After a lengthy illness, Bobby Thompson passed on in early 2005 due to the advanced state of his disease, Multiple Sclerosis. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Judy, and all their family and friends. There will never be another like Bobby. He was not only a musical hero, he was a hero in character, also. We will have more of a tribute here as we get it together. If you have any remembrances you'd like to share, we will have our guest book up and running soon. We'd appreciate your sharing your memories. "To live in someone's heart is not to die".
(Press release from January 2004)
Gallatin, TN - In the 11th Annual McReynolds Memorial Concert at the Gallatin Civic Center on Thursday, February 5, 2004 one of Gallatins' residents, Grand Ole Opry star and bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds devoted the show to one of country music's greatest unsung heroes -- banjo picker Bobby Thompson.
Thompson, a former member of Jim & Jesse's Virginia Boys band and cast member of the "Hee-Haw" TV show, was stricken with MS in 1985 and was forced to retire from music in 1987. He has carried this cross without complaint and with dignity, and it is perhaps for this reason that the man stirred such an outpouring of support from his famous friends in the music business.
When "Hee-Haw" Producer Sam Lovullo got word of the benefit concert, he promptly pledged to help and round up as many of Bobby's fellow cast members as possible. "Hee-Haw" favorites who performed included Roni Stoneman, Mike Snider, The Hagers and LuLu Roman.
In the banjo world, Thompson served as an inspiration to fellow pickers, many of whom joined in a banjo salute to Thompson, led by banjo legend Allen Shelton. Thompson's friend and famous banjoist Bela Fleck also called to volunteer his talents. Fleck, a musical genius with the ability to balance new ideas with unsurpassed taste on the banjo, was a rare treat for one and all.
Another first for the show was a performance of the lovely and down to earth daughter of Hank Williams Sr., Jett Williams. It was an unforgettable night, with Grand Ole Opry stars the Osborne Brothers, the Larry Stephenson Band, Leroy Troy and others, among surprise guests on the bill.
Thompson has a considerable musical legacy. He was in great demand as a studio musician in Nashville, recording with too many names to mention them all here, but we'll name a few: Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, Tammy Wynette, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe, Dolly Parton, Perry Como, Eddy Arnold, Les Paul, Connie Smith, Merle Haggard, Trini Lopez, the Monkees, Olivia Newton-John, Melanie, Jimmy Buffett, Dr Hook, Leon Russell, Neil Young, etc., etc… Thompson also played banjo on movie soundtracks "Coal Miners' Daughter", "Five Easy Pieces", "Smokey & the Bandit I&II", "Urban Cowboy" and others. In addition, he has played his banjo on those catchy little music "jingles" for practically every major company you can imagine.
Well enough to attend the concert with the aid of his wheelchair and close friends, Thompson calls to mind the courage shown by fellow Virginia Boys band member, and person who was the inspiration for this concert -- Jesse McReynolds oldest son, Keith. Established as the Grand Ole Opry Bluegrass Spectacular, this annual event also became known as the Keith McReynolds Benefit Concert in recognition and support of Jesse McReynolds' son, who died Feb. 2, 2000, at the age of 44, after a long struggle with Multiple Sclerosis. Prior to the onset of his final illness, Keith was an 18-year member of Jim & Jesse's band. This year's Memorial show was also in tribute to Jesse's brother and singing partner of 55 years, Jim McReynolds, who died Jan. 31, 2003 after a long battle with cancer.
The show was a night filled with good music and precious memories. The night ended with Sam Lovullo and the cast of Hee Haw giving Bobby the traditional HeeHaw "Sa-loot"! It was a night Bobby and everyone there will never forget.
For more info, contact Joy McReynolds at (615) 452-7321 or e-mail Jesse & Joy McReynolds at firstname.lastname@example.org.