Fiddler Joe Thompson Dies at 93

Feb 21, 2012

Old Time Fiddler Joe Thompson has died at the age of 93. Thompson was one of the last of a generation of African American string band musicians in North Carolina. As a young man he played for square dances in Orange and Alamance Counties. Thompson told WUNC in 2008 that those dances got wild at times, and made him question whether a good Christian should be playing this kind of music.

Joe Thompson: You don't mix up too much stuff with spiritualist, uh...the fiddle is the Devil's instrument! I ain't no Dev--I don't know about that. I mean, I don't think I'm no Devil. I ain't gonna play no Christian music on here.

Thompson worked more than 30 years at White Furniture in downtown Mebane. After retiring, his music was rediscovered by folklorists and launched a second career as a touring musician. He's a past recipient of the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award and mentored the Grammy-Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops.

You can hear WUNC's 2008 profile of Thompson here.