San Diego Symphony's second night of the Masterworks season showcased the power of place and personality
Garrett Harris noon, Oct. 13
Sound description: Thompson’s music bristles with the infectious, syncopated sounds of New Orleans, the electricity of great rock 'n' roll, the punchy verve of Memphis soul, and the heartfelt power of blues, funk, and jazz.
RIYL: Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Little Milton, Albert King, Art Neville, Earl King, Larry "Arkansas" Davis, Elvin Bishop
Influences: Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Bobby Bland, Eric Clapton, Boz Scaggs, the Neville Brothers, Sonny Landreth, Robert Cray, Taj Mahal, John Hammond Jr., Bobby Womack, Robben Ford, Junior Walker and the Allstars, Lee Roy Parnell, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Albert Lee, Joe Louis Walker, Cocoa Montoya, War, Jimmie Vaughan
Whether working on his own, leading an 8-piece horn band like Big Chief, or backing such accomplished musicians as Art Neville of the Neville Brothers, blues icons Little Milton, Albert and Earl King, Larry “Arkansas” Davis, Gary Puckett (of the Union Gap), or even Broadway’s Leslie Uggams, singer-songwiter-guitarist Billy Thompson has earned consistent public and critical acclaim.
The San Diego native played lead guitar in a late 1970s new wave band Fingers, featuring future Beat Farmer Joey Harris and reportedly well-liked by Frank Zappa. His late 1980s band the Mighty Penguins also included Al Garth (the Eagles), Jeff Moore (later frontman for the Witchdoctors), and Bob Campbell.
By turns punchy and poignant, earthy and elegant, his vivid songwriting draws from a rich stylistic well to create classic American music that is steeped in tradition yet unmistakably vital and contemporary.
His tasty, melting-pot style is is highlighted on his 1991 debut album, Coat of Many Colors, Tangerine Sky in 1998, and his later album Area 51.
He has performed on ABC’s The View with Barbara Walters, with the San Diego Symphony, at Qualcomm’s Super Fest for the 2002 Super Bowl, and has made numerous appearances at the San Diego Street Scene. He also recorded the musical soundtrack to Thunder Knocking on the Door with platinum recording artist Keb Mo.
Thompson moved from San Diego to Virginia in 2006. In December 2010, former Fingers bandmate Joey Harris joined Thompson at an Anthology “pre-CD release” gig for his upcoming album Better Man. Two members from Thompson’s other San Diego band, Jeff Moore and Bob Campbell, also performed.
In January 2011, he released Better Man, featuring guest players Kenny Gradney (Little Feat bassist), Tony Braunagel (Robert Cray band drummer), and keyboardist Mike Finnigan (Crosby, Stills and Nash). His June 26, 2012 set at the Saville Theater at San Diego City College was aired live on KSDS FM 88.3 and online at jazz88.org.