Interview with chicagoan bluesman Lorenzo Thompson - a truly dynamic entertainer and performer

"The blues is about holding on to them dreams and desires....through good and bad times..."

Lorenzo Thompson: The Party Started

Lorenzo Thompson was born in the Mississippi town of Greenwood in the 50s, moving to Chicago with his family when he was 5. Like many young Chicagoans, his first singing experience was in the church choir. He is a truly dynamic entertainer that has the unique ability to connect with audiences everywhere he performs. Lorenzo Thompson is an artist that people remember and return to see. His energy is contagious and he turns every show into one big party.

Lorenzo has been playing all over the Chicago area, and beyond for the past fifteen years. He is regularly appearing at the Chicago Blues Festivals. Lorenzo has done hundreds of concerts in many venues all over Europe. On tour in May 2001, Lorenzo and Rene Trossman, recorded a live CD with Jan Korinek and Groove, in Brno, Czech Republic, at Stare Pekarna Club. The CD is a live performance; this decision was made in order to capture the excitement that Lorenzo Thompson brings to his shows.

Photo by Camila Sidorkevich

If you ask Lorenzo how long he has been singing, he will probably tell you that it’s been as long as he can remember. The years he spent singing gospel songs in church with his grandmother, while listening to blues artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Jimmy Reed, helped to form the very essence and soul of Lorenzo Thompson.

He has performed with many Blues greats such as: Willie Kent, Melvin Taylor, Buddy Scott, Aaron Burton, Howard Scott, Pinetop Perkins, Little Mack Simmons, Lurrie Bell, Iceman Robinson, Little Arthur Duncan, Byther Smith, Hubert Sumlin, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Jimmie Lee Robinson, Jimmy Burns and numerous others.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

What I learn was...if you got a desire to do something then nothing should stop you...no matter how things look at the time. The blues is about holding on to them dreams and desires....through good and bad times and I've learn that I'm a determine person and the blues is the best motivator to keep you pushing....just like the blues keep pushing.

How do you describe Lorenzo Thompson sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

What is my sound...ahhh just natural gritty expression and emotions as I sing. I am attempting to make you feel what I feel, it’s the ultimate feeling to me...why blues generate so many new fans...is because people can relate to the songs & music style that is from the old southern blues town in mostly Mississippi...

"What it means to be a bluesman is you're just an everyday person that happens to express yourself by either playing or singing the blues; you could be a factory worker by day and a bluesman at night." (Photo by Petr Kozák)

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

It's just a music that will never grow old....even if it is old music and it seems to captivate people when they hear it and an interest in the music develops in them and they learn more and listen to more and becomes a fan of the music.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Well it’s whenever I meet up with a legend of the blues I’m always grateful, but I would say being around Pinetop was special because you knew his history and the people he had played with over the years.

What's the best advice I've received.....Homesick James & Detroit Jr. told me I should go overseas if I ever get the opportunity and perform......well I was able too and it's been great.

Are there any memories from Pinetop Perkins, Son Seals, and Koko Taylor which you’d like to share?

Well mainly Pinetop, he would be up at Rosa's Lounge in Chicago sitting at the table telling us how they use to gig all night at some places and maybe get just a couple dollars and a shot of whiskey for the whole night.

Koko would make sure she looked good before going out on stage....her signature outfit was the beautiful shining dresses she loved to wear. It amazed me how she was command the stage when she came on stage and delivered that classic raspy sounded voice....it demanded your attention.

I just opened up a few festivals for Son Seal, he was quiet, didn’t say much. Just let his music speak for him.

"I am attempting to make you feel what I feel, it’s the ultimate feeling to me...why blues generate so many new fans...is because people can relate to the songs & music style that is from the old southern blues town in mostly Mississippi..." (Photo by Fujiyama Hiroko)

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Well I miss those legends that I didn't get a chance to see ...that old people like Robert Johnson, Muddy and Wolf. My hopes is that the blues spread like more & more all over the world as it seems to be doing....just a very acceptable type of music that you can relate to.

Which memories from Little Mack Simmons makes you smile?

The memory that makes smile was with Little Mack Simmons, we were going to South America and I was able to get us upgraded to first class and he freaked out. Wow 'I've never been up here before, when the attendant brought drinks, he was trying to take two, I said she will come back haha and you can have another on...he was an awesome Blues musician and even though he should of been riding in first class for years, I am happy he got a chance to experience it....he said this is how BB King fly.

Some music stars can be fads but the bluesmen are always with us. What means to be Bluesman?

What it means to be a bluesman is you're just an everyday person that happens to express yourself by either playing or singing the blues; you could be a factory worker by day and a bluesman at night.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from United States to Latin America, Russia and beyond?

What is the line of connection from Moscow to the United States to South America... Blues... has connected all these different countries together through a music that hooks the people once they hear it & then they want to hear more.

"I miss those legends that I didn't get a chance to see ...that old people like Robert Johnson, Muddy and Wolf. My hopes is that the blues spread like more & more all over the world as it seems to be doing....just a very acceptable type of music that you can relate to."

(Photo by Camila Sidorkevich)

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from Chicago blues circuits?

Well I can't think of anything that has made me laugh lately about the blues

But on the other side, I have lost some friends lately musicians that have left us and that's always a sad time in the blues.

If you could change one thing in the Blues world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Well I would make it more available in every town that's wants it. They will have something like Beale Street in Memphis ...where there is clubs on both sides of the streets and people can go from one to the other getting all different kind of flavors of the blues

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Time machine....let’s see I would like to go back to one of the juke joints & experience them playing, drinking, gambling, just experience it, how the food was... drinking moonshine, dancing, the women haha !!

Lorenzo Thompson - official website

Photo by Petr Kozák

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