

Here is Thompson playing "Donna Got a Ramblin' Mind" at the Art of Sound in Shelby, N.C., in 2006 ...


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