Tracey Thompson and Elaine Basham
Tracey Thompson and Elaine Basham

Tracy Thompson has a high, sweet singing voice and an absolute zeal for performing in front of an audience. (And I can safely say I’ve never typed the word “zeal” in any context in my lifelong career as a writer. But no other word I can think of more accurately describes Tracy’s enthusiasm, his delight and, well, his zeal!)

“I just love to sing for people,” Tracy said, with an infectious smile on his face. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to play out more, do the things that make me happy.”

I caught his show recently at Mad Paddle Brewery with Elaine Basham singing harmony, and the sound was spot on. “I was lucky to find Elaine, or rather, she found me. I was playing at Stream Cliff, where she works, and she asked if she could sit in with me. I asked if she knew my songs, and she said she was a fast learner. She wasn’t lying. It usually only takes one verse and chorus of a new song and she has it down.”

People may recognize the name Thompson in North Vernon where his family ran Thompson Motors for three generations. And while Tracy is still in the wholesale car business, his energies these days are focused a lot more on music.

“I started many years ago playing with Granville Johnson every Tuesday night at honky tonks like The Cellar in North Vernon. When he died back in 2003 it kinda took the wind out of me, musically. But lately I’ve been getting back into it, booking gigs around the area.

“I’ve played Mad Paddle a couple times now, played at Thomas Family and the Riverboat Inn.

“I also released an album recently. My friend Tony Bryant has a recording studio and he basically cajoled me into it. He asked me what my favorite 12 songs were, and when I told him, he said, ‘OK now we’re going to record them.’

“I did the album-release party at the restored Park Theater in North Vernon and all these friends came out to play with me. It was the best night of music I’ve ever had.

“But speaking as a North Vernon native, experiencing Madison now as a musician, I have to say there is nowhere else that I know that even comes close. I like to call it the Nashville of the Ohio Valley. In fact, there is so much talent here it’s somewhat of a tough nut to crack, as far as getting gigs. Lots of competition!

“And frankly, even larger cities like Indy that have a bigger music scene, just by virtue of population, are still not as cool as Madison. This place has a vibe that no one else can match.”


On Thursdays, Rembrandt’s is starting a fun, new thing. Leonard Miller will be doing live music trivia on the piano. This week is movie themes and show tunes. Hippies Music right up the road in Vernon has live music every night this week, starting Thursday. And remember, you can start early now on Saturdays at Mad Paddle with live music (it was a great time at the inaugural show last Saturday) and then head out to one of the other venues later. I’m a big fan of the Falls City Boys who will be at the Taproom.

Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.


Thursday, January 9:

Hippies in Vernon — Eric O. Daffer

Off Broadway Taproom — Sandy Pickett

Rembrandt’s — Live music trivia with Leonard Miller

Friday, January 3:

Off Broadway Taproom — Jimmy Davis & Bill Lancton

Rembrandt’s — Leonard Miller at the piano

Hippies in Vernon — Bluegrass with James White & Jerry Caudill

Red Roaster — Chestnuts (6 p.m.)

Saturday, January 4:

Mad Paddle Brewery — Andrew Pittman (7 p.m.)

Off Broadway Taproom — Falls City Boys

Rembrandt’s — Leonard Miller at the piano

Hippies in Vernon — Merle Haggard Tribute

VFW — Fabulous Hickbillies

Thomas Family — Candlelight & Pajamas, with Mike Oberst & Kate Wakefield

Sunday, January 5:

Off Broadway Taproom — Davy or Daryl

Up and coming:

Jimmy Buffet, July 11 at Rouff Center in Noblesville, tickets on sale Jan. 10 at 10 a.m.