crabmeat thompson
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crabmeat thompson

Middletown, Delaware, United States | INDIE

Middletown, Delaware, United States | INDIE
Band Comedy Folk


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"Gary Mullinax" > The News Journal > Life > Story

'Crabmeat': Still outside playing
By GARY MULLINAX / The News Journal
Here's the way Jerry "Crabmeat" Thompson's mind works south of that boldly bald dome and somewhat north of the devilish goatee.
The singer-songwriter is invited to perform at this summer's annual Delmarva Chicken Festival. He wants to write a song for the occasion.
He gets to thinking about chickens, which leads him not to eggs or drumsticks but to the Guatemalan truck drivers who will deliver poultry to the event in Millsboro.
"I think I've realized one of my life's goals," he said happily. "I was able to put 'Chichicastenango' in a song."
That's the Guatemalan town many of the truck drivers come from. "I put the whole word in there," he pointed out. Chickens themselves do have a role in the song. "They fall off the truck and have a romance," Thompson said.
He is known to most of his fans simply as Crabmeat. He says he got the name as a teenager when he was designated by his friends to toss three paper bags filled with scraps from a seafood meal into a roadside dumpster in Dewey Beach.
The waterlogged paper gave way, "coating me with the juice of many pounds of seafood and beer." With only one set of clothes for the weekend, "I toughed it out, to the jeers of my peers, who stuck me with the handle 'Crabmeat.' "
He has been setting his funny, clever lyrics to his good-time, folk-country-rock music since the early 1970s. He has opened for the likes of John Sebastian, Steve Forbert and Norman Blake.
He has performed primarily in his native Delaware. He got it going, though, when he lived in San Francisco in the early 1970s. There, he hung out at the boho City Lights bookstore, opened for cranky post-Beat poet Charles Bukowski at a reading, gave a party where he did a juggling act with two other jugglers on his shoulders and learned some of the mysteries of life from a San Francisco State University professor he refers to simply as "Wong."
"We drank some of Bukowski's Heinekens backstage," Thompson said of his brush with the man who eventually became one of the most popular poets in America. "He had a contract that they had to have Heineken for him in a case of ice. I didn't talk to him. He would have said, 'Get the heck out of the way. Where are the women and booze?' "
Thompson has lived mostly in Delaware the past three decades. He also performs in other states, including Florida, where he lived for a few years in the 1980s. Thompson and his wife, Janice, have lived in a ranch house in Middletown the past 10 years.
He keeps going back to Florida to perform songs that remind audiences of another good-time singer with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts - even if he sometimes wishes they didn't. "I played in Florida twice last year and nobody requested any Jimmy Buffett songs," he said. "I think I've turned a corner."
He recently was a guest on a radio gardening show in Birmingham, Ala., where his version of "One Ton Tomato" is played between segments. "They want to get me down there for Tomato Day at the state fair. I told them my bags were packed."
In the 1980s Thompson wrote "Small Wonder," which became Delaware's unofficial state song. It happened after some Washington bureaucrats saw him perform on the deck at the Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach and invited him to perform at the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tenn., which they would be attending as part of the American delegation.
"They said they couldn't pay me anything, so I said that kind of makes it harder."
So Thompson hooked up with some Delaware tourism officials, who gave him a small budget and sent him off to Knoxville.
"I went cheap - went down on a bus with boxes of literature about Delaware," said Thompson. "And I wrote 'Small Wonder' for them. I signed away everything. They can do anything they want with the song for the rest of my life."
He gets sentimental in a song from his most recent CD. "Robert and My Mom" is about a nursing home worker who cared for his mother after she had a stroke.
"And I feel better knowing Robert's strong black hands/Have learned my Mom's necessities so well/I think in turn she's learned a lot from Soul Train/Together they watch the NFL."
Later he refers to "Daddy ... a Big Man on the Campus" who had joined his fellow soldiers "when they took the beach at Normandy."
His parents, both deceased, were a strong influence on Thompson, who grew up in the suburbs north of Wilmington. So were other members of his family.
"I always felt in my parents' shadow," he said without rancor. "My father was a three-sport athlete at Delaware and president of a fraternity." (Crabmeat was a substitute on the university's football team during the 1960s.) And my sister was, like, a genius. It was a big pain trying to live up to her reputation."
But Thompson, who has a master's degree in English, is no slouch in the intellect department. He teaches a literature class a - Gannett


Animals, Vegetables, and Mineral Springs (1985) vinyl. Spiritual Beer (1989) cassette. Save the Bays (1991) cassette. Down on the Ant Farm (1994) cassette. Glory (1990) CD. Shop Unitil You Drop (2001) CD. South of the Moon (2004) CD. Crabmeat for Kids (2005) CD, Animals, Vegetables re-released on CD (2006), Birthday Trampoline (2007).

Most are available for listening at and or Amazon. Digital downloads available on iTunes.

"One Ton Tomato" airs weekly on the "Home Grown Tomatoes" gardening show, hosted by Kenn Alan Gann in Birmingham, Alabama. "Hot Springs" played on Dr Demento and has been recorded by John Dunnigan. "Save the Bays" is part of the environmental curriculum in some elementary schools, while "Small Wonder" has played on WSTW Philadelphia, and is anthologized in "Songs of the American People" (Mel Bay) along with three songs by Woody Guthrie.



“Crabmeat has a wide repertoire of songs, ranging from comments on the environment to political topics to material based on his travels or his career as a college teacher, all done with his trademark sense of humor. In addition, his musicianship on guitar, voice, and other instruments is superb and he always develops a rapport with any audience. Crabmeat Thompson is an excellent performer!” (Mark Ellis, WVUD, 91.3FM)

For more than twenty years, Thompson has been performing what one critic has labeled "a funky gumbo of folk, blues, country, rock, and jazz.” He opened for poet Charles Bukowski at Veteran's Memorial Auditorium in San Francisco; and has played at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia and Sloppy Joe's in Key West, Florida; as well as a wide range of watering holes and coffeehouses from the Atlantic shore to the mountains of Montana and the backstreets of Madrid.

Crabmeat’s musical career began in Big Sur, California, in the “Fabulous Abalones,” and continued in Lake Tahoe, with the record-setting band “Rock Macho and the Country Felons.” In the Eighties Crabmeat fronted the “Live Wire Choir” in Missoula, Montana, and this experience in the mountain west inspired him to write the regional hit “Hot Springs,” which has aired on Doctor Demento.

Thompson's 2005 CD, Crabmeat 4 Kids, features songs such as "Teddy Bears' Picnic" and "Old Mac Donald." Other original songs: "One Ton Tomato," “Glory,” "Night of the Vegetables," “My Generation,” "Hare Krishna Waltz," and "Bigfoot's Baby," are on his several CDs available at, CDBaby or

Crabmeat recently sang and lectured on Irish music and poetry in Washington, DC, and University College, Dublin. His song, "Small Wonder," about Delaware, is published in Songs of the American People by Jerry Silverman (Mel Bay, Columbia, MO).

CM has opened for the Pointer Sisters, Buckwheat Zydeco, Tiny Tim, Steve Forbert, and the poet Charles Bukowski. An interview with Tiny Tim is on his CD South of the Moon.