The Carolina Chocolate Drops first got together in spring 2005 at the Black Banjo Gathering organized by CeeCee Conway at Appalachian State U, where she teaches folklore in the English Department. They all wanted to meet fiddler Joe Thompson, who with his brother Odell on banjo, were legends in Alamance County. The original threesome, Rhiannon Giddens, Justin Robinson, and Dom Flemons, played RAF in January 2007, just as they were about to become international sensations. They left Fountain on a Friday night after their show, headed for New York and an international folk festival. Rhiannon had most of a 3″ splinter from our 90-year-old floor imbedded across the bottom of her foot, a souvenir of her last barefoot dance of the otherwise delightful evening.
They wound up getting to play with their idol Joe Thompson several times, including a gig at MerleFest, and recorded for MusicMaker before embarking on their solo careers.
Odell Thompson died after being struck by a car after the brothers’ performance at MerelFest in 1994. Rhiannon was 17 at the time, about to leave her native Greensboro to study opera at Oberlin College.
The Thompson brothers are featured in UNC-TV’s 1989 production Step It Up and Go. Watch it.
Brantley, Michael. “Carolina Chocolate Drops.” Bluegrass Unlimited. Oct. 2008: 76-78. Buy it.
“In Tribute to Joe Thompson.” Field Trips South: Exploring the Southern Folklife Collection. blogs.lib.unc.edu. 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 Jan. 2021.