“Be sure to go the Barnegie Hall page to find out how to stream episodes of the show on Amazon, purchase a DVD...... and meet all the guests!”
“Thompson ranks as perhaps the most well-rounded yet overlooked instrumentalist and songwriter beneath the large Americana umbrella. ”
— Dan Schram, Raleigh Indy Weekly
“...(at the Newport Folk Festival).....Verlon Thompson was great! Seriously. Nobody at the festival played guitar like him. His song "Everywhere...Yet" stunned the crowd and "Joe Walker's Mare" was country storytelling at it's best. Did I mention he could play the guitar? Really ..... Thompson was electrifying.”
— Boston Music Review
“To the everyday country music fan, Verlon Thompson is not a household name. But within the music community of Nashville, Thompson is a songwriter and guitarist almost without peer.”
— Jack Bernhardt, Charlotte Weekly
Some close friends asked if I wanted to see Robert Earl Keen at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. We would fly in on a Wednesday, watch one of the great roots music performers at the original home of the Grand Old Opry that night, then jet home the next afternoon. I had an abundance of time and desire, so why not?
Before leaving I fired off an email to the great Verlon Thompson. The likes of Randy Travis, Kenny Rogers, and Keith Whitley have all recorded Thompson’s songs. He was the guitar player for the late, great Guy Clark for a number of years. My introduction to him was at Suwannee Roots Revival where he played one of my favorite sets of 2016- an intimate show in the round with the also great Jim Lauderdale.
My message requested that we sit down to speak before his set with Donna the Buffaloon New Year’s Eve Eve. As his reputation suggested he might, Thompson agreed. I read his response the morning I was due to fly back from that rare trip to Tennessee. My friends were flying back to Tampa, me to Orlando. Their flight left before mine so I walked with them to their gate to pass the time. We were there maybe five minutes before Verlon Thompson himself walked up to board the same flight.
I introduced myself and he immediately recognized who I was as we set about shooting the shit like old friends. He felt instantly relatable, a quality shared by most great songwriters. The truly special storytellers seem like good pals of ours even if we haven’t met them. We refer to them by their first names when discussing their work with other fans. “Yeah, Sturgill’s new record taps into something I didn’t even know I was feeling,” we might say to a fellow lover of A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. We follow the developments of their lives through the music.
A day later, Thompson stands on stage 700 miles from where we first met. Skipper’s Smokehouse looks like the property of your uncle who has a fishing boat, never married, and does not have time for society’s expectations. The kind of place where one might plop down a ranch-style house and host parties. A small dance floor sits in front of the stage. The seating is actually a bunch of picnic-style tables and a menagerie of chairs. Beers and food are still cash only.
Verlon Thompson is the main draw for me. But on this night, most folks are in attendance to hear the headliner. He is opening for Donna the Buffalo; they with the legion of obsessive fans who drive all over the country to hear Donna’s gumbo of rock, blues, folk, reagge, and zydeco.
Thompson knows this, which speaks to his humility and grace. He is the consummate professional and on this night is going to scratch his creative itch while also playing to the audience. The opening set will last an hour and include everything from a Levon Helm cover to Bob Dylan and Guy Clark, alongside one or two Verlon Thompson originals.
As he nears the end, the crowd is riding Thompson’s groove. In a rare happening, the opener comes back out for an encore. Donna’s passionate “Tribe,” as they are known, is ready for a party and Thompson is integral to that spark.
Donna the Buffalo’s fans are devoted. They are truly a family. A tall, gray-haired man with a mustache near the front of the stage is greeted like a celebrity by at least a dozen people during the first three songs.
He wears a stone-washed jean jacket with a patch reading “Herd ‘em?” stitched on the back.
Fellow members of the “Herd” dance up to each other and embrace. The wave of the groove is carrying the day.
So far all the band has played is Donna the Buffalo originals, until Verlon Thompson re-takes the stage mid-set. During one of his sets at Suwannee Roots Revival in October 2016, Thompson mentioned that he wanted to make a rock n’ roll record. He had recently turned sixty and felt like this was one last chance to turn up the volume. Based on what we witness on the Skipper’s stage, Thompson has more than enough rock left in him.
