When Eddie Thompson was fourteen, his dad showed him some basic chords on the guitar, along with his eleven-year-old brother Danny. “Dad played on the radio in Chicago with a group known as The Stump Jumpers, and they entertained troops at the end of WWII,” Eddie said. His mother, Jewell, was also a musician. Two cousins from Maryland had guitars as well, and the boys’ knowledge of music grew together.
By the age of fifteen, Eddie was playing at high school assemblies, dances and the Elks Club in Lawrenceburg. He knew how to play thirty to forty cover songs and played by ear. The first band Eddie formed with others was The Ravenz between 1966-68, with Dexter Riley on drums, Dwight Bunch on bass, Billy Joe Kilburn, who was lead singer and cousin of Dexter Riley from Collinwood, Gary Adams on keyboard, and Eddie on lead guitar and backup vocals. Billy Joe Kilburn died in a car accident when he was nineteen or twenty.
The band played in Jackson, Tennessee on the same stage with Johnny Cash once during this period. Following The Ravenz, there was a band known as The Roots of Rhythm. The band was further reorganized with Caldwell (JR) Davis Jr. who wrote “Just Like I Want Her,” which the band recorded around 1968. In 1968, Ravenz was reincarnated as RavenzII with Eddie, Jeff Hurst and Daryl Luna, who recorded on Crockett Records in Lawrenceburg – a double-sided 45-rpm record that included “Just Like I Want Her” and “Dawn of A New Day.”
“I loved playing,” Eddie reveals, “ but was so shy that I would often turn sideways so I wouldn’t have to face the crowd.”
The band competed at a 1968 Memphis Battle of the Bands and won first place for best original song and second place for best band,” Eddie remarks. They had a song included on an album of top garage bands, which has sold for $200-300 on eBay in Europe.
Eddie and Caldwell were drafted into the US Army two years after high school. When he returned to Wayne County, Eddie joined the four-piece Green River Band, playing cover songs during 1973-75 as backup vocalist, lead and rhythm guitar. Jimmy Norris was singer and deejay, with Randy Butler on drums and Michael Brewer on bass. Later, Eddie played and sang for seven years with the group Retro,
which included JR Davis and Michael and Dustin Brewer. They opened for Confederate Railroad, Exile, and Mark Collie during the Clifton Horseshoe RiverBend Festivals.
He then joined a regional band, The Usual Suspects. All but Eddie were from the Muscle Shoals area. He says they were very good and issued a CD titled Presumed Guilty. They had around 200 cover songs and “always covered expenses and had fun.”
“I play guitar and sing in church now. I have written some contemporary gospel music. I’ve played and sung with Jackie Ward and The Stateline Gospel Singers”, he relates. “I still occasionally perform with musician friends at festivals.”
Anita Miller is an Ambassador with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce researching the musical history of Wayne County.