Hollow Rock String Band

The mid-'60s was a time of great excitement in the world of traditional American music. Many younger players were seeking out the older legends in the music and creating their own bands. One great focal point of such activity was the area around Chapel Hill and Durham, NC, and in this locale, the living room of musical couple Tommy and Bobbie Thompson was a hot spot. Two distinct groups would emerge out of these get-togethers, and some members of these groups would eventually morph into the famous Red Clay Ramblers. The Fuzzy Mountain String Band was a kind of a big band of string bands that evolved out of these house sessions, while the Hollow Rock String Band was a much smaller group whose membership was something of an all-star band of these new old-time players. There were four regular members of the Hollow Rock String Band, as well as a loosely defined circle of extra musicians that might be heard playing with the group at an informal event. The band recorded its first album in 1967 for the Kanawha label, but it wound up being released a year later and was too late to be heard by fiddler Henry Reed, the group's number one musical influence, who passed on while the recording was still in the can. A second and better-quality recording was done for Rounder in 1968. The group dissolved shortly after this latter release.

Of the membership, Bobbie and Tommy Thompson are no longer on the scene. She died in a car accident in 1972, while he retired from performing due to health reasons in the mid-'90s after a long and prominent career as a member of the Red Clay Ramblers, as well as working as a writer, playwright, and historian. Bertram Levy relocated to the West Coast where he is active on banjo, mandolin, and several other instruments. Fiddler Alan Jabbour has kept up a busy schedule of performances, recordings, and workshops in old-time music. Members of the group rarely, but occasionally, get together to perform in various combinations under the original name, such as a trio of Jabbour, Levy, and Ramblers mandolinist Jim Watson who performed in a benefit for Tommy Thompson in Chapel Hill in 1997. In liner notes for the group's second album, Jabbour points out that although the group's lifespan was short and without massive commercial success, he felt they definitely achieved their aim, which was to take up the rich repertoire of traditional music from this region and present it in such a form that the next generation of players would be eager to carry it on. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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