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Joe Thompson


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Joe Thompson (Joseph Aquilla Thompson, December 9, 1918 - February 20, 2012) was an American fiddler from North Carolina.

Although his music-making has not been systematically documented, Thompson made a number of recordings in the later part of his life. In 1989 Joe And Odell Thompson recorded “Old-Time Music from the Carolina Piedmont” for the Global Village Music label. Thompson’s performances are included on the Smithsonian Institution anthologies “Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia” (1998) and “Back Roads to Cold Mountain” (2004). In 1999, well into his ninth decade of life, Thompson made his solo album debut with Family Tradition, released on the Rounder label. After Odell’s death in 1994, Thompson was often accompanied by white banjoist Bob Carlin.

Thompson received several forms of recognition in the 1990s and 2000s. A 2004 television documentary, Steel Drivin’ Man: The Life and Times of Joe Thompson, traced his long career, and in 2007 he received a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, which carried a $20,000 cash award. He was one of 12 honorees chosen from 259 nominations from around the United States. The nearly 90-year-old Thompson also had the satisfaction of finding a group of young musicians he could mentor: the African-American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops studied with Thompson and drew much of the music for their first release, Dona’s Got a Ramblin’ Mind, from his repertoire.

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