Born July 10, 1944, in Winston-Salem, NC, Haskell was living under a bridge when Tim Duffy met him. Haskell was a singer, storyteller and “clicker”. He clicked his tongue and created sounds like a rim shot or a rhythm loud as a snare drum.

Duffy recently spoke about discovering artists to record such as Haskell Thompson: “I learned from Guitar Gabriel that if you’re going to a strange city you don’t want to talk to the head of the bank, church or a company. You want to find the person under the bridge. They’ll tell you everything you need to know from the top on down. That’s where Haskell comes in.

“He knew everything about the streets. He knew Winston-Salem. He was my musical road map, especially in the ghetto. He helped me navigate that whole situation. He was known in the streets, so if I was with him, after six or seven months nobody paid me any attention. “If the Click language from South Africa somehow did indeed migrate to the American South, perhaps Haskell was a vessel tradition.”

Music Maker assisted Haskell after his leg was amputated due to diabetes. Haskell had no money to pay the bills and the hospital threatened to roll him out to the curb. Duffy called a friend, a medical doctor, who informed the hospital it was illegal to leave Haskell helpless outdoors. After that conversation, the hospital social worker, found a placement for Haskell in an assisted facility.

“I started clicking when I was four years old. I just picked it up when we was out there pitching horseshoes. We got the songs from my grandfather and the horseshoes would make a sound–cling! Then I started making the clicking sound…” Haskell Thompson

Music Maker’s unwavering support allowed Haskell to escape the mean streets. Haskell was unable to tour, but his handicap did not dampen his spirits. If music played he’d get up on his prosthetic leg and dance, sing and ‘click’. Captain Luke dubbed Thompson with his nickname “Whistlin’ Britches” because when he walked his pants swished together.

Haskell Thompson was a raconteur of the highest order. Music Maker recorded the stellar Clickin’: King of Hip Poppin’ in 2002. Haskell delivered African-American ‘Toasts’, which are long poetic tales of gritty jokes. Haskell’s fellow Music Maker Artists Guitar Gabriel, Cool John Ferguson and Macavine Hayes contributed instrumentation on this entertaining collection.

Clickin’ highlights include “You Don’t Know Who I Am”, “Mac’s Boogie”, “Signifying” and his soulful vocals on “You Can Help Yourself Baby”. Pull up a chair and listen to “Whistlin’ Britches” spin a drinkhouse ode…

Haskell Thompson died on December 19, 2011.
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