Donna’s usually mellow vibe gets cranked up as Thompson joins them for a few songs. The feeling builds to explosive heights as he again mixes covers with original tunes. “Bury Me in a Hillbilly Grave,” a haunting Thompson-penned tale about leaving home but never truly being removed from your roots, is the climax. It is a quintessential Verlon Thompson tune full of rock, country, and blues elements. The song is equally all of those things, and of course something entirely different altogether, a point he would elaborate on when we sat for a podcast later in the evening.
Backed by Donna the Buffalo, Thompson’s tunes lean more rock n’ roll, and so does Donna’s playing. It’s not a totally intuitive direction, another point he would elaborate on in our conversation. After five tunes, Thompson again, steps away and the groove resumes its trance over the Tribe. Going into a Donna show, you know you are gonna get a couple plus hours worth of enjoyment. Tonight is no different as the band continues for another forty minutes before making their way back out with Thompson for an encore.
Verlon Thompson seems a little more sentimental as he retakes the stage for the third time. The song of choice is “Old Friends,” a Guy Clark staple, and one ripe for a singalong. Thompson told me Donna the Buffalo did not know what he was going to play during the encore, but no one in attendance is the wiser. In typical fashion, Donna picks right up and makes the song a completely new creation.
Thompson reminds us that at the end of it all, when we are on our last few breaths, what we owned and lost will not matter.
What will matter is moments like this. Old friends on the eve of New Year’s Eve, dancing, hugging, being moved by beautiful music played by dedicated musicians.
It is 12:30 in the morning now, and people are shuffling out of the venue. Thompson and I have yet to chat, but he has agreed to make it happen once the dust settles on the evening. 700 miles of travel, hours of playing, and another town to get to the next day, yet this gentleman agrees to sit down and chat. After shaking some hands and exchanging a few hugs with friends and fans, Thompson engages me in a conversation about love, creativity, and friendship. We were there for a half an hour, but Verlon Thompson would have given me as much time as I wanted. As the conversation winds down, we pack up and begin to move toward the exit. Unfortunately, the gate is locked and there is no one around to remedy the situation. We try another exit to no avail, then another.
Finally I spot an emergency exit at the back of the venue. It could be alarmed. It looks pretty alarmed. Thompson is not. He decisively shoves the door open and the warning siren wails.
Well, they shouldn’t have locked us in,”
he says walking away, guitar in hand, sauntering into the night.
You are not too old to rock, Verlon Thompson. As New Year’s Eve Eve showed, you are still hitting your stride.
Donna the Buffalo and Verlon Thompson Live Review by Jason Earle.
Available here and on itunes
I had a band in Colorado in the late 70's. We played what the people wanted to hear, stuff like Little Feat, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, etc.
Occasionally I would try to slip in a song that I wrote only to find that no one was really interested.
When I moved to Nashville I left behind my rockin' shoes but not my admiration of, or the influence of those great rockin' singer/songwriters
of that era.
On my 60th birthday I found myself sitting in front of my amp with my electric guitar .... and a group of original songs that seemd to lend
themselves to a more "amplified" sound. I had become a huge fan of Guthrie Trapp's electric guitar work and had been looking for an
excuse to pick with him so I called him up. He suggested we use two other masters, Michael Rhodes on bass, and Pete Abbott on drums.
Later, I added the soulful voice of Pat McLaughlin. My dear friend and Grammy winning producer/engineer Chris Latham recorded, mixed
and mastered the sessions.
Here's to those days when my hair was long and black and we packed rooms like Freddies, The Snake River Saloon and The Little Bear.
This version of "Caddo County" is a
spontaneous performance shot in my
friends back yard in Austin Tx.
“ Thompson is the quintessential troubadour.”
— Myrtle Beach Alternative
New CD "WORKS" available now...........
Verlon on Bob Edwards Radio..........
Jan. 2012 - Click on the follwing links to hear Verlon's appearance on the Bob Edwards Radio Show. Bob did a great interview and his producers
and editors did a brilliant job editing the stories together with Verlon's live performance along with tracks from the "Works" cd.
Music from "Find Your Angel"..........
recorded just as you'll hear them performed in the live production with Verlon on guitar/vocal and Sue on five string fiddle and vocals.
CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO ORDER the CD or to DOWNLOAD THE TRACKS. Note: this recording does not include the narration...
