In the cover story (posted here), Lisa Rossi wrote:
"Joe Thompson has quitting on his mind. All the times he's tried to put down the fiddle run like a movie through his head. There was the time he got married and became determined to set up house and make a life for himself. But the music just wouldn't leave. And when his mother passed away when Thompson was in his 50s, he thought, yes, perhaps it was time to put down the instrument, the one he says bounces with life when the bow meets the strings. Now, he's 91, an age he says boys barely reach. He's tired. But quitting is still an elusive goal. 'I want to quit and lay around and do what I want to do,' he says. 'I've been at it long enough.' ..."
The success of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the group that Thompson mentored, kept him going. So did the aspiring old-time string musicians who would drop by his house.
Thompson was a toddler when he first picked up a fiddle. His father was sought out by neighbors, black and white, to play for square dances more than 100 years ago. Joe continued on that tradition, playing at dances and parties through the 1920s and 1930s. Later, he performed at Carnegie Hall, solidifying his status as a legitimate professional musician.
"After I went to Carnegie Hall, that set me up in my own feeling," he told Rossi. "Oh Lord, that was something going on. That's the top. Folks just know you got it."
Rest in peace, Joe.
(To hear Joe play and sing "I Shall Not Be Moved," click on the video above.)