Ron Thompson
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Ron Thompson


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"The Thompson Tornado"

I believe that the ‘unofficial’ duty of ‘True’ Musicians is to keep the rest of us pathetic humans reminded of what life should be about, i.e. JOY!…absolute joy…and on a consistent basis. Yet, we lose touch with all the things that brought us hope, happiness and meaning as we became slaves to jobs and the ‘ritualized-pursuit-of-wealth’ a.k.a. self-abuse. Great music serves as a reminder that we were once free and that we had plans that had nothing to do with mortgage payments or hair-loss. Some artists have always personified Absolute Uninhibited Joy: Hank Ballard, James Harman (he’s just a little grouchy now!), Magic Sam, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Wayne Cochran, Robert Gordon and Ron Thompson, The Human Dynamo. Joy involvement should be a daily exercise for North Americans and I would suggest an hour of Huey Smith, Lee Dorsey and Howlin’ Wolf, leading up to our contemporary Joy-Meister Ron Thompson. If you haven’t experienced Ron T. ‘live’ I can’t even begin to convey the absolute go-for-broke Blues rave-ups and sweat-soaked pandemonium Thompson and his Resistors dispense on a nightly basis, but this album does a pretty good job at giving you a big ‘taste’ of The Thompson Tornado.
My first Ron Thompson experience was in 1978 at The Rising Sun Jazz & Blues Club in Montreal, a small, funky ‘perfect’ Blues venue. Ron was John Lee Hooker’s bandleader/guitarist at the time (most of the 1970s) and as Hooker and other Blues Legends were in town to play the first Montreal Blues Festival put on by Dou-Dou Boicel, all the various bands congregated (minus leaders) at The Sun. For the 2-3 dozen hard-core Blues Fans assembled it was a dream come true and with much of the audience Blues veterans, we got to hear a different kind of Blues Party as they played for each other. With Eddie C. Campbell, Billy Branch, Freddie Dixon, Jimmy Tillman and Big Moose Walker checking him out from 15-feet away, Ron Thompson led his trio (The Coast-to-Coast Blues Band) through a super-charged repertoire that climaxed with the very best version of “Hideaway” I’ve ever heard (and I’ve heard hundreds!). Very interested in how the Chicago crew was responding I kept one eye and one ear on their big table and I laughed when Freddie Dixon and Branch looked at each other in disbelief and Moose started yellin’, “Yeah!” By the end of “Hideaway” they were all animated Ron Thompson fans which kinda says it all folks. If you can impress Eddie C., Magic Sam’s and Luther Allison’s old running partner…
I got to see Ron 2 or 3 more times in Kitchener, Ontario when it was the most ‘happening’ Blues spot in Canada (outside of Calgary) and Ron had The Hoodoo Lounge packed house absolutely drenched in sweat and in a state of ‘religious conversion’, the state that is seldom achieved by so many lesser performers. Howlin’ Wolf had it…Lefty Dizz had it…King Biscuit Boy had it (when he wanted it) and Ron Thompson is a master inducer of it. He did a 2-hour set, walked through the standing-room-only stomping crowd and proceeded to keep playing in the washroom by himself until the break was over…people were running around yelling, “He’s playin’ in the washroom!” and we grinned…ain’t that a man!
Oh yeah, the CD…it’s all magical mojo music with Ron on fire from start to finish. The man becomes possessed by the music and it’s Blues guitar Heaven throughout. “Swing Down Chariot” and “Monkey Fiddle” are humbling when it comes to slide guitar workouts (I would say he's the Best in the World) and yet the man sings his ass off too and blows a mean harp also. “Looking for Trouble” is a great Chicago Blues tribute to Eddie Taylor followed by “Honest I Do”, but “Freight Train Let Me Ride” and “Resistor Twister” will hit you with a hatchet. The greatest mystery on earth is why Ron Thompson and artists like him aren’t headliners at EVERY music festival on this troubled planet. He could certainly heal millions with his prescription of Joy. 6 Bottles for a mandatory ‘must have’ in 2005.
…Andy Grigg

- Real Blues Magazine

"That old style rhythm and blues"

Ron Thompson blows the crowd away at a concert Friday in Visalia

The blues have never felt so good.

Blues musician Ron Thompson uses his guitar like a weapon; striking his audience with an undeniable urge to tap their feet, shake their heads from side to side and make a dash for the dance floor.

