Luke Thompson, bluegrass musician, bandleader, instrument builder and MC, passed away on June 12, 2019, in a Zachary Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Zachary, Louisiana, where he had been for the past few months. He was 91 years old.
He was born on January 8, 1928, in Natalbany, Louisiana, a sawmill town about a half an hour east of Baton Rouge. His family, rich in Scottish-English-Irish ancestry, had migrated south from the North Carolina and Virginia region.
Thompson was a bluegrass musician – playing the guitar, fiddle, and banjo, but is best known for his mastery of the mandolin – and a renowned instrument maker. He built mandolins played by Buck White and Mark O’Conner, among others.
He led his own band, the Green Valley Cut-Ups (changed from the Green Valley Boys in 1968) from the late 1940s.
Among the highlights of his career are playing on the Louisiana Hayride-KWKH, Shreveport, Louisiana, as well as at events such as the Louisiana Folk Arts Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the Piney Woods Opry; recording with Byron Berline, Allen Shelton and Travis Stewart, having releases in his own Hammond record company; organizing, with Bill Monroe, the first bluegrass festival in Louisiana, in 1968; co-founding the Old South Jamboree, Walker, Louisiana; working as MC at Bill Monroe’s bluegrass festivals at Bean Blossom for 10 years; building mandolins for Gibson Guitar Company, as well as doing warranty work for them; an appearance in the film of Tennessee Williams’ play Last of the Mobile Hot Shots; and in 1963 replacing a sick Bill Monroe as front man with a line-up of the Blue Grass Boys, including Del McCoury (guitar), Bill Keith (banjo), and Enoch Sullivan (fiddle).
Relatives and friends are invited to join the family for the visitation at Baker Funeral Home in Baker, Louisiana, on Friday, June 14, 2019, from 10:00 a.m. until the funeral service at 12:00 p.m. Burial will follow at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens, also in Baker.
A career overview and remembrance will follow in due course.
R.I.P. Luke Thompson