KING 4446; MAY 1951



He’s been on a new label for more than a year now but the ghosts from his biggest hit on his old label are still haunting him.

Yet the more you live with ghosts the friendlier they can seem and here Sonny Thompson has reached out to the phantoms that had been casting a shadow over everything else he’s tried and welcomed them back into the fold.

You may not be able to embrace an apparition but this is the next best thing.


Long Ago In A Groove
It’s strange – but then again considering this is the music biz, not so strange at that – to be still talking about a record that was cut way back in November of 1947 and released a few months later in March of 1948. But when that record topped the charts on its way to being the most successful rock single of the year, one that re-defined the instrumental in many ways, I suppose it’s rather hard to escape it… especially if your name is Sonny Thompson, its creator.

We wrote about Long Gone in May of 2017… another lifetime ago with all that’s happened in this world since then… but one thing that hasn’t changed no matter how much time has passed is record companies desire for hits. Since Thompson hadn’t actually had one in quite awhile – none at all since decamping at King Records – it’s easy to see why he’d be inclined to revisit his biggest hit of all once again.

But unlike past efforts to exhume that immortal record, this time out he seems more interested in exploring its mood rather than slavishly recreating its entire production.

In truth if not for drawing some attention to it in the title, Gone Again Blues, you might not even immediately think of the connection, but once you do the similarities, as well as the differences, are evident.

The one thing that hasn’t changed thankfully is Sonny Thompson’s unique ability to find and hold a groove… the defining characteristic of his best records and of the musician himself.


We’re Grooving Once Again
Three years, especially in the initial avalanche of rock, is a long time when it comes to music and every single musician who appeared on that initial hit is… well, to use a rather obvious saying, “long gone” from Thompson’s band.

Not only are the specific musicians gone, but the instruments that were featured so well on that classic record have risen and then fallen again when it comes to what rock fans gravitate towards. The tenor sax that Eddie Chamblee helped to establish as the dominant rock soloing instrument back then saw its popularity skyrocket in the next year and a half before coming back down to earth.

It’s still popular but now it’s trying to share space with other instruments which were mere afterthoughts in days gone by, such as the guitar.

In truth Thompson was first in this regard as well, as he’d featured Arvin Garrett’s guitar very prominently on Long Gone, especially Part One, as it played the undulating riff that was the backbone of the entire record.

But now in 1951 the guitar’s become a little more prominent across all of rock… still not nearly as big as it would get in coming decades, but it was definitely being seen as an attribute to be exploited and on Gone Again Blues it gets its chance to do just that, as William Shingler plays a hypnotically slow riff on the bass strings while Thompson dances, twists, turns and shimmies around it.


It’s almost like a reversal of the roles played by Schroeder and Snoopy in Charlie Brown cartoons, where the blonde pianist was unfazed by the dancing pooch. Here it’s the guitarist who remains stoic while Sonny is the one trying to distract him with every gimmick he can think of.

The groove that Shingler establishes though is unshakable, subtly aided by the metronomic beat provided by drummer Bill English and after the one minute mark when the first section winds down the arrangement rewards Shingler for his patience by allowing him to get some time to strut his stuff with a tasty solo. He plays slow and mesmerizing, bending strings and finding new tones to explore, each note carefully extracted from the strings as if they were delicate jewels while the horns inch closer to look over his shoulder at what he’s discovered.

You’d think that might lead to them getting a soloing spot of their own, but it’s Thompson who returns for some more showy finger-flexing in the final stretch. Maybe he was wary about handing away a starring role in the show as he did that first time around a few years back, but while some soulful sax might’ve allowed this to equal – or dare I say surpass – that legendary two part hit, even without it this one is still addicting from start to finish.


It’s Always Hit Or Miss
Ahh, addicting yes, but not a hit.

To be a hit people have to hear it so that they may become addicted to the sounds pouring out of the speakers and for whatever reason, this one came and went without much push from King Records.

The out of sequence releases of this stretch of singles brought about when they had to awkwardly insert a hasty cover record by Wynonie Harris into the schedule meant that Sonny Thompson’s Gone Again Blues was relegated to the status of afterthought, which is a shame because its among the best singles of this run for the parent label in the spring of 1951.

Maybe they thought slow rock instrumentals weren’t marketable anymore, but good music certainly was and this is really good… an infectious sounding song that seemingly could go on and on for hours without tiring of it.

The hit-making days of Sonny Thompson – at least when it came to his own instrumental records – may have been over, but his musical journey in many ways was just beginning. But before he moved on to work on building the careers of others, Lula Reed and Freddie King among them, this record showed that no matter what hits he scored with them, Thompson would always be The King Of The Groove in rock circles.


(Visit the Artist page of Sonny Thompson for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)