At Le Chai Wine Lounge, 209 W. Main St., Visalia, Thompson’s brand of rock n’ roll blues inspired a sharp change in the atmosphere. On an otherwise calm Friday night, the posh wine lounge was transformed by the sound of a slide guitar, taking on the feel of a swanky New Orleans nightclub.

Thompson is a living legend and has shared the stage with musical greats such as John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, and Etta James.

A couple of hours before the show, Thompson gave his take on the music scene, what he listens to, and how he’s grown as a musician.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Thompson has been in the business of playing the blues for more than 30 years.

Since his beginnings as a musician in the 1970s, hitting up bars and nightclubs in the East Bay, Thompson has seen the ebb and flow of musical development across the globe.

“The popularity goes up and down, but blues will never die,” Thompson said, wearing hip black and red wing tips and his trademark porkpie hat.

For five years, Thompson toured around the country and throughout Europe with Mississippi native “The Boogie Man,” John Lee Hooker.

“I learned a lot from him in five years,” Thompson said. “I got to travel all around the world and it was a great experience.”

Thompson’s discography list includes nearly 40 albums that the rhythm and blues man has appeared on. Most notably, he has recorded with Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, Bonnie Raitt, and Carlos Santana.

Does he have a favorite?

“There are so many,” Thompson said. “You stumped me on that one.”

With a rich encyclopedia of blues legends as his musical influences, you might be surprised to know what Thompson has in his CD player.

“I listen to all kinds of different stuff,” Thompson said. “A lot of modern rock and newer stuff. Actually, I am really into rap music.”

This article also appeared in Spanish in the “Noticiero Semanal”( Voluem 8 Numero 4,) a publication of the Porterville Recorder.

By Sarah Elizabeth Villicana
February 16, 2006
© 2006 Porterville Recorder
- Porterville Recorder

"Local Legend brews the blues"

More than coffee will be brewing at Mission Roasting Coffee in Fremont this Saturday. East Bay native turned blues artist legend Ron Thompson will perform solo in what promises to leave the audience shaking their heads in amazement with his percolating style that comes to a raging boil. Hot and smooth, with blistering guitar licks, boogie-woogie keyboarding, tongue slapping harmonica playing and edgy, raspy voice—this man is no ordinary performer, he is in a class by himself.

"Blues is like a medicine, or religion to me, it'll cleanse your soul."
-Ron Thompson

Born in Oakland at Highland Hospital and schooled in Newark, Thompson graduated from Newark High School in 1971. He cut his teeth during the 70s in Black clubs around Richmond. But he actually started performing in elementary school. "I got him his first gig in fourth grade," said Jackie McCort, manager and booking agent for Thompson. It was in Mrs. Purdy's classroom that Thompson managed to irritate McCort with his "banging on the desk and moving around... he just couldn't stop." So she complained to the teacher whose response was to ask him if he wanted to come up to the front of the class to "perform." He said, "Sure," and went up to do an imitation of James Brown. "Whenever the teacher ran out of things to do or when it rained we would have a Ron Thompson show," says McCort.

Little did those students realize that they were looking at a future Bay Area Music Awards recipient (he has received two Bammies) and Grammy nominee (for his CD "Resister Twister") who would go on to play with greats such as Big Mama Thornton, Etta James, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Mick Fleetwood and B.B. King, to name a few.

Thompson comes from a musical background; his grandmother and mother played piano and his mother was also a tap dancer. He loved the showmanship of Little Richard, but his major influences were bluesmen John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed and Elmore James. "They really got me going at an early age," says Thompson.

Over the years, Thompson watched and learned from the best. "The stuff I learned was not in a book. There are certain things you have to learn and then you take it and do something with it," he says. Indeed, he admits that he is always thinking of musical compositions; how to tweak things around.

"I am in my own world. It's always nicer to have people enjoy it. But, I do what I do. I just know that if I can get myself into this state of mind it will transcend to the audience," he says about the feeling he gets while performing. It's as if he is channeling all of the great artists who have influenced him but adds his own brand of talent, making him a one-of-a-kind artist.

He strives to be different, always careful to remain fresh "I don't have a CD player in the car, I listen to the radio. I listen to new music," he says quickly. As a matter of fact, he says everything quickly and still can't seem to sit still. He grabs a slide guitar from the trunk of his car and picks up a knife and starts to slice out a tune.

"When I see guys throwing things up in the air- boy that's what I want to do!" he says about why he is such a high energy performer. "A lot of that frenzy- that transcending power... you don't try to do it, it's almost like trancelike."

