The mayor of the Last Small Town, Steve Thompson, is a Kentucky native, raised in the very small town of Wellington, KY, now a part of the greater Louisville metro area. This was a place where “Aunt Bea and Andy would have been at home,” and where “the dogs pretty much ran loose, until they got hit by cars.”
His first exposure to music came early in life as he watched locally produced TV shows featuring country and western music. “Back in the 50’s, pretty much all of our home entertainment came from our black and white TV set. We watched shows like Hayloft Hoedown that showcased local “stars” as well as national acts like Pee Wee King and Bill Monroe. Country music then was similar to what we call Bluegrass today.” Steve decided to take up music when he had the opportunity at the age of seven to see local star Randy Atcher at a live TV broadcast. “I just couldn’t believe the sound of live music, or the colors and lights. I was hooked. I just had to play guitar and sing.” And so he did.
Steve’s focus on Bluegrass developed in the 70’s. “For a while, I lived down the street from Louisville’s Mason Jar, a tavern that featured both local and national Bluegrass bands. I saw them up close, from Ralph Stanley to the Newgrass Revival, and quickly realized that what separated the pros from the amateurs was their timing and drive.”
Later Steve moved to Albany, NY where he joined the Adirondack Bluegrass League. “The ABL provided a great venue for local talent to develop their skills in a friendly environment. I learned a lot from them about music and showmanship that’s stayed with me to this day.” Soon, Steve formed his own band, Uncle Sam’s Bluegrass Band (named after “the” Uncle Sam, who was a native of Troy, NY). “We played everything from psychiatric hospitals to opera houses, and made huge amounts of small change.”
Career changes eventually moved him to Lebanon, NJ and his meeting up with bass player and LST member Janyce Hess, with whom he has been singing for over 25 years. A few years ago Steve met LST mandolin man Fred Gilmartin at Grey Fox Bluegrass festival in upstate NY. After we spent the weekend picking, we got to talking and realized that we actually lived quite close together.” Steve met LST fiddler Reggie Mohr at the Godfrey Daniels jam. “These folks are fine musicians, and more importantly, fun to be around. I learned a long time ago that music is entertainment, and if you’re not having fun, you’re not entertaining. And we do have a good time.”
Asked to name his major musical style influences, Steve can go on for quite a while. “I love Bluegrass harmonies and drive, Cowboy music and Western Swing, traditional Country music, Americana, folk rock and the Blues.” Asked about his favorite artists, and the list is long, “the Stanley Brothers, George Jones, Porter and Dolly, Grandpa Jones, Tim O’Brien, Johnny Cash, Sons of the Pioneers, … I really like folks who sing songs from the heart that people can relate to. I also tend to like instrumental accompaniments, acoustic or otherwise, that are simple.” With influences such as these, it should come as no surprise that Steve and the Last Small Town Band play an eclectic mix of songs from the heart with drive that guarantees that you won’t soon forget them