February 24, 2020

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Lucky Thompson- African-American Jazz in California

February 24, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Lucky Thompson

Lucky Thompson was born in South Carolina but grew up in Detroit where he started playing the saxophone. He graduated from high school in 1942 and immediately joined the Erskine Hawkins Big Band. He worked with several big bands in the early forties including Lionel Hampton and Lucky Millinder. He was also a member of the bop-oriented Billy Eckstine Big Band where he worked alongside modern jazz pioneers Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. In 1945 he came to Los Angeles as a member of the Count Basie Orchestra and decided to stay.

He was only in Los Angeles from 1945 to 1947 but was incredibly prolific appearing on dozens of recording sessions. He was in-demand because he was equally at home with the swing musicians as well as the young bebop players. He also worked with lots of vocalists and blues groups. In December of 1945 he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s band at Billy Berg’s
for the now famous “bebop invades the west” engagement.

For the next two years he was one of the busiest musicians in Los Angeles. He recorded with the Berg’s group for Dial records as well as sideman dates with Slim Gaillard, Howard McGhee, Dodo Marmarosa, Charlie Parker, Dinah Washington and Charles Mingus.

He also worked in the progressive big bands of Boyd Raeburn, Earle Spencer and Phil Moore as well as leading his own west coast dates for Excelsior, Victor and Downbeat.
In 1948 he left Los Angeles and continued his busy career in NewYork and beyond.