Born December 9, 1918 in Orange County, North Carolina, Joe Thompson grew up in a family where fiddle and banjo music was heard on nights and weekends after farm work was completed. Joe’s father and uncle played fiddle and banjo and were sought after by neighbors, both African American and white, to provide music for local square dances. As soon as Joe took up the fiddle, he was included in the music-making along with his brother, Nate, and cousin, Odell. On many a Saturday night during his youth, Joe would find himself positioned with his fiddle in a doorway between two rooms that had been cleared of furniture to accommodate couples dancing four- and eight-hand sets.
Joe modeled his music on his father’s playing, which came from a fiddle and banjo ensemble tradition in North Carolina.