BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

Alphonso “Sonny” Thompson was one of the more versatile all-around contributors to rock’s first fifteen years as an artist, songwriter, bandleader, producer and A&R director for a variety of labels.

Born in 1916, Thompson attended the Chicago Conservatory Of Music and was got his start professionally recording on the tiny Sultan label in 1946 before joining Miracle where he was mainly playing behind other artists throughout 1947. It was the instrumentals he cut at the tail end of these sessions for various singers that set his career off in another direction when the first of them, “Long Gone Part 1 & 2” became the biggest hit of 1948, in the process launching the two-part single and establishing the slow seductive groove of rock instrumentals to act in contrast to the more flamboyant honking sides that were making waves at the same time.

He followed it up with another #1 hit later that year, but soon settled into a career that took himself largely out of the spotlight, preferring instead to back other artists in the studio – most notably for King Records in the early 1950’s – but also to produce the records.

He still toured and recorded however with a new female vocalist (and soon his wife) Lula Reed, scoring hits in the mid-50’s with her before taking A&R positions at Chart Records, Chess Records and then in the early 1960’s returning to King Records where he helped shape blues-rock guitarist Freddie King’s early successes.

His songwriting and production credits are extensive, the number of hits he played on behind other artists were equally notable, but it was Thompson’s early instrumental hits and the influence they had on rock’s early course which remained his most lasting legacy. He died in 1989 just shy of 73 years old.
 
 
SONNY THOMPSON DISCOGRAPHY (Reviews To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):
 
 
LONG GONE (PART 1 & 2)
(Miracle 126; March, 1948)
A tight, hypnotic, churning groove spread over two sides cut on different dates. Part One is highlighted by the interplay of Thompson’s piano and Arvin Garrett’s guitar, while the hit Part Two adds Eddie Chamblee’s sultry sax to the mix. An atmospheric gem that will put you in a trance. (8)

LATE FREIGHT
(Miracle 128; August, 1948)
A moody piece that had no trouble hitting the top of the charts coming on the heels of his last outing, but possessing a more laid-back groove without the addictive qualities of its predecessor and thus not quite as memorable. (6)

SONNY’S RETURN
(Miracle 128; August, 1948)
Sparse instrumental which, deprived of attitude and the atmospheric touches of Eddie Chamblee’s saxophone, has little melodic direction and no moments to stand out and be noticed. (3)

BLUES ON RHUMBA
(Miracle 131; February, 1949)
Had rock not taken over so emphatically when it did this is the milder direction black popular music might’ve gone instead, an unlikely minor hit thanks largely to Thompson’s name recognition from a band capable of much more. (3)

BLUE DREAMS
(Miracle 131; February, 1949)
Another record in stylistic limbo, this one featuring some mellow Eddie Chamblee sax work that is fairly nice followed by some flighty sax work by Chamblee which is not so nice adding up to directionless confusion. (3)

STILL GONE (PART 3 & 4)
(Miracle 139; July, 1949)
What had all the makings of an unimaginative rip-off of his biggest hit, right down to bringing back Eddie Chamblee to guest on it and splitting it into two parts, turns out to be incredibly inventive and well played… tangibly connected to its predecessor but thoroughly modernized. (7)

DREAMING AGAIN
(Miracle 146; October, 1949)
A misguided attempt at showing he was more than just a master of the groove, Thompson’s florid piano solo is the worst aspect of this, while the best part, relatively speaking, are the horns when they attempt to pick up the slack and groove on their own. (3)

BACKYARD AFFAIR
(Miracle 146; October, 1949)
Though fairly nicely played, this steps way too far outside the rock parameters for its qualities to be appreciated in this realm as its jazzy supper club vibe indicates Thompson may have been growing weary of the basic rock formula. (2)