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April 4, 2006 > Local legend brews the blues

Local legend brews the blues

by Linda Stone

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 Memorial 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 McCourt 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.

Upcoming Tri-City dates:

Saturday, April 8
7:30 p.m.
Mission Coffee Roasting Co. - SOLO
151 Washington Blvd., Fremont
(510) 623-6920
$10 Cover Charge

Monday, April 10
8:00 p.m.
Bistro - Duo with Mitch Moughan
1001 "B" St., Hayward
(510) 886-8525
No Cover Charge

Saturday, April 29
9:00 p.m.
The Florence
37349 Niles Blvd., Fremont
(510) 792-5522
No Cover Charge

Sunday, Apr 30
5:00 p.m.
The Florence
37349 Niles Blvd, Fremont
(510) 792-5522
No Cover Charge

For more information, sound and video clips, or booking information, visit

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