During the winter Thompson prefers to stay around his home in the Bay Area booking gigs at Tri-City places like Mission Roasting Coffee and The Mojo Lounge in Fremont, The Bistro in Hayward, and The Florence in Niles (Fremont). He often plays with his band The Resistors featuring a virtual "Who's Who" of R&B royalty. They include: Larry Vann ("2005 Blues Drummer of the Year" award from the Blues Society's West Coast Hall of Fame); Leonard Gill (BB King band); Roy Blumenfeld (Blues Project) Oliver Brown (KC & the Sunshine Band); Artis (AJ) Joyce (Ron Hacker); James Gadson ("Godfather of that 16th-note groove"); Don Heflin; Don Bassey (Daniel Castro); Gary Silva (Elvin Bishop, Percy Mayfield); Mark Goldberg; Albert Trepagnier; Buddy Wiggins; Kelvin Dixon; Danny Camerena; Rudy Parris (Hank Williams III); Abel Parris; and others.

But he also plays solo. "I really enjoy it, it's more free form, you're not locked down with a beat, like old John Lee Hooker, he's like a whole orchestra," Thompson says. "Getting people to come out and see you solo is an honor, it's quieter stuff."

A new CD is expected to come out in the next two or three months. "This record I'm doing its mostly solo except overdubbing piano," he says. "It's been really fun. I am playing a National steel guitar, a metal guitar made prior to amplifiers with high overtones- really good sound."

Other luminaries he has played with include: Chris Isaak, Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Elvin Bishop, Bill Medley, Huey Lewis, Dr. John, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Z.Z. Top, and the list just goes on and on. Suffice it to say, this old cat has been around the block more than a few times.

So if you've got the blues, don't call the doctor, call Ron Thompson, he'll make it alright.

by Linda Stone
April 4, 2006 - Tri City Voice

"Ron Thompson at Knuckleheads"

Big Mike, formerly GE doorman back in the ‘80s, slipped the name “Ron Thompson” into my ear as a must-see attraction.

This guy slipped in under the radar for a torrid date at Knuckleheads. Kudos to Frank Hicks for another booking coup.

I may be uninformed by my informant from the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise related to me story after story of this ‘legendary’ performer playing other musicians on the Cruise, Taj Mahal, Tommy Castro, Bob Margolin and the Chicago legends, and blowing up the stage.

What do I know, except a good word when I hear it, so I slipped into K-heads just after the start of the first set to see this older crew on stage, a stripped down 3 piece, cranking an old blues, then slipping into a Hooker riff.

Thompson sits on a chair, stands, frenzied finger picking on a white, solid body electric ripping off phrases, drops into those driving, trance inducing propulsions.

Ron Thompson looks like someone’s benign but slightly bent Uncle, wears a white, straw derby hat, black shirt and slacks, and a pair of black shoes with red insets.

He stitches together Hooker lyrics from all the songs, a little Jimmy Reed quote there, and it’s coming out frenetic dance music, the kind of movement after drinking all night long and being ready, but, damn, this is just the beginning of the first set! How is anyone gonna catch up with this???

The bass player looks like a refugee from the seeds. The drummer sometimes sounds like he’s playing in another sound, but that’s alright because it is all about Ron.

Ron sits down at the piano and rips into “Ain’t Got No Home,” that old “Frogman” song, then a piano shuffle version of “They Call Me the Fatman”, all at breakneck speed. He signs the change with a wave of the upraised hand, and powers on.

Back to the guitar, slide, for Johnson’s “…Kitchen,” deliberate, with a low end buzz.

The sustained intensity stirs the audience like bloody chum before a school of sharks.

He stands and begins to shred the song to pieces.

Quickly switches to this acoustic box with the electric pickups duct taped over the sound hole and generates this full-bodied, reverberant moan, wailing and crying in front of the first row of the crowd, miles away from a mic.

If there ain’t sawdust on the floor wet with beer and maybe a bit of somebody’s blood, it sure sounds like it the way Thompson’s playing!

He continues on that slide acoustic, lightly tripping and slipping through a sweet country blues, then into Elmore’s dusting broom territory, raw and raucous. He jerks like there were electric shocks going through his body, the band pounding hard behind him.

This guy gathers excitement around him like an electric field – the hair stands up on your arms when you get close, infects the crowd by induction, driving it like pounding the nail head.

