Travels with Butch Thompson: A Sideman’s Memories

Working with the late Richard “Butch” Thompson was always a memorable experience. The Butch Thompson Trio—with himself on piano, bassist Bill Evans and drummer George “Red” Maddock—was a key element of Minnesota Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, created and hosted by Garrison Keillor. When Red Maddock passed away in 1987, I became the regular drummer with the Trio, commuting to engagements from wherever I happened to be living. By the 1980s, PHC’s nationwide popularity resulted in bookings for the Trio from coast to coast: Augusta, ME; Long Beach, CA; Blue Mountain Lake, NY; McKinney, TX; White River Junction, VT; Las Cruces, NM; Durham, NH; Red Wing, MN; Jonesboro, AR; Circleville, OH; Red Oak, IA; Yuma, AZ; Ft. Wayne, IN; Bozeman, MT; Boston, Denver, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Seattle, New York City, San Diego, St. Louis, Chautauqua, Mackinac Island, Port Townsend …The Butch Thompson Trio’s concert itinerary was the living embodiment of “I’ve been everywhere, man.” Even when the musicians were jet-lagged, worn out from a marathon drive, or dealing with food poisoning, Butch delivered a World-class concert every time. Once, a misunderstanding regarding the start time of a concert caused the Trio to make a frantic 200-mile drive, at speeds considerably over the limit, all the way to the performing arts center. We had only minutes to set up the drums a
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Hal Smith is an Arkansas-based drummer and writer. He leads the New Orleans Night Owls and the
Mortonia Seven and works with a variety of jazz and swing bands. Visit him online at

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