He grew up with music, in Mountain View, Arkansas, its impossible not to. Most every Friday night he remembers being down on the Courthouse Square at the Hootenanny. His dad played guitar and his Uncle Ray played fiddle. Aunt Bertie Thomas joined in with fiddlesticks and they all had a rousing good time.

Danny Thomas went off to Jonesboro to go to college. After he and his wife Debbie graduated, they went to Missouri to teach school. “But we couldn’t stay away,” said Danny, with a grin. After a year they moved back home and have been here ever since.

Mountain View’s a special kind of place in so many ways. When Danny was superintendent of the Mountain View Schools, the Arkansas schools got some money for career programs. Most schools put it into computers, but Danny, Elliot Hancock, and then Assistant General Manager at the Ozark Folk Center and the ladies of the Committee of 100 developed the award-winning Music Roots program, which offered children a chance to learn to play an instrument and even provided instruments to children who could not afford them.

Danny devoted himself to the children of Mountain View, and then he retired.

“When I retired, I needed some reason to get up in the morning,” Danny said. “Kay Thomas (Craft Director) said, ‘Come to the Ozark Folk Center.’  She set me up with an apprenticeship with Hilton Lytle. That’s when I started building instruments.

“I apprenticed with him for three summers.” Danny continued. “We built fiddles first, then mandolins and dobros. I was fortunate because Hil was an old educator, too, from Louisiana. Every year, Hilton Lytle and I give a scholarship to a Mountain View graduating senior who has been in the Music Roots Program.”

Danny works one day a week in the Instrument Shop at the Folk Center and performs frequently with his Whoa Mule Quartet that includes Bruce Fernimen, Wayne Choate and Tulip the mule – though Tulip has been absent from the stage recently. He also changes face and becomes fiddlemaker and entertainer Gus Pike, though it’s a wee bit hard to figure out where Danny leaves off and Gus takes over. In both guises, he shares his love of the Ozarks with visitors to the Center.

“To me, we have so many traditions, our way of life is so great, the make do attitude, the strong individualism,” said Danny. “We can show examples. We use things we have at hand; normally these things would have been thrown away. I made my fiddle from an old cigar box and a table leg, and some old fiddle pegs. Everything on it would have been thrown away. People are amazed. But lately with the Green Movement, people can relate to it.”

Get your hands on the old-time music at the Instrument Shop at the Ozark Folk Center during Harvest Festival. The Craft Village is open every day except Monday through October 31. Admission is $10.00 for adults and $6.00 for children.