Mayo Thompson

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Mayo Thompson
Red Krayola-3.jpg
Mayo Thompson live with The Red Krayola (Münster, 05/05/05)
Background information
Birth nameMayo Joseph Thompson, Jr.[1]
BornFebruary 26, 1944 (age 75)
OriginHouston, Texas
Occupation(s)Musician, visual artist, producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1966–present
LabelsInternational Artists, Celluloid Records, Leiterwagen Records, Radar Records, Sordide Sentimental, Texas Revolution, Rough Trade Records, Drag City
Associated actsThe Red Krayola
Pere Ubu

Mayo Thompson (born February 26, 1944 in Houston, Texas) is an American musician and visual artist best known as the leader of the avant-garde rock band Red Crayola (Krayola).


In 1966, Thompson formed the band Red Crayola with fellow art students Frederick Barthelme (brother of novelist Donald Barthelme) and Steve Cunningham amid the burgeoning Houston psychedelic scene and gathered a "travelling entourage" who improvised with them, known as The Familiar Ugly.[2] Their intended second album, Coconut Hotel was rejected by their record company for being too abstract and experimental.


In the early 1970s, he lived in New York City, where he worked as a studio assistant for Robert Rauschenberg.[3]

In 1970, Thompson released his only solo album to date, titled Corky's Debt To His Father, on the Texas Revolution label. It was recorded in Houston. It was re-released by the Glass label in 1985 and Drag City in 2008.

After becoming disillusioned with the American art scene, he moved to London having joined the conceptual art group Art & Language,[4] with whom he went on to record five albums: Corrected Slogans (1976), Kangaroo? (1981), Black Snakes (1983), Sighs Trapped by Liars (2007), Five American Portraits (2010).

While in London, he became involved with Geoff Travis's distribution business at Rough Trade Records. When the label decided to begin releasing records in 1978, Thompson was asked to produce many of them because Travis did not feel that he had enough experience in the studio. Thompson is credited as producer on early records by The Fall, Stiff Little Fingers, The Raincoats, Cabaret Voltaire, Kleenex and many other seminal groups.

Working at Rough Trade also led him to reform the Red Crayola with new members from the bands he was working with. The resulting line-up (1979–1983) included a number of important post-punk musicians: Gina Birch of The Raincoats, Lora Logic of X-Ray Spex and Essential Logic, Epic Soundtracks of the Swell Maps, and several of the members of Pere Ubu. The band continued its association with Art & Language, who often contributed lyrics to songs such as A Portrait of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock which references their well-known painting. Their song Born in Flames was used for the soundtrack of Lizzie Borden's 1983 radical feminist film of the same name.


During the 1980s, he worked as a member of Pere Ubu and returned to more experimental projects. In 1983 he recorded a series of monologues and vocal tracks for a collaborative effort with German musicians Dieter Moebius and Conny Plank. The recordings were shelved for 15 years but were finally released as Ludwig's Law in 1998. While living in Germany in 1987, he began collaborating with the German painter Albert Oehlen,[5] first on a soundtrack for the film The Last of England by Derek Jarman. The two would later reform the band again with an entirely new line-up.

Thompson produced the 1987 album "Brave Words" by the New Zealand band The Chills.


In the early 1990s, Thompson met the avant-garde guitarist David Grubbs who offered him a chance to release new music with Red Crayola on Drag City in Chicago. Thompson accepted and the Red Crayola roster ballooned again, this time encompassing many of the important post-rock musicians of the time, including members of Gastr del Sol and Tortoise.[4] The group has continued in a more or less similar configuration since 1994.

In 1994, he accepted a teaching position at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.[5] In 2008 the association ended.

Since 2009 he has lived with his wife and their dog in California, USA[citation needed].


  1. ^ Texas Births, 1926–1995, Mayo Thompson
  2. ^ Keenan, David (August 2006). "The Merry Prankster". The Wire (258)., p38
  3. ^ Cooper, Neil. "Mayo Thompson: Well Red". Map Magazine. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Keenan, p37
  5. ^ a b "Thompson's twins". Dallas Observer. June 17, 1999. Retrieved 2008-10-27.

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