He was a self-taught guitarist, banjo and dobro player
born in Converse, South Carolina, where his father worked in a cotton
He first started giving performances after he had won
a high school concert and then he and a guitar-playing friend got to play
on a radio show following which he was hired by a band in Georgia and
subsequently moved to Augusta.
In 1956 he and the band he was with were asked to back
a teenage girl singer, which turned out to be Brenda Lee and they ended up
staying with her for a further 6 months.
Working with several bands after that he performed and
toured with the fiddler Vassar Clements and Jim & Jesse. In the late 1950s he served for 6
months in the Army and then joined the National Guard for four years, going
back to Jim & Jesse afterwards.
After leaving them he worked for about two years in a
machine shop and then in the late 1960s moved to Nashville after having
been asked to do some session work. He became successful as a
member of the studio group Area Code 615 and after his time with them he
went on to join the popular Barefoot Jerry.
Sought after as a studio musician by some of the top
acts in the business he was called on to perform with hundreds of artists
such as Roy Acuff, John Anderson, Lynn Anderson, Chet Atkins, Moe Bandy,
Bobby Bare, Jim Ed Brown, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash, Guy Clark, Roy Clark,
Perry Como, Helen Cornelius, Floyd Cramer, Mac Davis, Sammy Davis Jr.,
Jackie DeShannon, Dr. Hook, England Dan & John Ford Coley, The Everly
Brothers, Donna Fargo, Vern Gosdin, Dobie Grey, Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall,
Emmylou Harris, Ferlin Husky, Waylon Jennings, The Kingsmen, Brenda Lee,
Jerry Lee Lewis, Trini Lopez, Loretta Lynn, Sir Paul McCartney, Reba
McEntire, Don McLean, Melanie, The Steve Miller Band, Ronnie Milsap, Guy
Mitchell, The Monkees, Mickey Newberry, Olivia Newton John, Oak Ridge Boys,
Buck Owens, Dolly Parton, Les Paul, Johnny Paycheck, Carl Perkins, The
Pointer Sisters, Elvis Presley, Charley Pride, Eddie Rabbitt, Jerry Reed,
Charlie Rich, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Marty Robbins, Kenny
Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, Leon Russell, Dan Seals, Jeannie Seely, Billy Joe
Shaver, Nancy Sinatra, O.C. Smith, Hank Snow, Ray Stevens, Randy Travis,
Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty, Don Williams, Hank Williams Jr., Tammy Wynette
and Neil Young to name just a few.
Often heard performing for jingles, TV and films, he
features on the movies soundtracks of Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Five Easy Pieces, the first and second Smokey & The Bandit
and Urban Cowboy and was heard regularly on TV on the theme song for
He retired from the business in 1987 when multiple
sclerosis started to take its toll and he died in 2005 at the age of
There have been two CD posthumous releases of his
work: Thompson Picks and Thompson Picks Some More.