.....you'll have to see the show to get the full story!
AVAILABLE here and on itunes
A couple of unsolicited reviews of the cd and the live show:
Dear Sue, Verlon, and Frank..
After 40 years of performing and attending all types of gigs,concerts and festivals, 30 years of recording other's music, and 20 years of owning
a music store.... we still enjoy almost all types of music and most all of the musicians we've had the privilege to meet and work with.
However, at this point it takes something very special falling on our eyes and ears to actually move our souls.
We just finished listening to the new CD, "Find Your Angel" while reflecting on last night's show. When the CD ended we looked at each other... and Bari's
first word was, "Stunning"...
..and it is.
Powerful. Absolutely beautiful. Job well done.
Ron and Bari Lynn Litschauer
The AMP Shop and Music Parlor
Acoustic Music Productions
This was an amazing night. A theatrical mix of Historical Drama told by an acclaimed Troubadour, with instrumentation and vocality executed
with passion and expertise second to none. I wanted to preserve every verse and sound with my video camera, yet I was immediately so
drawn to in to the story, as if I was a fly on the wall back in the time of the Civil War, that I never got a chance to reach for my camera before
it was over. Friends this is not a performance, but an experience and a journey that everyone should take.
"Find Your Angel" is ready for the road......
It's official. After a trial run in Jupiter, Fl. and a successful debut in Wellsboro, Pa., "Find Your Angel" is ready to take to the road.
Verlon, Sue Cunningham (fiddler extraordinaire) and Frank Serio (photographer extraordinaire) present the "fiction based on fact" story of a priviledged southern belle who's perfect life collides with the Civil War.
With the introduction of Lorena, listeners are drawn into a woman's story of struggle and survival equal to any on the battlefield. Performing on guitar and fiddle in the midst of Serio's stunning photographs, Thompson and Cunningham employ twelve new and original compositions, theme music and narration to bring this emotional and dramatic creation to life.
And now the GRAMMY AWARDS.......
Dec 5, 2010 - After the CMA and IBMA nominations earlier in the year, Verlon has more good news. Guy Clark's "Somedays The Song Writes You" which Verlon co-produced for Dualtone Records, has received a 2010 GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Also.....Dierks Bentley's performance (with Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson) of "Bad Angel" has received a 2010 GRAMMY nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
Verlon and Bad Angel - CMA AWARD Nomination......
Sep 2, 2010- The Dierks Bentley recording of Verlon's "Bad Angel" (written with Suzi Ragsdale) has been nominated for the 2010 CMA "Musical Event of the Year" award. Dierks' version of the song also features Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson.
06/13 Music for Radio/TV
Verlon has written and produced the music for a new advertising campaign for the State of Tennessee called "Take Only As Directed". Two radio spots and one television spot were produced for the Tombras Group in Knoxville. The spots bring awareness to the large number of prescription pill addictions in the state of Tennessee.
IBMA Song Of The Year Nomination
Aug. 2010 - "The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle" a song Verlon wrote with Sam Bush and Guy Clark has been nominated for the Internatrional Bluegrass Music Assocation's Song of the Year Award. The song appears on Sam's "Circles Around Me" cd on Sugar Hill Records. The awards will be handed out September 30th, 2010 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Unfortunately Verlon will be on the road in Charleston S.C. that night....and is planning an extra special rendition of "Stringbean" for the folks.
Win or lose Verlon is proud and honored to be in the running.
Dierks Bentley Records Verlon's "Bad Angel"
The CD is a bluegrass and roots inspired project co-produced with stellar musician and songwriter Jon Randall. Dierks
sings "Bad Angel" with some help from Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson on vocals and some of the finest bluegrass
pickers in the business. "Up On The Ridge" release date is June 2010.
Thank you Dierks and Jon!
Songs recorded by...
Verlon's song "The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle" (written with Sam Bush and Guy Clark) will be on Sam Bush's new Sugar Hill Records release. "Circles Around Me" will be released Oct 20th, 2009. Thanks to Sam and congratulatiuons on receiving the upcoming Americana Music Association's "Lifetime Acheivement Award".
Verlon's song "Mexico's Daughter" (written with Frank Serio) has been recorded by The Del McCoury Band for their next release. Thanks to Del and the boys! More details later.