Butch Thompson Day

November 28, 1943 – August 14, 2022

A tribute to the stride and swing pianist best known for being a regular on A Prairie Home Companion

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Pianist Butch Thompson passed away on Aug. 14, 2022 at the age of 78.

He was born on Nov. 28, 1943 in Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota.

Thompson began playing piano when he was three and in high school he also became a skilled New Orleans-style clarinetist.

After hearing Louis Armstrong play when he was 12, Thompson became very interested in early jazz styles; he would become expert at playing the music of Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson and the stride and swing stylists while still sounding like himself.

He was a member of the Hall Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band (on clarinet) starting in 1962, making his recording debut with the group in 1964.

But Thompson was best known as a pianist, leading a trio beginning in the mid-1960s, recording a series of rewarding albums, and appearing as a regular on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio series during 1974-86.

Butch Thompson appeared at many classic jazz festivals and toured Europe regularly until ill health caused his retirement a few years before his passing.

Here is Butch Thompson in 2008 playing Jelly Roll Morton’s “Chicago Breakdown.”

-Scott Yanow


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