He could take a soggy cardboard box with strings and whip up a frenzy.

Forget the young kids in tight pants and big amps, this funky fella beats everyone way past home.

At a point, it ain’t about parsing the blues, its hold on tight to something, or someone.

He’s like a 45 in a 78 world.

Ron Thompson hangs mainly on the Left Coast but he is known. One cat at the bar was carrying 3 vinyl albums of the young RT with matinee idol looks.

This show reminds me of a friend of mine’s date with a hot number, who didn’t let him go home till he was raw. It isn’t about romance here at all.

But, if you get there, you wouldn’t want to miss any of it at all, even if you go home bow-legged.

Ron Thompson at Knuckleheads
by El Dormido
- Kansas City Blues Society

"Bluesman headlines Vallejo Waterfront festival"

Legendary blues guitarist Ron Thompson has enough chops under his belt to make a crowd feel his soul.

Thompson, 51, sounds raspy-voiced on the phone from his home in the Bay Area. Perhaps it's the endless tours and performances this blues player fares on any given week.

Or maybe it's the 42 years in the business, after his first performance at 9 years old in front of his fourth-grade classmates.

It's been an outstanding ride for the guitarist, having shared the stage with the likes of Sonny Rhodes, B.B. King, Mick Fleetwood and Etta James, just to mention a handful and has recorded with Chris Isaac, Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt. Heck, he's even toured with the legendary blues artist John Lee Hooker, spending an incredible seven years with him traveling coast-to-coast.

So it's no surprise that Thompson, who has four albums to his name, lives and breathes the blues as if his life depended on it.

"It's a release from the pressures of life, whether it's good or bad," explains Thompson of the blues. "For me, it's my living. You relate to it. And it's a feeling of 'wow,' I get the goosebumps and it makes me forget about problems."

And now Thompson, with his plethora of experience backed by two Bay Area Music Awards and Grammy nomination, will be headlining for the "2nd Annual Vallejo Waterfront Weekend" Saturday, a family-oriented event with music, food and an array of entertainment.

"I'll be playing everything I can perform, the guitar, piano, harmonica and steel guitar," he says, then laughs. "It depends on how much time they give and the integrity of it."

Thompson's journey began with frequent trips to "Black clubs," he says, such as those in North Richmond.

"They accepted me and it was a family thing," the Oakland native recalls. "Then I met with drummer Ken Swank who introduced me to Hooker and that was it."

And his memories of Hooker, which Thompson admits is voluminous, are inspiring. However, there is one particular memory that seems to stand out for the guitarist.

"He had a style where he played the rhythmical guitar with his thumb going backwards," Thompson recalls. "What happened, he told me, was that his thumb got smashed in a press when he worked with a car company in Detroit and that changed his style."

As for Thompson's style, well, a collection of inspiration breathes through the rhythmic chords of his guitar.

"I spent a lot of time during the '70s in jazz festivals and clubs with Sonny Slim in New Orleans," he says, then takes a moment of silence before continuing. "I'd be down there a lot and watch the guys down there. I took something out of that."

Besides performing at the waterfront festival, Thompson is also a part of several hurricane relief fundraisers and is donating the proceeds of his albums "Magic Touch" and "Still Resisting," if purchased through CD Baby, to the Red Cross.

"You gotta do something," he says adamantly.

Thompson will also be performing at the "2005 San Francisco Blues Festival" with the legends of Chicago blues.

The waterfront weekend includes the "32nd Annual Whaleboat Regatta," "3 on 3" Hoop Games Basketball Tournament, youth artscape, a children's play area, Touro University's Health Fair, the "15th Annual Diablo Valley Corvette Show," and the "20th Annual Vallejo Classic Car Show."

The "6th Annual Vallejo Blues and Heritage Festival" is also a part of the event, featuring Maria Muldaur, Sonny Rhodes and Tom Rigney.

By Andrea Garcia
Daily Republic 10/1/05

- Daily Republic

"Ron Thompson gets his official day in San Francisco"

Mayor Gavin Newsom has proclaimed today “Ron Thompson Day” to honor the great Bay Area rhythm and blues guitarist’s local musical legacy.

The day will be capped off by blow-out concerts featuring Ron Thompson and His Resistors at 8 and 10 p.m. today at Biscuits and Blues, 401 Mason St., San Francisco.

