NOTE: The 2012 "Joy to the World" concert is sold out.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bob Thompson was at the cleaners a few weeks ago when a woman approached him. People seem to come up to the Charleston-based jazzman and "Mountain Stage" pianist frequently.
She asked Thompson whether he would be doing his annual "Joy to the World" show. He told her yes. The show returns for it's 20th year Thursday night at the Culture Center Theater.
The 70-year-old musician said he couldn't remember the woman's name, but he remembered what she told him. She said, "We plan our holiday around it. For my family, it starts the Christmas season."
It's a statement he's heard before, but Thompson doesn't get tired of it.
He said, "That's such a nice thing to hear. You know, after 20 years, you start having doubts, and 20 is such a nice, round number, a good number to go out on -- but it's things like that that give you a reason to keep going."
Last year, there was some doubt whether "Joy to the World" would continue past its 20th year. Thompson convinced his longtime producer, Linda McSparin, who'd recently retired from "Mountain Stage," to help him with the show one more time, but he openly mused about whether he wanted to go on or not.
Somewhere in the past year, he changed his mind.
"We'll keep doing it as long as people keep coming and keep enjoying it," he said.
That could be for a very long time. The show frequently sells out in advance, and this year is no exception.
Thompson and "Joy to the World" have had a good run so far. He said there are a lot of good memories.
The first show featured Thompson's trio, which included saxophonist Doug Payne and drummer Guy Remonko, with Bobby Boswell on bass. Remonko lives in Ohio these days, where he teaches music at Dennison University and still performs.
"Bobby was from Pittsburgh," Thompson said. "He played with Max Roach and a lot of people. He passed away a couple of years ago."