Mayo Thompson

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Mayo Thompson
Mayo Thompson live with The Red Krayola (Münster, 05/05/05)
Mayo Thompson live with The Red Krayola (Münster, 05/05/05)
Background information
Birth nameMayo Joseph Thompson, Jr.[1]
Born (1944-02-26) February 26, 1944 (age 76)
Houston, Texas, US
Occupation(s)Musician, visual artist, record 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, United States) is an American musician and visual artist best known as the leader of the avant-garde rock band Red 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. The album consists instead of ten lyrically dense but warm-hearted pop songs, in various styles – Dylan-inspired blues-rock, Tex-Mex pop-rock with psychedelic touches, and early country rock not dissimilar to the contemporary work of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Thompson was backed by studio musicians on the album and none of his usual Krayola cohorts appear. 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 six albums: Corrected Slogans (1976), Kangaroo? (1981), Black Snakes (1983), Sighs Trapped by Liars (2007), Five American Portraits (2010). Another album, Baby and Child Care, was recorded shortly after Black Snakes in 1984 with most of the same personnel, but not released until 2016.

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 assist in producing 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 Allen Ravenstine of Pere Ubu. All members of Pere Ubu, aside from drummer Scott Krauss, contributed to the Soldier Talk album. 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. The song Born in Flames was written for the soundtrack of Lizzie Borden's 1983 radical feminist film of the same name.


In the early 1980s, he was a member of Pere Ubu, performing on their albums The Art of Walking and Song of the Bailing Man. He also appears on seven of thirteen tracks on the Pere Ubu live album, One Man Drives While the Other Man Screams, and plays accordion on the David Thomas and the Pedestrians album The Sound of the Sand. In 1982 he started to compose the musical score of Victorine, the opera written by Art & Language for the Documenta 7. 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 Red Crayola again with an entirely new line-up.

Thompson produced the 1986 self-titled debut by the Shop Assistants for the Blue Guitar label. Thompson was also, alongside Geoff Travis, director of the label. He also produced another debut album, "Brave Words" by The Chills, released in 1987.


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 October 27, 2008.

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