Newsom is scheduled to be on hand to present Thompson with the proclamation; other Bay Area artists invited to the festivities include Chris Isaak, Kenney Dale Johnson (drummer for Chris Isaak) and Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna).

Thompson began playing music professionally while still in high school. When he was 17, he began participating in the Tuesday night jam sessions at the Fillmore West, at that time known as the “West Coast Mecca for rock music.”

He played the first San Francisco Blues Festival in 1972, and continued to play many subsequent SF Blues festivals. His most recent appearance at SF Blues was two years ago, when he performed with the “Legends of Chicago Blues” (James Cotton, Hubert Sumlin, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and more).

Tom Mazzolini, founder and producer of the San Francisco Blues Festival, said, “I’ve always felt Ron is the most talented blues guitarist I’ve ever seen. He can do it all. He’s extraordinarily gifted. What many folks aren’t aware of is that Ron was a huge asset in the re-emergence of John Lee Hooker — he was the foundation for that boogie sound.”

For information about today’s show, call (415) 292-2583 or visit - San Francisco Examiner

"For the blues buff"

OK, I know there are blues lovers out there who are having similar troubles. You just can't get your copies of Muddy Waters' "Hard Again," Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Blues" and B.B. King's "Live at the Regal" out of your CD player, can you?

Well, here's one that warrant some time on your stereo:

"Resonator," Ron Thompson (32-20): San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom might have done some questionable things in office. But it's hard to argue with his proclaiming Sept. 5, 2007, as "Ron Thompson Day." It's about time that we got a little East Bay love from Newsom! And it's well-warranted in this case. Thompson is a East Bay blues treasure, one who perfected his trade while playing lead guitar in John Lee Hooker's band, and "Resonator" shows that he is still on top of his game.
--Jim Harrington - Contra Costa Times

"Paint the Town Blue--San Jose Blues Week to honor bluesman Ron Thompson"

BLUES may have once been characterized as the devil's music, but San Jose Blues Week couldn't be using its influence for a more virtuous cause. This year's Blues Week, running May 5–11, is dedicated to raising funds for the family of Christopher Rodriguez, a 10-year-old boy who was struck and paralyzed by a stray bullet during a piano lesson in north Oakland.

"I wanted to remind people of the plight of Chris," said San Jose Blues Week creator Ramon Johnson from the hospital after a recent emergency appendectomy. "His story was big in January; it was big news and got a lot of media coverage. But when the spotlight fades, his family is still stuck with the hospital bills," said Johnson.

Every year since its inception in 2006, San Jose Blue Week has recognized a local blues musician's contribution to the arts. Previous years have honored San Jose harmonica player Gary Smith and celebrated blues guitarist Rene Solis.

This year's honored performer is bluesman Ron Thompson, the longtime bandleader of the late great John Lee Hooker. Hailing from the East Bay, Thompson has toured the country and played with numerous blues legends over the years, including B.B. King, Big Mama Thornton and Etta James. A master keyboardist and rhythm and blues guitarist, Thompson was officially honored by the city of San Francisco in 2007 for his musical contributions to the Bay Area.

"It's so sad that a tragedy like that happens," said Thompson regarding Christopher Rodriguez. "I felt so bad about that situation. I'm proud to be part of doing something; it's a really good cause."

Johnson's first thought while recovering from his operation was how his medical condition has slowed down efforts to raise funds for the Christopher Rodriguez Trust.

"This emergency, it couldn't have come at a worse time; it's been a real setback," he said. Once Johnson is well enough to be discharged from the hospital, he said he plans to continue seeking donations and organizing door prizes to raise cash for Chris's family.

Kicking off May 5, San Jose Blues Week will feature an eclectic palette of blues stylings from both national and Bay Area blues musicians. Artists will perform at 14 separate events at such varied venues as the San Jose Improv, Poor House Bistro, JJ's Blues Club, San Jose State University and the Clarion Hotel Lounge. A celebration of live music in San Jose, Blues Week is a chance for blues enthusiasts, musicians and club owners to come together and showcase local talent while promoting blues appreciation and raising the consciousness of the community.

As always, the week's events will cumulate at the 28th Annual Metro Fountain Blues Festival on May 10. Produced annually by the Associated Students of San Jose State University, this year's concert extravaganza will host celebrated Grammy Award–winning headliners the Robert Cray Band and Koko Taylor and Her Blues Machine, along with singer/slide guitarist Sonny Landreth. Also playing the free festival held at SJSU's San Carlos Plaza are the Smokin' Joe Kubeck Band featuring Bnois King, the Shane Dwight Band and Maxx Cabello Jr.

