Article ©Jake Katel
Born Alphonso Thompson in Centerville, Mississippi on August 22, 1916, Sonny Thompson began his musical education at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. But his real interest was jazz piano, particularly Earl Hines and the pyrotechnics of Art Tatum, who he saw perform in the 1930’s at a Chicago nightclub. Tatum became Sonny’s major influence.
He made his recording debut on the small Detroit-based label Sultan in 1946. Post war Big Bands were out and small jump combos usually with saxophone or piano on lead were in. This was very much the music of the nightclubs and large dancehalls. Its largest appeal was to the black middle class and it became the most frequently recorded music of the era.
In the late 1940’s, Sonny signed to Miracle Records and his first hit was “Long Gone” Part 1 and Part 2. In 1950, he went with King Records and had a short run of success as an artist. In 1955, while still with King Records, he hooked up with Henry Stone’s Rockin’ and Chart labels, where he backed the Charms doing their first million-selling record, “Hearts of Stone.”
Henry Stone left King Records and formed the Chart label. He took Sonny Thompson and David Brooks to Miami with him where Sonny was a Chart solo artist and producer. Brooks was Sonnny’s tenor man and played with him over many years.
Miami is where the Sonny Thompson Chart Collection was recorded, including the Champions, the group that Sonny formed and played with. After leaving Stone, he went to Chicago to run the King Records office as the A & R Director.
ANALOG ARCHIVES: A NEW EVENT SERIES PRESENTED BY HISTORYMIAMI MUSEUM
February 24, 7:00pm. Gramps, 176 NW 24th St, Miami, Florida 33127
Discover Miami’s musical roots with classic analog recordings by the legendary Henry Stone in the 1950s. Digitized from original tapes by City of Progress Studio with a Knight Foundation grant, these recordings showcase Miami’s dynamic music history and include rock and roll, bluegrass, soul, and country western artists and songs.
DJ Le Spam (City of Progress Studio) will spin vintage music by Johnny and Marsha, Ervin T. Rouse, Sonny Thompson, Johnnie Mack, and more. Presented with HistoryMiami Museum, Henry Stone Music USA, Inc., and Gramps.
Free to the Public
From 1946 to 2014, Henry Stone ruled the Florida music industry with an iron fist, a brick of cash, and a warehouse full of vinyl. HSM is the last of over one hundred record labels he personally founded. This record label includes works from every decade in his sixty-five year career right up until today. Licensing available for film, samples, advertising, movies, video games, and more. Family owned and operated.