Andy Thompson: Revisiting Country's Other Golden Age
Russell, Rusty, Guitar Player
Boston's eclectic music
scene has spawned
all manner of
from lightning-fingered improv
meisters to hard-spanking anti-heroes.
But a dedicated Beatle-maniac
who makes country
records and lists Willie Nelson as
a primary influence? Andy
Thompson of the Thompson
Brothers Band may be the first.
Blame It on the Dog (RCA), a
follow-up to the band's six-song EP,
Cows on Main Street, features
Thompson's twangy, song-oriented
backbone of a sound that recalls
the ruckus created by Steve Earle,
Foster & Lloyd, and others in the
"When we were coming up,"
recalls the 26-year-old Thompson,
"those guys were making all
these waves in country music.
Kevin Welch was happening, and
Rodney Crowell was making
these great records. People who
were in Nashville back then see
it as a little window where all this
hip stuff snuck through the security checkpoint.
But we didn't know it was all that different. We
lived in a South Boston suburb called Norwell,
which was pretty isolated. The only country we
could get on the radio was this real funky station
where they'd say `Comin' up, Dwight Yoakam,'
and then there'd be 15 seconds of dead air.
They'd play Ronnie Milsap and Sylvia, but then
you'd hear a Red Sovine song, and then
something from Steve Earle. We had no idea
what was on the charts or what `current' country
Having worn out his dad's Willie Nelson
8-tracks and his own Fab Four records Thompson
delved far enough into pop and rock to play
cover tunes with his brother Matt (on drums) and
pal Mike Whitty on bass. One by one, they
headed for Nashville after finishing high school,
taking music business courses at Belmont College
by day and gigging at night.
"We got this gig near Music Row, but when
winter came, they closed the deck where we
played. So we each took a demo tape--one guy
heads down Route 41, one guy goes out Route
31, and you see what you can stir up. The only
person who called us back was from this little
dive called Johnny's Place, and we started playing
there. It was right by the railroad tracks, and
trains were always going by and drowning us
out. At first, we tried to make everything sound
tight--we played real carefully and all. But they
didn't care. There'd be, like, four people in the
place, and they weren't listening. So we just
started cutting up, acting crazy, and winging
things. All of a sudden, people started showing
up. It taught us that being a human jukebox gets
The Thompsons focused more on their own
songs, mixing "money" dates at casinos and
parties with more creative freebies. They also
satiated a hunger for vintage instruments. Thompson's
first find was a 1960 natural-finish Gibson
Hummingbird. Today, his mouth-watering
collection numbers more than 20 and includes a
Gretsch Country Gentleman, a Gretsch Corvette,
and an Epiphone Riviera 12-string (all '67s), a
'51 Gibson LG-1, a '65 Danelectro Baritone, a
'58 Supro Airline, and a sunburst '63 Strat.
Scrounging in pawnshops and out-of-the-way
music stores has also yielded some nifty amps:
a '30s Oahu, a '40s Vega A-49, three '64 Silvertones,
and several Fenders, including a '68 Super
and a '64 blackface Deluxe.
Even with all that artillery, Thompson relies
on two self-built mongrels for most of his live