Rene Solis, last year's official Blues Week honoree, said that he looks forward to getting a chance to jam with Thompson and Smith during "Chef Ramon's Talking Blues" on May 7 at the San Jose Improv. Merging a scholarly panel discussion on the history of blues with live performances, Talking Blues will also be broadcast live on KSJS-FM (90.5).

"The prime moment for me will be when Tom and Gary and I play together. It's really cool that the city recognized three artists," said Solis.

Johnson is also looking forward to Talking Blues this year, an event that he originally organized in 2005. "It's moving to the Improv, I'm really excited about that," said Johnson. "The gang that comes together for Talking Blues, all the usual suspects are there ... they really do a wonderful job."

For many in the San Jose blues scene, and particularly JJ's Blues Club regulars, Blues Week is a chance for this often overlooked musical community to unite and raise awareness.

"It's always interesting to see the JJ's Blues Club family tree come out," said Johnson. "San Jose has a rich history of blues. A lot of bands that are currently very successful got their beginnings at jam sessions at JJ's. It was a great training ground for people, a place for people to hone their chops."

One act that got their start at San Jose's JJ's Blues Club are blues singer Lara Price and guitarist Laura Chavez. As Lara and Laura Unplugged, the duo will preform their acoustic mixture of blues and rock at the Blues Week events Talking Blues and Smokin' Blues at the Poor House Bistro on May 8.
Price discovered a passion for singing the blues after meeting her band at a JJ's jam session in 2000. She said that San Jose Blues Week is one of her favorite events to perform at.

"The crowds are so generous; these are all my people," said Price. "It's come full circle, we've been pretty tight for the last eight years. The blues scene here, it's underrated. There's a lot of talent in the area, but not enough publicity about them. We got a good thing going on here."

But for Ramon Johnson, the most satisfying thing about San Jose Blues Week is seeing the San Jose musical community come together to raise awareness and help out the less fortunate.

"You know, what we do as people who entertain, we're not scientists," he said. "As a musician, you can't cure paralysis. But what we can do is raise awareness, doing what we do. The musicians [playing at Blues Week] don't have to do something like this. It's very rewarding, it's great when they come together."

By Jessica Fromm
May 1, 2008 - San Jose Metro

"History resonates in bluesman"

Ron Thompson is a name-dropper. John Lee Hooker. Sonny Rhodes. Johnny Heartsman. Big Mama Thornton. Phil Givant. Mel Brown. Chris Isaak. Luther Tucker. Mick Fleetwood. Jimmy Reed. Especially Jimmy Reed.

But it's not as if he's trying to impress. The blues guitarist and songwriter is just filling in his past. That, and most times, he'd rather talk about them than about himself.
They talk about him, too. Isaak calls him "one of the last living blues legends," and Tom Mazzolini, founder of the San Francisco Blues Festival, said Thompson "is the most talented blues guitarist I've ever seen."

Thompson, who was Hooker's band leader for seven years before forming his own band, will celebrate the release of his latest CD, "Resonator," at the Torch Club on Saturday. Although he'll be performing with a bass player and a drummer, "Resonator" was a one-man show. Thompson played guitar -- a 1937 National steel, Type O -- then recorded vocals, mandolin, harmonica and piano, and mixed the music himself. The result is an amazing, mainly acoustic mix of traditional blues ballads and boogies.

"That ('Resonator') was a new thing for me to do," Thompson said in a recent telephone interview from his Bay Area home. "I'm kind of quirky. I don't do things the same way all the time, so when I'd go to overdub a piano, say, it didn't always match. It was kind of difficult.

"But, man, I love that National steel guitar. I always liked those guitars, and it took me a long time to get one."

On "Resonator," Thompson performs 13 songs, 11 of which he wrote. They range from funky to boogie-woogie and gospel. "Room for One More Sinner" -- simply steel strings, tapping foot and raspy vocal -- is reminiscent of ancient rural blues and one of the finest gospel blues songs you're likely to hear.

"I love gospel music. I like country that's got a little blues in it. Like Jimmie Rodgers -- 'the original singing brakeman' -- 'In the Jailhouse Now' -- stuff like that. I like jazz. Eric Gale -- he was great -- jazz but kind of based in the blues.
"I basically like a lot of stuff."

"I play a little piano," Thompson said. "You ever heard of Little Willie Littlefield? He wrote the original 'Kansas City' (recorded as "K.C. Lovin'"). That guy was the baddest boogie-woogie piano player. Next to him, I really play a little piano."

Thompson learned piano from his mother when he was 7. She "played honky-tonk music where you bent the notes, you know. I wanted to play piano like Fats Domino, and then when I was about 10, my sister came home with a Jimmy Reed record, and that's what changed my life. I switched to guitar basically because of Jimmy Reed."

Reed was born in Mississippi in 1925 and died in Oakland in 1976.

Thompson met the man who had inspired him "and a lot of people I knew" before he died. "Jimmy Reed was one of the great crossover artists," Thompson said. "In the '60s, his music really transcended different ethnic groups and musical divisions." Reed's song "Big Boss Man" was named by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock 'n' roll. One of the Rolling Stones' first recordings (in 1964) was a cover of Reed's "Honest I Do."

Thompson began playing professionally right out of high school, when he was recruited by a North Richmond bluesman known as Cool Papa.

"He had made records in the ‘50s, and he got me my first job playing in black clubs when I was just out of high school. I played a lot of black clubs in the East Bay and around. I played at Mr. Boston's in Sacramento in the '70s.

"At the same time I was doing those gigs, on weekdays I was playing acoustic solo shows in little clubs around. Then I hooked up with John Lee Hooker, and I got to tour nationally -- internationally -- and I met some amazing musicians through that band. I met Eddie Taylor, a really good guitarist. And Hubert Sumner, he gave me tips. I played with Robert Jr. Lockwood and Luther Tucker, and one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Johnny Heartsman." (Sacramentan Heartsman died Dec. 27, 1997. Givant, founder of the Sacramento Blues Festival, who booked Thompson here in the early years of the festival, died Jan. 5, 2002.)

Thompson's concerts are passionate, exhilarating, inspiring. Guitar magazine described him as "a mind-blowing talent." Real Blues magazine declared him "one of the top five blues greats in the world today" and in 2004 named him best West Coast blues slide guitarist and best live West Coast blues act.

"I really try to put a show on. I don't look at my watch and wonder 'When is this thing gonna be over?' I'm on. If people put their money out, they want to see something special. Like a movie that you get enthralled in, and for that short time, you're without time and space.

"I always remember what Big Mama Thornton used to say: 'Play your soul, baby.' "

By Jim Carnes – Sacramento Bee Staff Writer
April 13, 2007 - Sacramento Bee

"Blues Triumph in Puerto Vallarta"

Seldom in Puerto Vallarta bars do musicians receive standing ovations. Bluesman Ron Thompson, during his three-set concert at Cuates y Cuetes last Tuesday afternoon, earned several.

Ron Thompson's appeal was also obvious just from watching how many people stopped, watched from the Malecon walk and stuck around for a full set. Inside C&C there were only a handful of seats unoccupied, with a crowd made of up Vallarta regulars plus a good many fans from the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, which was making a brief stop at the Maritime Terminal.

Part of the success of this event was due to the stage, which C&C owners thoughtfully rented for the
afternoon. Moreover, the sound system was perfectly set. I hope that the bar owners will consider making the stage a permanent installation, with the addition of lighting for night-time events. Such a step would cement the bar's reputation as the leading music venue on the beach.

This concert was made possible through Steve York's friendship with Ron--in fact, Ron regularly asks Steve to come back up north for national tours with his blues band. Ron is highly regarded in US blues
circles and is a particular favorite in the San Francisco Bay Area, which just held a special Ron Thompson Day to celebrate his music.

Ron's knowledge of the music is vast. He treated us with several traditional blues styles: Jimmy Reed
harmonica, Bo Diddley beat, lots of John Lee Hooker grooves and the finest slide guitar technique I've
seen anywhere. But Ron is not only an excellent musician, he's also a remarkable entertainment. As he
told me during a break, "I hate LEV!" I was mystified. What's that, I asked. "Low Entertainment
Value," he told me. That's certainly NOT a problem of his.

Hopefully, Ron will return to PV. He admitted that he really enjoyed himself. He was joined by local
drummer Pepe, who has little knowledge of blues but who has big ears -- he fit right in. And, of course,
Steve York on bass, who is becoming a major figure in the local music scene. And thanks go too to Tete and Martin at C&C's, one of the venues in town that truly respects music.

October 23, 2007
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